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One of the great things about hardwood flooring is that it never goes out of style. It’s been in use continuously for thousands of years, and despite numerous shifts and changes in style and design, it has survived the test of trends, showing that the look of this material never gets old.
This is largely due to the fact that hardwood is an instant connection between an interior location and the natural world. The feeling of a forest, the essence of a densely thicketed wood, all can be achieved in even the most modern mundane environments.
Unique: Every plank, board, or strip used on a hardwood floor is a unique work of natural art, with its own individual patterns, and colors. This is compounded by the fact that there are dozens of different species of domestic, imported, common, and exotic hardwoods to choose from, each with their own particular grain, color, and characteristics. That ensures that each installation of this material is a one of a kind feature.
Character: Over time wood is going to change. It will acquire subtle shadings of color, and pick up small scratches, nicks, and dents, which will collect on the surface to create a unique personality for your floor. That is the kind of character that cannot be bought but can only be attained over the course of years.
Large Spaces: Wood is a particularly good flooring material for large open spaces. That is because the grains and patterns found within its surface will help to break up the monotony of the room, acting as a backdrop, while also working to infuse interest and design into the space. This effect will be compounded by the use of plank, parquet, and small piece decorative hardwood installations.
Hardwood Flooring Prices
The price for different species of hardwood flooring can vary significantly. However, as always, you are going to get what you pay for. Reputable companies, selling quality, long lasting materials are going to charge more. Further, harder woods tend to take longer to grow, making them more scarce and more expensive.
While the initial investment for some of the more durable hardwood floors can be significant, you have to balance this against the fact that these materials will tend to last much longer than other flooring options.How Hardwood Floors Feel Underfoot
Heat: Hardwood is a moderately warm flooring material that maintains a relatively even temperature at all times of the year. Warmer than natural stone, but not as snug as carpet, hardwood is compatible with underfloor radiant heating systems, which allows you to keep them toasty even in the winter. This is also an efficient way to contribute to the warmth of the entire room.
Soft: Wood floors usually have a moderate amount of give underfoot. This is especially true when they are installed on joists, or over some sort of insulating underlayment. However, you should avoid installing it directly on concrete, as this can lead to it being very rigid, and uncomfortable.
Noise: This can be one of the biggest drawbacks when it comes to hardwood flooring. Not only will you occasionally get problems with squeaks in the floorboards, but unpadded hardwood can also be very loud when heard by neighbors or family members who live down below. However, installing a cork or foam underlayment can help to solve these issues.
Laminate flooring is one of the most resilient and durable floor surfaces available. A relatively recent invention, it has gained in popularity due to its ease of installation, low maintenance requirements, and long life. This material can also be printed to simulate a wide variety of natural flooring materials include hardwood planks, and slate and ceramic tiles.
What Is Laminate Flooring?
Laminate is a type of synthetic flooring that is made by fusing several layers of different material together using heat, pressure, and adhesive, in a process known as lamination. While laminates are often manufactured to replicate the look of a variety of hardwood surfaces, they actually contain no wood materials. Rather, they are constructed from resins and fiberboard particles.
Structure Of a Laminate Floor
Top Wear Layer: The top layer of a laminate floor is known as the wear layer, an invisible surface that rests over the material, protecting it from scratches and other damage. This is generally made from an aluminum oxide chemical treatment.
Photograph Layer or Decorative Layer: This is the surface that gives the laminate its actual appearance. It is created when an image or pattern is printed on paper like materials that are embedded in resin.
The actual image can be almost anything, but typically laminate floors are manufactured to simulate the look of hardwood, cork, bamboo, natural stone, ceramic, or even brick pavers.
Fiberboard Core: This is the heart of the material and it provides the depth, structure, and stability of the actual surface covering.
It is generally comprised of wood chips or sawdust ground into a very fine powder, then coated with resin, and pressed into flat sheets.
Back Layer: Many laminates will have a moisture barrier back layer. This works with the water resistant wear layer on top to sandwich the fiberboard and picture layers of the laminate, creating a water tight seal around the core material. The back layer also provides additional stability for the installation.
Underlayment: Laminate flooring must be installed over underlayment. This is most often cork or foam rolls. An appropriate underlayment can also reduce the hollow noise that occurs when walking on some laminate floors.
The History of Laminate Floors
Laminate is a man made material that has been used in surfaces such as counters and back splashes since the early 1920's. Originally it was not strong enough to be used in flooring, but over time innovations in the manufacturing process refined the finished product and made it increasingly durable.
The first laminate flooring was invented in Sweden in 1977 by a company called Perstorp. In 1984 they began marketing this product in Europe under the name Pergo, and by the mid nineties it had spread to the United States.
Today the word “Pergo” is almost synonymous with laminate flooring, although there are other manufacturers of this material.
Glueless interlocking laminate flooring was invented by two separate companies at the same time in Europe during the years 1996 and 1997. Because of this the Swedish company Välinge and the Belgian company Unilin have had a number of legal conflicts over the years. Today almost all interlocking laminate floors are sold by one of these two corporations.
Applications of Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is durable, stain resistant, and mold resistant, which means that it can be used in high traffic areas.
It can also be made water resistant during the manufacturing process, making certain laminates appropriate for kitchens, baths, laundry rooms, and other water heavy environments.
Vinyl WPC, SPC, LVT vinyl floors
Vinyl floors are a popular option among homeowners, particularly in kitchen and bathroom applications. Vinyl flooring is water-and stain-resistant, versatile, and provides good durability for the cost.
Advantages of Vinyl Flooring
There are a variety of advantages that come with installing vinyl flooring in your home. These are the same tried and true characteristics that have been touted since the 1950s by vinyl flooring retailers and suppliers.
Low maintenance. Vinyl flooring is relatively easy to care for. You have to make sure that grit and dirt are kept swept free to maintain the surface of the floor. Then, you can use a damp mop and an approved vinyl floor cleaner to remove stains. But few flooring options are as easy to care for as vinyl.
Water resistance: A well-installed vinyl floor is almost impervious to water penetration, making this the perfect material for use in a bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, or other high moisture space in the home.
Comfort underfoot. Vinyl does not get cold in the winter and is generally softer beneath your feet than wood or ceramic tile floors Some vinyl sheets and tiles also have a padded underlayer that can make walking on these floors even more comfortable.
Inexpensive. At the low range, vinyl can cost as little as fifty cents per square foot, and most never exceed moderate cost levels. Very high-end premium vinyl materials can cost as much as ten dollars per square foot, though this is still less expensive than premium flooring choices, such as stone. The difference in price of resilient vinyl products is determined by the quality of the material and the design options found in the surface.
Durability. Vinyl is generally considered to be a highly durable that, if properly installed and maintained, can last upwards of ten to twenty years. However, the quality of the material that you purchase and the way it was manufactured will determine how well your floor lasts over time. Solid vinyl and composite vinyl tiles are homogenous, with colors permeating every layer—a feature that makes them more resistant to damage from scratches. Printed vinyl will be only as durable as the clear wear layer that protects the surface. Fiberglass-reinforced vinyl sheets are extremely durable, while also being pliable and resistant to damage. One advantage of using vinyl tiles is that individual pieces can be easily replaced when they are damaged.
Stain resistance. Printed vinyl tiles and sheets have a clear wear layer that acts as a surface barrier, protecting the floor from stains and spills. These materials are very easy to clean and maintain. Solid and composite vinyl tiles do not have this surface protection and will be more susceptible to stains, requiring occasional stripping and polishing.
Ease of installation. Vinyl tiles and vinyl planks are relatively easy to install, though you do have to ensure that you have a completely dry, level subfloor. It is possible to do this project yourself, but you may want to have a professional prepare the subfloor for you.
Disadvantages of Vinyl Flooring
While vinyl flooring is low maintenance and highly durable, there are also a number of drawbacks that are associated with this material. Of these, its ecological impact on the personal and world environment may be the most notable.
Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs). The chemicals used in the manufacture of vinyl flooring can cause a toxic out-gassing to occur after the floor is installed. This can release volatile chemicals into a household, which may lead to respiratory problems, eye irritation, or asthma reactions. The level of outgassing in a vinyl floor will be related to its chemical makeup and the age of the floor, as most outgassing occurs early on.
Ecological waste problems. Vinyl flooring is not biodegradable and does not break down naturally into the environment in a short period of time. It is also very rarely recycled, which means that old, worn out materials often end up taking up space in landfills. Vinyl floors also consume non-renewable natural resources such as petroleum and natural gas during the manufacturing process.
Subfloor damage. When installing vinyl it is particularly important that you have a perfectly smooth, flat surface to work on. Because vinyl is relatively soft, even small grains trapped beneath the floor can wear down the material over time, causing lumps to appear in the surface. Over time, these will wear down the material, causing rips and tears.
Chemical stains. While vinyl is generally resistant to stains, it is susceptible to discoloration when it comes in contact with rubber. Mats that have a rubber backing, or rubber shoe heels that scuff against the floor, can cause a chemical reaction in the material that can permanently discolor it.
Difficulty of repair. High Quality vinyl will be durable, while low-quality material will be susceptible to rips and tears. Unfortunately, vinyl flooring cannot be refinished, so when it is damaged it needs to be removed and replaced. This is easier in a tile installation than with sheet materials.
Susceptibility to yellowing. In some cases, low-quality vinyl flooring will yellow with age. This can be due to a variety of factors. Interaction with direct sunlight can fade the material, and dirt can become trapped beneath a wax layer on a vinyl floor, discoloring the material. However, high-quality modern vinyl floors are resistant to this type of discoloration.
Carpet is one of the softest flooring materials available, providing a cushioned surface for your feet in almost any location. It's important to know the characteristics of the different types of carpeting available, to ensure you get a style that's appropriate for your installation space.
Types of Carpet Fibers
There are a variety of synthetic and natural fibers which are used in the construction of carpets. Below you will find the four most common materials.
Nylon is very soft, durable, and resistant to stains. It is the most popular carpet material and is used in roughly three-quarters of all manufactured pieces.
These fibers are prized because they can hold vibrant, dramatic colors that do not fade much over time. They are non-allergenic. In many cases this material is crafted from recycled plastic bottles, making it eco-friendly. The only drawback is that it's susceptible to having its fibers flattened under repeated exposure to weight, making it a bad choice for high traffic areas.
Polypropylene is almost as soft as nylon. These fibers are extremely resilient and resistant to stains, mildew, and shedding.
Wool is a natural, luxurious, long lasting material that is the softest carpet fiber you can find. Unfortunately low-grade wool is more susceptible to staining, while high-grade wool is extremely expensive. Some manufacturers combine wool with synthetic fibers in order to create a carpet with the benefits of both.
Types of Carpet Piles
Carpet is made by looping yarn through a piece of backing material in a movement that is similar to sewing a button on a shirt. These loops can then either be left intact or cut at various angles. The way the loop is treated is known as the carpet pile. Below you will find the most common carpet pile types available for your flooring.
Uncut carpet pile
Also known as "loop pile" or "Berber pile." This method leaves the entire loop intact on the surface of the piece. These carpets tend to be highly durable, easy to clean, and resistant to stains, making them perfect for high traffic commercial applications. Uncut pile carpets also don't show indentations caused by footprints and vacuum marks.
The drawback is these carpets tend to be less soft and padded than their cut counterparts. Also, the loops can be a snagging hazard if you have pets or small children.
Cut Carpet Pile
This method tends to produce very soft, pleasant looking carpets that are easy to clean. The drawback is that the rigid nature of the threads makes it easier to see foot marks and vacuum trails. It also makes wear and tear more obvious, which means that these carpets need to be replaced more often.
Different styles can be created by changing the angle of the shearing that slices the loop, or by using different treatments on the thread before and after it is inserted into the backing.