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Flooring Choices

Engineered Wood FloorA few weeks ago I was at a service project with some women in my neighborhood. One of them asked what kind of floors we were going to have in the new house.

“Concrete,” I replied.

“Oh, are you going to cover it with carpet?”



“No, just stained, polished concrete.”


“Oh. Uh…won’t that be uncomfortable?”

The truth is, I suppose sitting on bare concrete isn’t the most comfortable thing ever. But when it’s smooth and polished and heated, it’s not so bad. And any area we’re likely to sit on will have area rugs. Most important is the fact that treated concrete is extremely durable and incredibly easy to clean.

That said, most people aren’t aiming to pour concrete on every floor of their homes and lots of people (if my experience is any indication) just aren’t attracted to walking on something hard all day long. So, what do they use?

Tile Floors

In Florida large tile was all the rage. It was a huge selling point to have tile on every inch of your floor. Granted, in a subtropical climate, having a cold floor was a plus, but we did get used to the idea of having hard floors with area rugs.

Tile comes in so many varieties, and so many are just plain gorgeous. The biggest selling poin to me is that tile is great when it comes to cleaning. Just wash. It’s impervious to dirt and grim and most children. But grout is not easy to clean. Grout is the one serious drawback of tile.

Wood Floors

In our last house, most of the main areas were covered in hard wood. Wood looks great, but does require occasional sanding and resealing. When that happens, it’s a major, messy undertaking.

The immediate problem we had with our wood floors was that within only about two years, they didn’t look so great. One of our couch sliders came off and put a huge scratch in the floor right after we moved in. (Ugh.) The high traffic areas lost their sheen fairly quickly.

And water wreaks havoc with wood. The water line to our ice maker leaked under out built-in freezer — unbeknownst to us. We discovered this when the wood in the hall behind the freezer began to buckle. Once it dried, we had a minor mogul run going out to the garage.

If you live in a humid climate, this can also cause a seasonal contracting and expansion of wood floors. I saw a beautiful parquet wood floor on a stage turn in to a zigzag of wood once hurricane season came around.

If I were to go with wood again, I would seriously consider the engineered wood because often the plywood base actually adds stability and moisture resistance. And the prefinished, factory coating can often be stronger than the finish applied in your home.

Vinyl Floors

As much as they’ve been relegated to the tract home category, vinyl floors actually give a pretty good bang for the buck. They are decidedly inexpensive and yet still fairly durable. And if you choose one that has a fairly smooth surface, they are very easy to clean. (The pits and indentations in some styles can be dirt traps.)

While I wouldn’t put this flooring in a kitchen, it’s not a bad option for a laundry room or child’s bathroom.

Carpet Floors

In spite of it’s popularity — due to price and barefoot comfort — carpet is my least favorite flooring on the market. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to put deep, plush, looped up fabric on the floor and then walk all over it with shoes?

Maybe having six kids and refusing to tell everyone to remove their shoes in my house just puts me in the freak category, but I just don’t see the brilliance in permanently installing something on the floor that is impossible to get completely clean.

I know, I know. You all love carpet. More power to you. At least find one that is treated so it can at least look clean — even though we all know there will be all manner of living things burrowed down in those tufts.

With all the options available for flooring, find those that best suit your budget and your lifestyle.

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Todd - Home Construction Improvement February 10, 2010, 4:50 pm

    We just built a large commercial building last year with polished concrete floors. They were REALLY nice…but I’m not sure I’d want them in every room…..hmmm…..you can stain them to look like wood! Tough choices!
    .-= Todd – Home Construction Improvement´s last blog ..Black & Decker Thermal Leak Detector Review =-.

  • Alison Moore Smith February 10, 2010, 5:12 pm

    Actually you can, but I wouldn’t want to make them look “like wood.” To me that’s like putting woodgrain paneling on a car. (“Metallic Pea Family Truckster,” anyone? :))

    But I think some of the concrete stains are drop dead gorgeous. Because of the porousness of the surface, it kind of variegates so the color is mottled. Kind of tile- or leather like. I’ve seen it in lots of industrial applications (like stores, restaurants, etc.), but have also seen pictures of it in homes.

    Here are a fewphotos. You can also do cool things with colors. We’re thinking about doing some kind of medallion in the foyer.

  • Sarah Patino February 10, 2010, 5:36 pm

    Oh my gosh…Alison I LOVE stained polished concrete!!! My hubby isn’t so sure of it. Maybe we’ll have to come tour your house so I can convince him of it when we move and build in a few years in a new state. wink wink

  • Alison Moore Smith February 10, 2010, 7:20 pm

    Sarah, you are obviously a woman of very refined taste. 😉 But of course you can come do the tour. No winking about it!

  • chad zogleman February 11, 2010, 8:16 am

    We have found that people go with a combination of the choices you mention. They like the stained concrete because of price and maint. , and do that for the majority of their basement, and put carpet in the bedrooms.

  • Alison Moore Smith February 11, 2010, 11:22 am

    Chad, thanks for dropping by! I see you’re in the business. Your expertise is welcome!

    Just to be clear, concrete generally has a cost advantage in the basement — because you already have to pour a slab — but it’s likely to cost more than many alternatives elsewhere. In upper rooms it can require extra support as well as materials that aren’t cheap and processes that are labor-intensive.

    Yes, most people prefer carpet in the bedrooms. But I have six kids. And after a few dozen carpet-centric throw-ups, two dozen forbidden juice spills, six marker incidents, two child-caused floods, and one toddler lipstick binge…need I go on?…I’m happy to confine their cushy comfort to area rugs and leave the floor actually cleanable! 🙂

  • Michelle February 15, 2010, 7:42 am

    Hi Alison, thanks for sharing your tips. We often get questions about the difference between solid hardwood floors and engineered hardwood floors. I am glad you touched on the difference between the two (mainly stability and reaction to temperature fluctuations). Solid floors are made from 100% real wood hence better stability, while engineered floors are made from wood, plywood and hardwood Veneer hence better reaction to temperature changes. Thanks again for sharing.

  • Nar April 12, 2010, 8:00 am

    You obviously know what you’re talking about, Alison. As a matter of fact, my home has a mix of a few of these different types of flooring. I think it all lies in the look that a person wants in their home. It all depends on the theme of the home or how cozy a person wants it to be. I go barefoot in the bedroom so I’d love carpets and area rugs in the bedroom. However, carpets and area rugs become hard to maintain in the living room(where visitors come and go), so I decided to do without them instead.

  • Alison Moore Smith April 16, 2010, 1:16 pm

    Very good points. Lifestyle makes a difference.

  • James August 24, 2010, 8:44 am

    Sorry to hear that you had a bad experience with your wood flooring. If you ever decide to try wood again, laminate wood is a great choice and is much easier to install & maintain. How did the concrete work out?

  • victoria February 4, 2011, 5:58 am

    Same as James, laminate an excellent choice, most of my downstairs is laminated, easy to keep clean and looks good.

  • marnie February 4, 2011, 6:39 am

    I wouldn’t mind concrete floors in my home if they were heated, but I think it depends where you put that flooring. I like carpet in a bedroom, wooden flooring or heated concrete in a bathroom and maybe wooden flooring downstairs in the living areas. Concrete flooring in the kitchen.

  • Koi March 17, 2011, 12:13 pm

    Have you been on a concrete flooring before in a home? I’ve never tried it out so it sounds interesting. Do you plan on having it throughout your home? Or just the kitchen/livingroom/dining?

  • Alison Moore Smith March 18, 2011, 12:11 pm

    We have concrete throughout the entire house, except the upstairs (two bedrooms and a bath) that has dragon board. The stair treads are wood.

    We love the concrete itself! Don’t really love the coating product. That’s for a future blog.

  • Maggie March 28, 2011, 2:07 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more about carpet. Whomever thought SHAG carpet was a good idea should be shot! I’ve always had wood or tiled floors, never concrete. However, I’ve always likes the look of stained concrete where ever I’ve seen it. What’s the cost difference in renovating with concrete and putting in a new, say wood, floor?

  • nick April 18, 2011, 5:00 am

    I had never seen polished concrete before, it’s definitely not a choice here in the UK. I was in Texas this year and my wife’s friend had their whole downstairs set up with a dark polished concrete finish. It really looked amazing and kept the house feeling really cool. We are thinking of moving from London to Texas in the next year and I will be pushing for concrete floors all the way!

  • julie March 29, 2012, 8:50 am

    I have always loved wood floor. It gives a natural look to your interior. But I tend to see more and more concrete in houses is it becoming fashionable ?

  • Greg March 24, 2014, 6:16 am

    One thing to note about concrete floors is the environmental impact. Concrete is one of the most energy intensive building materials – its scores very low from an environmental impact perspective. If the concrete is already there – well, the environmental cost has already been paid, so you might as well keep it and use it. However, in a new build, wood makes more environmental sense and will also be cheaper.

  • Alison Moore Smith March 24, 2014, 10:32 am

    Plus it burns up.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken TacosMy Profile

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