A 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.