Hit The Floor With Style And Substance

3rd September 2013

The flooring you choose for a room impacts greatly on both the feel of the room, and the corresponding maintenance costs.

Design experts recognise that a room’s floor is one of its most important features and the flooring you choose can have a make or break effect on the entire decorating scheme. Despite this, budgets for flooring can often be erroded and squeezed as other build or decorating costs intrude. Choosing the right floor therefore becomes an important and somewhat complicated task.

Despite the wealth of information available on flooring and such a vast diversity of choice, consumers face confusion rather than clarity. Such a long term investment with little or no room for error can prove daunting which is why it is vital to seek specialist, impartial expertise to ensure informed decision making.

What makes choosing a floor tougher still, is that there are no rights or wrongs – it is more about what is appropriate for the property. While there are many options with flooring,carpet remains the stalwart of the industry, with stone and wood raising the most queries regarding maintenance and performance.

Carpet

Carpet remains the most popular and cost effective flooring option, with consumers able to enjoy collections that embrace colour, pattern and design which were previously only available in upmarket ranges. Consumers are inspired and are having more fun than ever capitalising on what is on offer. Stripes on stairs, tartan in studies, spots in childrens rooms…… the retail industry is also producing refreshing options. The industry has moved on significantly with qualities increasing to high standards. Twenty years ago a heavy domestic top-end 80/20 wool twist would have been approximately 32oz in weight. Nowadays this is the entry level weight. Carpet maintainance is also surprisingly simple. Carpets are easily cleaned by using a hot water extraction machine which utilises heat and water to remove soiling. It is well worth considering purchasing one to address spills as they occur.

Hardwood or Natural Stone?

Hard flooring such as wood or natural stone has never been more desireable, featured heavily by designers. Both offer home owners a long lasting beautiful floor. The natural grain and tone of the products are often the appeal. Both kinds of flooring have advantages and disadvantages and require elements of maintanance. Although quite different in construction, both tend to be used in the same areas of the home.

Engineered wood in particular, varies in price enormously, as does the quality and in turn the performance. It is important to establish where the product is sourced and how it is constructed. Ultimately, decisions about both stone and wood need to be made by weighing up the importance of quality versus price. It is likely that higher priced engineered wood will be responsibly sourced,originate from Europe and will benefit from a superior construction.

Pros and Cons

Wood and stone, if fitted correctly, both look stunning on the floor. Nature has shaped the product so every tile or plank will be unique so no two floors will be identical. This is the reason behind their popularity.

There are,however, a few disadvantages to be aware of. Both wood and stone are susceptible to scratching, although wood offers more repair options than stone. While a poly-urethane finish provides a tough protective coating for wood, it is difficult to rectify if a scratch does occur, although it is harder to scratch in the first place. An oiled finish allows for easy and simple touching up in areas of high tread, such as a hallway, and has the added advantage of being able to be entirely re-oiled if required to bring it back to new. Oiled finishes also dispel the requirement for sanding and sealing.

Both types of floor will benefit from good doormats and protective pads on furniture legs which will help minimise damage. Often the natural tone of stone and wood can help disguise scratch marks which blend in. A prime oak, for instance, is a much cleaner and contemporary looking plank with little or no knots, therefore a scratch will be more obvious and look out of keeping with the rest of the floor. A rustic board will have variations in grain and colour, disguising scratches far more effectively. Natural stone will also vary in grain and colour, so the same applies. Remember then to choose the floor most sympathetic to your lifestyle.

Unlike wood, stone is a naturally pourous material and must be saturated with a sealant once fitted. This has no impact on the colour, and should not have to be re-done, although it is advisable to seal areas around hobs once a year or so, depending on use. The key to a long lasting stone floor lies in the installation. Stone must be fitted on to a secure, sound subfloor to avoid movement. As stone is inflexible any movement of the subfloor will have a negative impact on the grouting and can cause the tile to crack.

Underfloor heating is suitable for both engineered wood flooring and natural stone. As stone is a natural conductor, underfloor heating performs more effectively. Stone is cold and hard underfoot and is therefore the logical choice for this type of heating. Engineered wood, however, is also a popular choice to be used in tandem with underfloor heating, although it is worth noting that wood is a natural insulator and does not feel unreasonably cold underfoot.

Water and wood don’t mix comfortably. Although it is not uncommon to install wood flooring in bathrooms, it is not recommended. Stone is a far more sensible product for this area and blends nicely in wet room installations.

Cleaning

Cleaning stone or wooden floors is no longer as arduous as it once was. The advent of steam cleaners make light work of this chore. Wood is best suited to a light steam clean – more sophisticated steam cleaners will have individual settings for wood, stone and vinyl flooring. Otherwise, a well wrung out mop will suffice. Stone does not require the same amount of caution and will cope with the heat and moisture emitted by this type of cleaner.

Remember there is no such thing as a maintenance free floor. Premium floors will last for years but they must be properly installed and cared for. Your local, independent retailer should play a role in your decision making and many offer an installation service, thus keeping the whole process under one roof. Simple. Finally, the expression ‘too poor to buy cheap’ was never more apt than in the world of flooring. Buy the best that your budget allows.

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