For the room that is the “heart of the home” the choice of flooring can be especially important. Your choice will depend on many things, from ease of maintenance and cleaning to the way the floor looks – plus, of course, budget and cost.
With the development and refinement of flooring materials, the choice today is endless. So what are the main types and which one is best for you?
Despite its reputation as a dated choice from the 1960s, Vinyl remains a popular flooring for the kitchen, as it is low maintenance, tough, hard-wearing and generally resilient. It also feels comfortable to walk on and suits a large variety of sites, as well as being available in an enormous variety of colours and patterns.
It is inexpensive as well as having a good product life expectancy – for example, modern versions often have inlaid patterns which endure longer than old versions where patterns were only printed onto the surface. As it is water-repellent, it is easy to Keep Clean with a simple sweep and damp mop.
However, it can be scratched by grit and pebbles (or become embedded) and the colours and patterns can fade with time. Nevertheless, it remains a top choice for kitchen floors.
Although largely replaced by vinyl flooring in the 1960s because of the hassle of having to wax it, this type of flooring is enjoying a revival today as new versions come pre-sealed and do not need to be waxed.
Because Linoleum is made of natural resources such as ground limestone, wood flour and linseed oil, which are renewable, it is therefore more environmentally-friendly. Even its maintenance is eco-friendly as it only requires a pH-neutral cleaner. Its components also have anti-bacterial and anti-static properties and is anti-allergenic.
Like vinyl, it is also comfortable to walk on, hard-wearing and comes in a large variety of colours. However, it can be more expensive and it can be more difficult to find good professional installation.
It is hard to match this type of flooring for durability, as evidenced by the countless historic buildings across Europe.
Tiles are hard and resistant to water, making cleaning and maintenance easy, usually just with dilute all-purpose cleaner and hot water, although it is important to rinse thoroughly.
However, this hardness also means that anything dropped can easily break and it may not be so comfortable underfoot, especially if you are standing for hours by the kitchen sink!
The other disadvantage is that tiles can become dangerous and slippery when wet – in general, unglazed tiles have better grip and you can also choose a tile with a textured surface to provide more traction.
Another thing to consider with tiles is maintenance of the grouting as staining of this is very unsightly. And lastly, tiles can be very cold!
This is a similar option to tile, although it retains heat better and gives a unique appearance, depending on the stone you choose – for example, black granite gives a look of elegant sophistication whereas uneven limestone gives off a rustic air.
Whether it is granite, soapstone, slate or limestone, this type of flooring is very durable, hard-wearing and low-maintenance.
For best results, the surface should be sealed (except soapstone) and only pH-neutral cleaners used, as anything which leaves a soap film will only encourage dirt to stick.
Especially for older homes, it is hard to beat the beauty of Solid, Hardwood Flooring. Oak is a popular choice, although other types of wood used include beech, walnut, maple and ash – and pine is often used to create a vintage look.
Wooden floorboards have a tongue-and-groove design which enables them to interlock securely and usually only require regular sweeping and vacuuming, with any additional maintenance depending on the floor’s finishing. In general, this is a form of water-based polyurethane.
Aside from their beauty, wood floors are warm, comfortable, extremely long-lasting (properly finished and cared for, they can last the life of the structure) and have good resale value.
However, maintenance of the finish does need to be taken into consideration and some will expand and contract depending on dampness and humidity. In addition, solid hardwood is very expensive.
This type of flooring looks like solid wood but is actually made up of multiple layers of processed wood, such as M.D.F. (medium density fibre board), topped by a photographic image of wood and then all covered by a clear layer of melamine which is hard-wearing and water-resistant.
As it is installed over a flat “sub floor” (e.g. a layer of plywood or pre-existing vinyl or tile), laminate is often called the “floating wood floor”.
While older versions of laminate may have required glue for installations, new models have tongue-and-groove mechanisms similar to traditional wood planking which makes it even more attractive for the DIY market.
Laminate is an extremely popular choice nowadays due to its ease and speed of installation and the low cost, compared to traditional hardwood floors. It will not fade or yellow, like vinyl, and yet is also scratch- and water-resistant. It is also comfortable and requires only simple maintenance.
However, colours and styles can be a bit limited and the surface can dent if care is not taken; in addition, the fibreboard core can actually trigger some allergies.
There are several other types of flooring that are gradually gaining in popularity, such as cork which is an Environmentally Friendly, natural product and is warm, comfortable, hard-wearing and easy to maintain. It is also hypoallergenic and relatively affordable.
However, it can still fade and dent and you will need to take care of the finishing. Also, because of its strong ability to absorb water, damp and humidity is a serious issue – in fact, most manufacturers recommend installation during the drier months and finishing carefully with a recommended sealer.
Cork also gives off a distinct odour which some people may find offensive. Bamboo is another type of flooring that is gradually finding favour, especially because it is an environmentally-friendly choice. T
here is limited choice in colours and styles, however, and it can also be expensive.
Whichever type of flooring you choose, make sure you faithfully follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning and maintenance, to ensure maximum longevity of your product.