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Expert advice on picking the right flooring

Flooring specialists share tell us how to choose the right floor for each room

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Flooring covers every room in your house, and with most lasting 10 to 30 years or more, it’s key to decide what type is best for your space before investing.

“You really have to think about your lifestyle, and the sort of maintenance and wear you subject your floor to,” says Troy Campbell, a sales manager with Tops to Floors in Summerside, P.E.I.

LIVING ROOM

One of the most trafficked rooms in the average family home. Our panel of floor specialists was practically unanimous.

“I would definitely recommend a hardwood floor,” says Gary Sabean, owner of Crown Flooring in Halifax. “If you’re walking into a living room, nothing looks better than a hardwood floor.”

“Hardwood increases the value of your home,” says Jeff Colwell, a sales-estimates expert at Hamilton Carpets & Ceramics in Saint John, N.B. “People want to see hardwood in a living room. They don’t want to see carpet. When [someone is] buying a house and carpet’s down, first thing they say is ‘The carpet’s got to go.” However, carpet still has its fans, at least in certain contexts.

“I find carpet’s coming back in bedrooms,” says Colwell. “People want something soft on their feet when they get out of bed.

There’s also the misconception that, ‘I can’t have carpet because my kids are allergic.’ That’s false. Carpet holds the dust until you vacuum. You get less dust in the air with carpet than you do with hardwood or laminate. Every time you walk on hardwood or laminate, you’re stirring it up in the air.”

“A properly-maintained carpet is not bad for you,” adds Campbell, who says carpets are also good for furnished basements, since modern carpet is designed to breathe, which allows moisture trapped in concrete subfloors to evaporate. “An annual cleaning and a weekly vacuuming keep your carpet up to snuff.”

KITCHEN

There are more options for the kitchen, especially depending on whether your household is home to a busy young family or a retired couple.

“There are so many different products now that have different applications based on individual preference,” says Mark Howe, general manager of Tommy’s Flooring in Fredericton.

“In the past, ceramic was always [the standard], because it increases retail value,” says Colwell.

But it’s not for everyone.

“Some people do not like ceramic tile because it’s cold,” he says. “They don’t like it because it’s hard, hard on the knees, hard on the legs, hard on the feet, and sometimes the back.” Another alternative is making a comeback.

“All kinds of companies are coming out with what they call LVT: luxury vinyl tile,” says Colwell. “Not as cold, not as hard, more forgiving. You can drop a dish and it might not break, unlike tile.”

Some LVT also has the advantage of being waterproof, a boon for families with children.

BATHROOM

Again, you have some choice depending on how you plan to use the room. Options range from classy-looking ceramic tile, to more affordable sheet vinyl, perfect for less-trafficked water closets.

“A lot of clients are wanting custom tiled showers, and they’ll coordinate the floor with the wall, just to give you that upscale look,” says Campbell. “Your bathroom’s going to be your most expensive room-per-square-foot in the house. People will tend to invest a little more.”

For a half bath, going a little cheaper with sheet vinyl might be the most prudent choice.

“You can go with less quality in a bathroom, because it’s socks and bare feet,” says Colwell, who says tile in a family bathroom frequented by busy kids is a bad idea. “You don’t have the discoloured grout lines from your kids missing the flush.”

“You can cut corners in a less-used area, for sure,” says Bob Clarke, residential flooring expert with Baker Flooring in St. John’s, N.L. “The laundry room, even, is another example.”

BEDROOMS

Once again, hardwood flooring comes out the clear winner for our panel. There are several options here, especially for those whose moist climate might be challenging on wood. “We’re within a few miles of the water at most points,” says Campbell. “That’s why we’re firm believers in engineered wood. Being an engineered product, it still gives you the look of real wood, but it doesn’t give you the real wood problems, as far as expanding and contracting.”

Engineered wood is versatile, too. “The structure of engineered hardwood allows you to put that pretty much in any room of your house,” says Clarke.

Real hardwood isn’t ideal for young kids still learning to walk, who have mastered the art of mess-making.

“With children, they’re going with laminate in the bedroom; easy to clean and quite durable,” says Howe.

There are many variables to consider when choosing the perfect floor. The key is taking the time to understand your needs and what will work for you. Most flooring stores will let you take home samples to understand how a floor will look in your space, and many floor specialists offer free in-home consultations.

“The last thing that they want is somebody buying a product not suited to the customer’s lifestyle,” says Colwell.

HOW LONG SHOULD YOUR NEW FLOOR LAST?

Carpet: 10 to 15 years: Longevity depends on the quality, where you put it, and if it’s properly maintained. “An annual cleaning and a weekly vacuuming keeps your carpet up to snuff.”—Troy Campbell

Luxury vinyl tile or plank: 15 years: Many brands have a 15-year residential warranty, and some a lifetime warranty. “It’s extremely durable, almost indestructible, and it’s cheaper than the majority of hardwoods.”—Mark Howe

Vinyl: 15 to 20 years: If properly maintained, even on the cheaper end, you can get a couple of decades out of vinyl. Though it’s best to consider high-quality brands, especially in the kitchen. “Some vinyl, it’ll last until you’re tired of looking at it.”—Jeff Colwell

Engineered wood: 25 years: It comes with a structural warranty that real hardwood doesn’t because it’s a manufactured product. This option also hides scratches better than real wood. “If you’re gluing it in the seams, you’re making it waterproof.”—Gary Sabean

Ceramic Tile: 30 to 35 years: New types of tile on the market are stain-resistant and use allergy-free epoxy grout. “It’s almost indestructible. The new type of grout out has so much more polymer modifications.”—Mark Howe

Hardwood: The life of your home: Can be sanded and refinished several times before needing replacement. “If a home’s been there 100 years, the hardwood floor should be there 100 years.”—Gary Sabean

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