Hard Flooring Options
By Mary Barry
Flooring sets the foundation for the look and feel of the rooms in our homes. Its importance can make us feel overwhelmed when it’s time to select or change flooring. Today’s multiple flooring options can add to the stress of the process.
If durability is your highest priority, look to hard flooring options. The most popular options are ceramic tile, wood, and laminate flooring.
Ceramic tile works for any floor in your home, but is especially well suited for heavy traffic areas such as entryways, bathrooms, kitchens, and hallways.
A popular floor option since ancient Rome, ceramic tile is clay that has been shaped and fired to harden it. A glaze is often baked onto the tile to make it stronger, more water resistant, and easy to clean. However, glazed tiles are more slippery when wet than unglazed. When selecting your tiles, choose tiles glazed with a non-slip material. Or if you want a more primitive look, select unglazed tiles that have been coated with a sealer to make them easier to clean.
You can find the best selection and most knowledgeable staff at specialty tile stores or larger home improvement stores. If a sample board is available, ask if you can borrow it to take home so that you can visualize how your new tile will look installed.
With a little patience and the right tools and materials, installing a ceramic tile floor can be a very rewarding do-it-yourself project. If time and patience are in short supply in your life, most tile stores have a specialist who can do the job for you.
Cleaning and maintaining your tile floors is easy. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but in general, all you’ll need is a broom, household cleaner, water, and mop. To prevent staining, clean spills immediately.
Hard Wood Flooring
The clean elegance of wood flooring is undeniable. Although considered a hard flooring, high heels and hard soled shoes can cause dents and scrapes. Never walk on your wood floors in hard soles, and use caution when moving heavy furniture.
The most popular hard wood options are oak and walnut. Oak is a slightly stronger surface than walnut. Both are available in various grades, ranging from the very rustic looking “common grade” to the pristine “clear grade.” Ask your dealer to show you all of the options before you decide on the look and wood species for your flooring.
Wood is easy to maintain. Your daily cleaning utensils are a soft bristled broom and dry mop. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to see which wood cleaner they recommend and how often you should use it.
Follow these simple steps to keep your wood floors looking their best:
- Don’t wet-mop wood. It can dull the finish, damage the wood, and discolor your floor.
- Wipe up spills immediately with a lightly dampened towel.
- Don’t over-wax a wood floor. If the wood begins looking dull, buff it instead. Apply wax under furniture and other low traffic areas every other time.
- Put soft glides or pads under furniture legs to prevent scratching.
- Use a humidifier—outfitted with a UVC sanitizer, if you have sensitive household members—during the winter months to minimize wood movement and shrinkage.
- If your kitchen has wood flooring, place an area rug in front of the sink.
- To prevent scratching and debris from being tracked onto your floors, place throw rugs both inside and outside doorways.
Laminate flooring is often referred to as Pergo—which is the Swedish company that first invented laminate flooring. Thanks to its long life, good looks, and easy care and installation, laminate flooring has become the best selling flooring on the market. Its tongue and groove interlocking system allows you to install it over the top of the existing flooring.
The decorative surface is tough, and it’s available in colors that look very similar to wood. It’s made of a resin-based melamine and aluminum oxide bonded to a moisture resistant wood composite core. The life of laminate flooring is up to 25 years, with a warranty against wear and fading.
Maintenance is easy:
- Dust mop to remove loose dirt.
- Mop with a slightly wet mop.
- Do not use polishes, waxes, abrasive cleaners, or steel wool.
- Wipe up spills immediately.
- Don’t allow water or dirt to remain on the floor.
Walking over dirt, sand, or rocks can cause scratches to your laminate flooring. To reduce the likelihood of scratches and dullness, use:
- Pad protectors under chair and table legs
- Floor mats and foot brushes to pick up dirt at all outside doorway entrances
- Regular dust mopping
If you scratch your laminate flooring, ask the manufacturer for a touch up stick. The repair is almost invisible and it holds up to traffic and wear. Severe damage—which is very unlikely—can be repaired by a trained professional. Done properly, the new plank or repaired area should be almost indistinguishable from the rest.
Hard flooring options are easy to care for, beautiful, and long-lasting. You can create the look you want in your home with the multiple options available.