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5 common flooring types: The pros and cons

“Is that real hardwood or laminate?”

“We need to rip out that carpet right away.”

“The basketweave pattern of that tile is retro-cool!”

If you’ve ever bought or sold a house or watched a home-renovation show, you’ve either said or heard something along these lines. That’s because floors are among the first things people look at when they’re shopping for homes or deciding what to change in their current dwelling. There are many flooring options available these days, and the decision on which one (or ones) to go with is usually driven by a combination of personal preference, price point and practicality.

That’s why there really is no right or wrong way to go with your flooring. If you like how it looks and it does the job, that’s all that matters. All flooring is not created equal, though, and some materials are better suited for certain rooms, budgets and design tastes. Let’s look at five of the most common types of flooring and go over the benefits and potential drawbacks of each.

Carpet
That soft, cozy feeling under your feet is probably the #1 reason why people prefer carpet, which makes it a great choice for bedrooms, rec rooms and dens. It comes in a rainbow of colors as well, so it’s easily matched to almost any décor. Carpet is also nice if you rearrange your furniture a lot, because you don’t have to worry about scratching the floor. That’s a double-edged sword, though, because there will be temporary indentations in the carpet where your furniture used to be. Carpet can also be expensive and time-consuming to clean, and if you have pets or allergies (or both), it’s probably not the best option.

Hardwood
These premium planks are crafted from solid pieces of timber such as oak, maple and walnut. The key word is “premium,” because hardwood floors give any room a luxurious, high-end feel. They’re also extremely durable and can be repeatedly sanded, refinished and made to look like new in the event that they become worn or damaged. These benefits come with a price, as hardwood is the most expensive type of flooring both in terms of materials and installation.

Laminate
Laminate flooring has the look of hardwood thanks to a thin wood veneer over several layers of less-expensive types of wood. So, the planks are not solid throughout, which makes them much easier on the pocketbook. Laminate flooring also is easier to install, but overall it’s much less durable than hardwood, and at best you can sand and refinish it once before replacing your floor becomes necessary.

Vinyl
This fully synthetic option ranks high on the affordability scale but is more susceptible to gouges and scratches due to its soft, flexible consistency. It’s easy and inexpensive to install, though, and is a great way to bring the look of a more costly material to a kitchen, laundry room or finished basement where liquids frequently come in contact with the floor.

Tile
Tile offers the same benefits as vinyl flooring in terms of being perfect for rooms that commonly see spills or the occasional influx of standing water. It’s more durable as well, but it also feels much colder and harder underfoot, so probably not ideal for, say, a media room in a finished basement where you want to spend a lot of time and be comfortable. Like vinyl, it’s a versatile choice because it comes in a variety of styles, patterns and colors and can also simulate the look of wood.


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