So how do you choose the right floor surface for your home? Visual appeal, function, easy maintenance and budget all need to be considered. And as flooring is a significant expense when furnishing an interior, it’s worth taking the time to decide properly. Below are some of the available options, as well as some hints and ideas to help you take the first steps across your perfect, practical new floor.
Carpet has a place in just about every Australian home. In fact, it’s practically indispensable in rooms where we need that extra touch of comfort and warmth. Unfortunately, this softness underfoot is prone to accidental spills and stains. So combining comfort with durability is of the utmost importance when selecting a carpet.
First, make sure you choose a carpet that can support the level of foot traffic it’s likely to get. This means studying the technical details carefully and, where possible, ensuring the carpet comes with a guarantee. Stain resistance can be built in or the carpet can be treated after installation with Scotchgard or a similar product. It’s also advisable to have carpets cleaned by a professional at least every two years. This will prolong the carpet’s life and is a worthwhile investment, especially if you have children, pets or like red wine!
Wool is widely regarded as the best fibre used in carpet manufacture for the simple reason that in most cases it will look better for longer. Nylon products also have exceptional wear qualities and the fibre dyes extremely well, allowing for a vast array of colours. Polypropylene is being used more and more widely in the manufacture of carpeting due to its high resilience to wear- and stain-proof properties.
Selecting the right colour and pattern is a matter of individual taste and there is a huge array to choose from. As a general guide, plain designs tend to make a room appear larger. A small-patterned design will have a similar effect and will also help disguise some of the effects of everyday use, such as soiling or pile flattening. Large patterns can make a room feel smaller and more inviting. They also tend to show the effects of use (such as flattening or shading) less than plain or small-patterned carpets. Large patterns give a more traditional look and are good for disguising accidental spills.
With designs ranging from the flamboyant to the functional, rugs have combined practicality and tradition throughout history and across diverse cultures. A rug is a versatile and simple addition that gives a room instant lift. Easy to move and clean, rugs can warm up a setting, protect a floor (or your feet) or cover flaws on an existing surface.
If you want to make a floor surface a feature, then a rug is a great option. It’s best to start the project from the ground up so measure the room and then envision what size area rug would suit your needs. A good tip is to place four pieces of masking tape to mark out the area that the rug will actually cover. This will give you a sense of how your area rug will fit.
Experimenting with texture is a good way to create an individual look, as is using area rugs in non-traditional rooms and spaces such as in bathrooms or kitchens. It’s just a matter of finding the right shape, material and style for your space.
Tiles can give a space a handcrafted look and are robust and easy to care for. They do a fantastic job in high foot-traffic areas and are especially suited to entry areas where dirt and water can enter a home. Patterns are limitless when using all of the possible combinations of size, texture and colour. Hand-painted tiles and coloured grout extend the possibilities even further.
Lifestyle is important to consider when choosing tiles. If you entertain a lot with lots of people moving around your home, a highly polished marble may not be the answer. If you live with elderly people, avoid tiles that are too slippery.
Tiles should be both non-slip and the correct size. Solid concrete is the best surface to lay the tiles on, but compressed fibro-cement sheets and waterproof ply are also good options.
Tile grout can stain or crack and should periodically be renewed and sealed to keep the floor looking fresh. Although they are quite durable, tiles and children often don’t mix and a dropped pot can result in a chipped or cracked tile that often can’t be replaced with an exact match.
If you live in an older home, it’s quite likely you have hardwood flooring. During the ’60s, wall-to-wall carpeting became standard and many people covered their hardwood floors. Now people are choosing to uncover them to make the most of the timeless quality of timber.
Hardwood timber comes in varieties ranging from the darker timbers such as jarrah to the lighter tones of messmate. Recycled timber is a popular and environmentally friendly choice that offers an individual look.
Hardwood flooring comes in planks, strips and parquet blocks and can be either unfinished or pre-finished with some form of polyurethane or acrylic coating. Unfinished hardwood flooring can be stained in a huge variety of colours before finishing.
Due to the timber’s natural living process, it is not suitable for wet areas such as bathrooms and laundries.
The last decade has produced an abundance of do-it-yourself-friendly look-alike hardwood products that are factory finished, easy to install and less expensive than traditional hardwood flooring.
Bamboo is an inexpensive and environmentally friendly alternative to timber flooring. This wood is harder than most hardwoods, naturally moisture resistant and does not warp, buckle or twist thanks to its tropical characteristics. It is also the only hardwood that comes in light colours, as traditional light timbers such as pine are softwood. Bamboo’s unique grain and node characteristics are enhanced through a steaming and drying process that produces the delicate blond hue. Bamboo is becoming more and more popular thanks to its durability. It can be installed in the same way as traditional tongue and groove flooring and ordered as pre-finished in custom colours or unfinished timber. Although it has all the advantages of timber, bamboo is actually a fast-growing grass and is therefore an abundant and renewable resource that does not diminish our rainforests and old-growth trees.
Vinyl is a practical and versatile option for flooring that requires little effort or maintenance and is best suited to busy utility rooms such as kitchens. Vinyl is actually the world’s most versatile plastic and one of the most time-tested synthetic materials in use in Australia. As a flooring material, it is warm to stand on and comes in every colour of the rainbow, so matching it to existing decors is relatively simple, as is letting your imagination run wild. Modern advances in vinyl floor production have created an incredible variety of styles, colours and types to choose from — whether you prefer traditional colours and styles, a high-end wood floor look, natural stone or a marble finish. However, consumers should be aware that low-cost vinyl flooring might not stand the test of time. With a little imagination and good combination of colour, vinyl can be a unique and practical floor covering.
Cork flooring is a great option if you’re after a strong and comfortable floor that is also an environmentally sustainable choice.
Cork flooring is available in squares or rolled sheets and can be glued down or installed as a ‘floating’ floor on top of your existing surface.
Cork has a natural give to it, making it comfortable to walk on and highly resistant to dents or scratches. Otherwise, cork is similar to hardwood flooring and generally comes with a tough urethane finish that repels moisture.
Cork is well known for its insulating qualities and ability to absorb sound and vibration. Cork floors are also hypoallergenic and anti-static, and won’t crumble or flake.
Although their texture is rougher than carpets, natural floor coverings have become a little softer over the years, thanks to different manufacturing processes and flatter weaves. They’re known for durability and natural-fibre rugs are less likely to look tired and worn as quickly as carpeting. If you rotate them regularly, they last even longer.
Most natural floor coverings work best in high-traffic areas, like hallways or family rooms. They’re durable and can stand a lot of punishment, but shouldn’t be used in rooms where they might get wet. It’s a good idea to have a protective coating (similar to Scotchgard) put on your natural-fibre rug. Such coatings won’t prevent stains from setting in, but they will give you more time to react and clean up spills. Natural flooring materials range from the silky lustre of jute, to durable and hardwearing sisal and the fresh scent of seagrass.
On average, homeowners repaint and paper their walls every five years. But most floors stay with the house through its entire lifetime. Choosing the surface carefully is vital and including a few rugs or mats in your home that can easily be changed or updated is a good
idea. Most importantly, try to combine functionality with style for a floor that has everything covered.