It might spend its life being trodden on, but your floor speaks volumes about your home. Whether you are a luxurious marble lover, a retro timber fan or can’t get enough of comfortable carpet under your feet, we look at the main options in flooring, as well as a few extras.
Ideal for high use and high moisture areas, tiles give a more natural and personalised finish to your home. Tiles are subject to a vast array of treatments, from traditional to cutting edge and can suit all budgets, although natural stone can be a more expensive option.
- Porcelain is made up of a mixture of different clays, porcelain is the most commonly used tile and is part of the ceramic group. It has ‘full body’ colour which means the colour is the same throughout the tile and makes it an idea candidate for ‘polishing’ which takes the top layer of the tile off and leaves it with a high gloss finish. Porcelain tiles are good for floors as they are very hardwearing and are alsogood for high moisture areas.
- Limestone is part of the sedimentary natural stone group and is made up of millions of years of sediment compacting to create the patterns that make limestone so attractive. This stone can be a risk for floors as there are cheaper, softer version which are entirely unsuitable for flooring. Buy from an expert seller who will guarantee that the tiles you are buying are suitable for your floors.
- Marble, a top notch natural stone that has been used in interiors for centuries, marble is the limestone that has been further compacted by plate movements in the earth, therefore making it even tougher. It is advisable if using either limestone or marble for floors that you opt for a honed (satin) surface over gloss as it is much easier to maintain.
- Travertine, from the limestone family, this natural stone is sourced from areas near natural spas and therefore plenty of sulphuric gas. The gas gets into the sediment and creates little gas pockets which become holes in the stone. For floors, the holes should be filled, either before they’re laid (with a travertine paste), or when laid (with grout). As with all natural stone, travertine should be treated with a waterproof sealant, but travertine is not impervious to further smaller holes developing, which may be hiding just under the surface.
Timber has found a new lease of life in recent years and is currently enjoying a style resurgence. What started out as the regeneration of old floors, there is now an abundance of new finishes, sizes and colours available. Timber flooring can vary in price, but the cheaper versions can compromise on both quality and sustainability issues.
- Solid wood: The most untouched of the timber types, solid wood is cut from one piece of timber. Solid woods is either hardwood, more suitable for heavy traffic, or softwoods. Solid wood is medium maintenance needing sanding and sealing around once a year and should last a lifetime. It is generally not suitable for high moisture area as it is porous.
- Salvaged wood: Most salvaged wood is reclaimed from industrial buildings from around the turn of the last century, which means that they have instant worn in factor and are usually made from more uncommon woods such as pitch pine. Salvaged wood behaves the same way as solid wood, but are generally wider.
- Parquet: The Rolls Royce of wooden floors, parquet is labour intensive and usually expensive. Parquet is made up from tiles cut from solid wood to create simple or intricate bespoke designs for your floor. The most common design is herringbone, which is suitable for living areas, but more intricate designs should be saved for a large room or other high visibility areas. As all solid woods, parquet is porous and will gape if used in high moisture rooms.
- Engineered boards: Made up of around eleven layers of solid wood with a thicker top layer to enable regular sanding. Engineered boards are for those who want the look of solid wood that will stand up to wear and tear and some types are suitable for high moisture areas and under floor heating, as they do not expand and contract. These boards are prefinished with a hardwearing layer of lacquer.
Carpet has come in leaps and bounds in recent years, matching demand for natural flooring as well as creating styles more suitable for the modern home. A great choice for the Irish climate, carpet keeps homes warmer and cosier and doesn’t create as much noise upstairs as its timber counterpart. Carpet ranges widely in price, depending on the materials and treatments used.
- Wool: The most traditional of materials used for carpets in Ireland, these days wool carpets are made with an 80:20 ratio, that is, 80% wool, 20% nylon or Polypropylene. This combination is the most suitable for modern homes, as it has the appearance and feel of wool but the strength of a synthetic material. There are many different types of weaving styles ranging in different costs and finishes but the most common are Wilton, the oldest method of weaving; Axminster, also woven but has a greater pattern definition and tufted, where the yarn is stuck to the back of the carpet instead of woven, making it more cost efficient.
- Synthetic: Synthetic carpet has come a long way since its first appearance last century. It went out of fashion as it was so hard to clean as static held onto all the dust and dirt but these days, polypropylene is being used instead of nylon and the carpet is treated with an anti-static so it is much easier to clean. Synthetic carpet is also available in vibrant colours that you wont find in natural fibre carpets.
- Natural: Natural materials such as coir, jute, seagrass and sisal are combined with a latex backing to create natural carpets which are gaining popularity as more people opt for minimalist and eco friendly homes. They are more susceptible to staining than wool and are also available in colour.
Synthetic flooring just isn’t what it used to be. New technology has met demand to offer low cost flooring that is still durable, but now looks even better. Synthetic flooring is often favoured as a quick fix option or for low maintenance homes.
- Laminate: Laminate is an inexpensive and practical alternative to solid wood and natural stone, as well as a multitude of other flooring types. A printed layer is sandwiched between high density fibre board and a hardwearing resin top layer that reflect the grain and patina of the print underneath. Simple to maintain and install many good quality laminate floors will last up to 25 years, but make sure that you get a ten year guarantee.
- Lino/Vinyl: Invented in the 19th century using natural materials, linoleum was a flexible alternative to wood floors and ceramics. Now, lino is another name for vinyl, a cheaper version using PVC, which is popular in homes that are looking for low cost, durable and low maintenance flooring. Vinyl is available in many patterns including wood floors, stone, concrete and many more.
Eco friendly flooring
As demand for eco friendly goods take off, suppliers are finding new ways to ensure sustainable materials are being used in our floors too.
- Marmoleum: A type of lino that is made from natural materials such as linseed oil, Hessian and wood pulp. It has the same properties as vinyl and is popular as tiles for home interiors
- Bamboo: An almost natural flooring in its westernised form, bamboo is processed by being laminated in layers with glueunder high pressure. It is favoured because of its durability, as well as it’s sustainable materials as bamboo grows much faster than timber.
- Cork: Another eco friendly flooring option as it harvested from the Cork tree without damage to the tree itself. It is also a great insulator. Despite its give, cork floors are very durable, can last for decades and are easy to repair.
- Timber: Wood floors will have a tendency to warp if subjected to extremes of heat and moisture. Most wood floors are suitable for under-floor heating, but engineered boards and wood-style laminate especially so.
- Tiles: Although ceramic is fine for underfloor heating, natural stone is a great conductor of heat and will store and release heat much longer than ceramic after the heating is turned off.
- Carpets: You must mention to your supplier before purchase that you have underfloor heating as you will need a suitable tog rating for both the carpet and the underlay which only a reputable supplier can advise you on. If the tog rating is too high heat will not be able to penetrate the underlay.
Source: House & Home Magazine