February 01, 2006
Today's flooring choices good fro the sole
The term “walking on sunshine” seems almost possible these days in terms of flooring choices. In the last few years, there’s been an explosion of colours, styles and materials to choose from, and the options continue to grow.
Gone is the classic carpet/lino combo of yesterday as homeowners compete to bring in new and unique styles to enhance the beauty of their living space.
And while beauty is always desired, most experts recommend homeowners initially consider the practical features of a floor, including its durability.
The first question that After Eight Interiors design consultant Jennie Benner asks her clients is how they use their floor. “I need to get a sense of what they use the floor for. Is it a high traffic area, do they have children, pets? We have people determined that they want hardwood and hardwood is actually quite a soft surface, despite its name,” says Benner, adding domestic hardwood varieties tend to be softer than international varieties.
Hardwood has recently become the flooring of choice for the main levels of a home, especially in the living room and front room areas. Allergy control, ease of cleaning and a natural appearance are some of the advantages hardwood manufacturers use in their marketing programs.
“The varieties of hardwood available are endless,” says Vince Healy, owner of Kensington Floors Carpet One. With trade agreements opening up globally, Healy says China, South America, Russia and Australia are offering some fabulous varieties of hardwood. Tigerwoods, which come from South Amercia, are extremely popular these days, as are the darker coloured varieties.
Hardwood is very susceptible to humidity changes, and Healy recommends a constant humidity be maintained topreserve the life of hardwood. “When it dries, it separates and the cracks between the boards are big enough to drop quarters through,” says Healy. His other key tip for keeping hardwood healthy is not to use water or oil products on it.
While hardwood is one of the most popular choices of flooring today that ranges in price from $8 to as high as $40 per square foot installed, Healy says homeowners should also consider laminate, which looks like hardwood but is often more durable, especially the high end laminate.
Laminate, which ranges in price from 50 cents to $9 per square foot, is a great choice for people with dogs, for example.
“Dogs can be very hard on surfaces. A large dog getting up, for example, will often leave a dent in a hardwood floor,” says Benner, adding she’ll often recommend laminate as an alternativeto hardwood.
“The benefit of laminate is that it can take more abuse then hardwood,” says Healy. “The high end laminates are fabulous in commercial locations with high traffic. For example, cigarettes won’t burn through a high end laminate.”
Laminates don’t have the depth or character of most hardwoods though, but Healy is encouraged about the progress of the program. “Laminate is making great strides in imitating natural products,” he says, adding both hardwood and laminate are fairly easy to clean.
Carpets, which are more difficult to keep clean or clean spills and dirt from, continue to be the mainstay of most bedrooms, stairs and many basements.
“Carpets offer one of the best values in floor covering,” says Healy. “A carpet supplied and installed costs as little as $2 per square foot. It’s comfortable, quiet, inexpensive and easy to change.”
When choosing carpet for high traffic areas, Healy recommends loop carpet, which is more durable than cut pile. Shags, berbers, velvets and other types are all available in a vast array of colours and styles. He recommends looking at carpet from around the $3 per foot installed mark to ensure you’re getting a good product.
Benner says one important feature to look at when getting carpet is the underlay quality.
“We recommend you always upgrade the underpad for carpets, as it will extend the life of the carpet,” she says, adding underlays range from about four to eight pounds for most carpets.
Carpets are a very good choice for stairs, she says, especially if elderly people or young children live in the house. “Hard surfaces on stairs tend to be very slippery so we often recommend carpeting,” she says, adding stair installation is quite expensive compared to installing carpet on a flat floor.
Angela and Darren Dzikowski, who live in southwest Calgary, recently replaced almost all of their floors, including their upstairs bedroom carpeting in their Douglasdale home.
At a pricetag of around $12,000 installed for their new flooring, they’re very pleased with their choice of ceramic tile, laminate and carpet.
“The house is 12 years old and the lino was starting to crack and discolour so we decided to change it,” explains Darren.
After looking at ceramic tiles and liking the look of them, they chose this flooring for their entryway and kitchen. “One concern was that some folks said it could be cold, so we put in a subfloor underneath it and the floor is very warm,” says Darren. “The tile has certainly modernized the house.”
Their main floor, which featured carpet in most high traffic areas, now has laminate. “We looked at hardwood and we looked at laminate. There was about one-third of a difference in price for laminate and we were also concerned about how hardwood would stand up over time,” explains Darren, adding with two young children, the increased durability and ease of cleaning of laminate ultimately won them over.
They chose an alder colour laminate and laid it lengthwise across the main floor room, which “makes it look a lot bigger.”
Their third project consists of replacing their carpet in the upstairs areas of the house.
“We chose a 30 ounce berber carpet with a ten ounce underlay – the carpet is all of the same quality but we chose some different colours for the rooms,” says Darren.He’s especially glad they chose a thick underlay, as the rooms are very soft and warm to walk in.
“It all feels very new,” says Darren, adding the entire project took about two months.
“On the contracting side, don’t pay in full until the work is done. Hold back half of the bill to ensure the contractors know you’re a priority,” says Darren.
Overall, he and Angela are “quite tickled about it… It should last for a good 20 years or so.”
Longevity is definitely a desired outcome for those who choose vinyl flooring.
Healy is a huge fan of vinyl, which some people still refer to as lino.
“Vinyl is fantastic flooring… It’s very economical, it’s very easy to install, the durability has improved to rip and tear guarantees. It’s making a great comeback and should be considered regardless of budget,” says Healy, adding new technologies in production and photo imaging have resulted in vinyl looking very much like wood, slate and ceramic. Vinyl is also extremely easy to clean, he adds.
Benner says another fairly new trend in kitchens is cork, which his “very environmentally friendly, soft, warm and comes in lots of different colours.”
Ceramic tile, porcelain tile and stone have carved out a place in many homes’ front entrances. With entry level ceramic tiles costing 79 cents per square foot and then upwards of $5 to $6, tile is quite durable, doesn’t easily scratch and is fairly easy to clean. “In our climate, it’s fairly common in kitchens, bathrooms, and entryways. It’s not really practical for living rooms and hallways,” says Healy, adding tiles tend to be cold and do draw heat out of the feet. Many people are choosing to install infloor heating systems with their tiles, which makes it “luxurious” to the feet. “The price of infloor heating is prohibitive to most people but if they have it, they never go back.”
Entry level tile is affordable for more budgets, he adds. Porcelain tile, which is quite hard, dense and non porous, is a longer lasting natural product than ceramic tile.
Natural stone, including slate and granite are great looking choices and come in “50 to 60 different types and colours.”
“Because they’re natural, they hold their beauty a lot longer than tiles, for example, which tends to date itself,” Healy explains.
Natural stones and marble are timeless. Slate, for example, which runs from about $2 per square foot to $8 per square foot, can be a reasonable option for most budgets.
CARE & CLEANING
The beauty of a glistening hardwood floor is often a homeowner’s pride and joy, but keeping the hardwood looking its best isn’t as easy as it might appear.C
Calgary’s harshly dry climate is one of hardwood’s biggest enemies.
“Constant humidity in the home is one of the most important factors,” says Jennie Benner, sales consultant at After Eight Interiors.
“In fact, unless you have a functioning humidifier in the home, you won’t likely have a warranty on your hardwood,” she says, adding hardwood typically has a 25 year wear warranty which doesn’t include nicks and scratches.
And despite its name, hardwood is actually “quite a soft surface” which is not as durable as its look-alike laminate.
Alberta Hardwood Flooring general manager Calvin Onyszchuk says most manufacturers suggest keeping the humidity in your home between 45 and 60 per cent. When hardwood becomes too dry, it shrinks and gaps will appear.
Onyszchuk also encourages homeowners to ensure the hardwood they buy has been properly dried, as incorrectly dried wood will also result in problems down the road.
He and his staff usually recommend domestic hardwood products, as “our manufacturing processes are more stringent than some processes you find from wood overseas.”
And in Calgary, the drying processes is extremely important.
Onyszchuk says hardwood owners use a slightly damp mop when cleaning their hardwood surface. Also, stick to the cleaning solution recommended by the hardwood manufacturer, he says. And whatever you do, don’t use a wet mop to wash your hardwood.
“The number one enemy of a hardwood floor is excess moisture,” he says, adding dogs’ nails, stiletto high heels and other objects that can dent or scratch the wood are to be avoided to ensure a healthy hardwood floor.
For damaged floors, hardwood can be sanded and refinished, up to five or six times in the life of the floor. The cost to refinish hardwood floor ranges from $3 to about $4.50 per square foot.
In floor or radiant heating has taken the new home building industry by storm as of late, and suppliers expect the demand to keep on rising.
“Calgary and western Canada is much more developed in terms of radiant floor heating than the rest of Canada,” says Ryan Roth, national sales manager for Heatlink, which manufactures and installs infloor heating systems.
Radiant heating consists of pipes pumping warm water just under the surface of the floor. A boiler heats the water to no higher than 31 degrees C. The “dry” system consists of putting pipes into a subfloor while the “wet” installation embeds the pipes in the concrete in the joist space above the floor. Wet systems are installed when a home is being built while dry systems are installed in already-built homes.
Most types of flooring can now be laid over a radiant floor heating system, thanks to the support from floor manufacturers, who have upgraded their product to accommodate radiant floor heating. Carpet and lino used to be a problem over infloor heating, however Roth says both industries “have reacted and now have much higher standards” of products that won’t be damaged by an infloor heating system.
In addition to comfort, radiant heating is much more efficient than a furnace.
And while the cost of installing the system is about three to one compared to a furnace, the long term savings are considerable, says Roth.
“In the long term, it’s an investment and you will be ahead financially using radient floor heating.”