What Kind of Flooring Should I Install?

If you or someone you know are thinking about tackling some renovations or updates to your home this year…you’re probably a little torn between “if, how much and where” to use carpet, hardwood floors or rugs…or a combination of each. The first thing to ask yourself is how much of the legwork are you willing to do and whether or not you want to bring in the help of a professional. Perhaps it would be money well-spent to tap into the expertise and guidance you’d receive from someone who does this type of thing regularly and knows the potential pitfalls as well as the newest latest things to choose from.

As a professional interior designer and a floor covering expert, here are some of the typical questions people ask me…

  • Where can I install hardwood floors…can they go on my slab floor or in my basement?
  • How do I clean hardwood floors?
  • What do I need to consider when shopping for hardwood floors?
  • How do I tell the difference between “real hardwood” flooring and “wood look” flooring?
  • How long will this look be in style?
  • Do hardwood floors add value to my home or is that a myth?
  • How can I find a good installer that I know is reliable and skilled?

So for sake of time and interest, let me walk you through the basic process of how and why certain colors, finishes and “looks” are created in flooring today. For starters there are major trends going on in the world and more specifically the USA that serve as a guideline for what we will see in new product introductions. If for example, single family, new home construction starts are up and remodeling projects are up, you’ll see many more higher quality “enduring” products enter the market place. Like a see-saw, if the multi-family households increasing then you’ll find more of the value-engineered and performance products come into play. Homeowners want to know that the materials that they build into their homes or update their homes with will not only endure, but will stand the test of time. Many home projects are showcasing custom-type kitchen cabinets, luxurious bathrooms, very specific and unique aesthetics that go well beyond the “beige options” of the early 2000’s. Grays, taupes, creamy off whites and white-whites are clearly making homes look and feel entirely fresh and certainly not dated for the early 2000’s but positioning them for the next decade of color and design trends.

Today’s flooring options, especially hardwood flooring, is durable beyond what one would expect if they based their judgement on flooring of twenty years ago. We have technology built into each layer of hardwood from the face, to the core, to the back. Advanced aluminum oxide finishes not only resist surface scratches and daily wear, but also popular hardwood species like white oak become even harder and more stable when pressed and cross-plied with similarly-hard species. Many imported hardwood products are often imposters to “European oaks”, having “genteel sounding” names and romanced with wonderful storylines but when the rubber hits the road, or the can of soup hits the floor, the truth comes out and the shortcuts can be seen and felt, leaving many homeowners disappointed in their flooring choice, perhaps disillusioned in hardwood unnecessarily. If one does hire a professional designer and or a professional installer, then their chances of loving the outcome are much greater since professionals have typically worked with their “tried and true” products and brands, knowing that their reputation and livelihood is at stake with word of mouth and social media being one of the primary platforms on which they showcase their work.

How does one clean a hardwood floor? There are some great options today for keeping hardwood flooring clean, and like many flooring types, the less you do, the better. For wood, only a barely “damp” mop or dry “swiffer” type pad will work well. Little to no moisture is best. Assuming your floors are pre-finished, it doesn’t take much to keep them looking like new as long as you’re not dancing in heels, abusing them carelessly. Oil based hardwood flooring, is another thing altogether. I can hear the “Cinderella song” in my head right now just thinking about waxing oil-based floors. Knowing the right type of flooring for the right areas is so important once again going back to the values of working with a professional designer or installer. There are some basic things you should consider when choosing hardwood flooring for your home. I’d suggest sticking with porcelain tile or vinyl flooring for the full bathrooms where showers and bathtubs create a constant moist environment. Powder room type bathrooms on the other hand are beautiful when hardwood flooring is used and especially so if there’s a harmonious and continuous flow of the same hardwood flooring going throughout an open floor plan. Many times, I am asked if hardwood flooring is okay for kitchens to which I always answer “YES, absolutely”. In face, hardwood flooring is my personal favorite option for kitchens as it adds so much warmth, character and personality to the kitchen which has become the #1 area of the home where families and friends gather and generally the largest part of a home’s budget. Hardwood flooring and kitchen cabinet styles have both evolved over the years to provide homeowners wide options of colors, stains, finishes…giving a high end, luxurious first-impression for the rest of the home. Kitchen cabinet companies have been showcasing whites, off-whites, grays and even some robins egg blues at recent builders, kitchen and bath shows. Some “stained wood” finishes still sell but the biggest trends are found in painted finishes as they give a super-custom furniture effect when base cabinets might be one color and island bases are another and mixed together skillfully so that it looks and feels like actual furniture.

How does a designer or homeowner find a skilled installer? In today’s market, I’ve found in my research that most skilled and reputable installers are covered up with projects and booked a month out at least. Hopefully restlessness doesn’t kick in and cause one to choose an installer that is available on the spot. He or she might be free for a reason. It’s important to know that the NWFA has a wonderful website and team of experts that you can tap into to locate credible, certified installers that you can rely to install your investment for you in a way that you’ll be happy with today, tomorrow and for years to come. There are installers who might be “experienced and skilled” who might not yet have gone through certification with the NWFA. Let’s all encourage these skilled installers to consider the importance and value of “certification” as it sets them apart from the rest of the pack of installers, and allows them to force the competition to step it up in their own credibility. Currently there are over 1,200 NWFA certified installers across the USA.