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Last updated: May 31, 2022 • Home Improvement

Ultimate Flooring Selection Guide

Among the renovations that homeowners commonly perform on their houses, updating flooring is near the top of the list. And this is for good reason. Not only can most types of flooring be installed by the avid DIYer, but some of them can also significantly increase a home’s value.

Beyond that, installing new flooring in your home can increase your well-being by completely transforming your living space. Modern flooring combined with a complementary paint color will turn your home into your sanctuary. But which type of flooring should you choose? With all of the options available today, it can be overwhelming.

The flooring you select should be based upon the conditions it will see, the look you want, and your budget. This article gives a breakdown of the most common types of flooring. After reading this guide, not only will you know which options are most appropriate for each room in your house, but you will also know which selections you can install yourself and which ones you should hire a professional for.

Carpet

carpet rolls

We know. Carpet is not the most breathtaking type of flooring you can install in your home. However, you cannot beat the comfort it provides. Even though other types of flooring like hardwood may look more luxurious, many homeowners elect to go with carpet because of how it feels to walk on.

The most practical rooms to install carpet in are bedrooms. Older homes had carpet in the living rooms, but that is becoming a thing of the past.

The primary downside to carpet is its susceptibility to spills and stains. Homeowners with pets may decide against carpet to avoid accidents from ruining their flooring. Although some higher-end carpet styles are more resistant to spills and stains, they are not impermeable. Also, carpet is installed with a layer of padding underneath. Once the pad gets wet, the stain is trapped there, and it is tough to get it out.

Carpet is one of the types of flooring that should almost always be installed by a professional. Several specialized tools and techniques are required to install carpet, and a DIY job can turn into a disaster with wrinkles everywhere. Carpet installers generally have an abundance of styles and colors to choose from, and they typically list each selection at a specific price per square foot. This price usually includes removing old carpet, haul-away, carpet and pad material, and installation labor.

Laminate Flooring

worker hands installing floor

Laminate flooring comes in planks that consist of multiple layers. Most of the thickness is made up of high-density fiberboard (HDF). On top of the core is the design layer that gives the flooring its appearance. A transparent wear layer on the very top makes the flooring more durable.

Laminate flooring manufacturers have made significant progress in recent years. In the past, all laminate floors looked extremely cheap and had the same look. Now, there are countless styles and colors to choose from, and it is nearly impossible to visually tell the difference between most laminates and hardwoods.

Another recent improvement in laminate flooring is its water resistance. Earlier forms of laminate flooring would swell up after a brief exposure to water. However, advancements made by manufacturers have made this type of flooring much more impervious to moisture.

Laminate flooring is best suited for high-traffic areas such as hallways, living rooms, and bedrooms. Because of its issues with water, most homeowners avoid installing laminate in wet areas like bathrooms and kitchens. However, the occasional spill will not affect most modern laminate styles if it is promptly dried up. There are even some manufacturers that boast that their product is completely waterproof.

This type of flooring is probably the best candidate for a DIY installation. No flooring installation is simple by any means, but someone with some hands-on skills and the right tools should have no problem installing laminate flooring. This type of flooring is simple to install because it simply sits on the floor, and all of the pieces lock together with their specially-made tongues and grooves. Laminate flooring also requires a layer of underlayment to be installed underneath it for cushioning and alleviating subfloor imperfections.

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Rolled Vinyl Flooring

rolls of linoleum

Rolled vinyl flooring is similar to laminate flooring in the stigma they both carry. When most people think of vinyl flooring, the first thing that comes to mind is the ugly, outdated flooring in their grandparents’ kitchen. However, there is an abundance of styles available today that are made to resemble tile and wood flooring.

The primary benefit of rolled vinyl flooring is that it is the most waterproof type of flooring on the market. Because it comes in large rolls, there are minimal seams in the finished product. Therefore, a spill has no way to get beyond the layer of vinyl since it is impervious to moisture. Also, because it is a thin material and is glued directly to the subfloor, slight subfloor imperfections and humps are no problem for vinyl flooring, whereas they would be for floating floors.

The most common rooms to install rolled vinyl flooring in are kitchens and bathrooms because of its waterproof qualities. This type of flooring is prevalent among landlords because it is relatively inexpensive and requires very little maintenance.

It is possible to install rolled vinyl flooring yourself, but it is slightly more challenging than installing floating-style floors. The process involves cutting a section that is somewhat larger than the area you are covering, laying it in place, and then trimming the edges at the baseboards. Vinyl flooring is attached to the floor using an adhesive specially designed for this application. Once the sheet has been glued down, you can then install quarter round or shoe molding around the room’s perimeter to hide the trimmed edges.

Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)

luxury vinyl wood patern

Luxury vinyl plank flooring looks very similar to laminate flooring. It comes in long planks and is generally made to resemble wood flooring. However, the vinyl material that makes up this type of flooring is 100% waterproof. LVP flooring is also much thinner and more flexible than its laminate counterpart.

LVP flooring is arguably the most versatile type of flooring you can install in your home. The visual characteristics will fit in any room, and its waterproof qualities enable it to be installed in wet areas where laminate flooring is usually avoided.

Installing this type of flooring requires the same skills and tools as laminate flooring, making it a great DIY project. Like laminate, LVP flooring clicks together and is a floating floor, meaning it is not fastened to the subfloor. Many styles come with padding already attached to the underside, eliminating the need to install underlayment first.

Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT)

The terms LVT and LVP often get used interchangeably, but these are two different products. While LVP comes in long planks, LVT comes in tiles that are usually 12” x 24”. Another distinction between these two types of flooring is their thickness. While LVP is generally thin and flexible, LVT is thicker and more rigid. Although these differences exist, LVP and LVT flooring are similar in their materials, installation, and waterproof qualities.

Luxury vinyl tile flooring is best suited for areas such as kitchens and bathrooms where ceramic tile would traditionally be installed. It generally comes in styles that resemble tile and other types of stone such as marble, making it an excellent choice for these rooms.

Homeowners should avoid installing this type of flooring in any room with an uneven subfloor. Otherwise, when people step on the areas where the floor dips, the joints will break or pop apart and separate over time due to temperature fluctuations. Although the higher-quality LVT flooring brands are typically more expensive, it is worth the investment. The higher-priced styles are usually easier to install and have more robust locking features between the tiles.

LVT flooring is installed very similarly to its plank counterpart. It is a floating-style floor, and it clicks together and requires the same tools as LVP. Many styles of LVT come with a thin layer of padding attached to the underside, so no additional underlayment is required.

Hardwood Flooring

luxury spacious family interior

Hardwood flooring is the longest-running and one of the most luxurious flooring options on the market today. Whether you are flipping a house or just looking to renovate your own home, installing hardwood floors will significantly raise its value and provide a breathtaking living experience.

Hardwoods are typically installed in every room of a house except for bathrooms, utility rooms, and sometimes kitchens. A large percentage of homeowners elect to install hardwoods in their kitchens and take care to clean up spills quickly.

Hardwood comes in planks of different lengths. When you buy a box of hardwood flooring, there will be various lengths. If care is taken to avoid seams lining up, the finished product will be randomized with no distinguishable patterns. This is quite different from synthetic flooring types because they come in uniform lengths.

Installing hardwood flooring is similar to installing laminate flooring, with one exception. Hardwoods are generally nailed or stapled to the subfloor as opposed to floating. Each plank has a tongue on one side and a groove on the other. The tongues and grooves of adjacent pieces fit together, and nails or staples are driven through the tongues, attaching the planks to the subfloor. Specialized nailers and an air compressor are required for this project, making it a level higher in difficulty than floating floors.

One of the benefits of wood flooring is that it can be sanded and refinished. Whether you’re looking for a different color or your hardwood floors just need to be rejuvenated, most styles can be sanded down to remove the current finished and re-stained to the color of your choice.

You have two primary options when installing hardwood floors: solid or engineered. Here is a brief overview of each one.

Solid Hardwood

Solid hardwood is the most classic type of hardwood flooring. As its name implies, it is constructed out of solid pieces of wood. Because of this, the looks of this type of hardwood are more traditional. The primary benefit of solid hardwood is that it is thicker and can typically be refinished more times than its engineered counterpart. Because wood naturally bends and warps over time, solid hardwood can sometimes come with these imperfections and must be forced into place during installation.

Engineered Hardwood

Engineered hardwood flooring has become increasingly popular in recent years. Instead of being constructed out of a solid piece of wood, it is made by stacking multiple layers similar to plywood and applying a thin layer of solid wood on top. 

While this may sound cheaper or not as luxurious, this actually gives this type of flooring a benefit. The way it is constructed actually reduces the warpage that each plank will see. Because of this, engineered hardwood is the go-to option for homes on concrete slabs since each plank must be glued down, and installers don’t have the luxury of wrestling warped planks into place and securing them with nails. Because the top layer of engineered hardwood is relatively thin, it cannot be sanded and refinished as many times as its solid counterpart.

Tile Flooring

various decorative tiles

Tile has been the go-to flooring option in kitchens and bathrooms for decades due to its looks, durability, and water resistance. If you want to renovate your kitchen or bathroom, you cannot go wrong with a modern tile design. To take your bathroom to the next level, you can even install tile on your shower walls.

Flooring tiles are generally made from either ceramic or porcelain. The most common sizes are 12” x 12” and 12” x 24”, and the best way to arrange them is in a grid or staggered pattern. Once the tiles are attached to the floor with mortar, grout is used to fill in the gaps between each piece.

Tile flooring is nearly exclusively used in wet areas in new builds and renovations because it doesn’t give the look most homeowners desire in their living rooms and bedrooms. Many homeowners dislike tile because it feels so hard and cold on their feet. Also, since tiles’ materials are highly brittle, they can easily crack from a settling house or dropped objects. Nevertheless, a tile floor can give your kitchen or bathroom a major facelift and will require very little maintenance.

Tile is one of the most challenging types of flooring to install and should almost always be installed by a professional. There are several steps involved. First, cement backer board must be secured on top of the subfloor. Then the tiles must be mortared to the backer board. Finally, the grout can be applied to the gaps.

Each step takes a great deal of experience to produce a high-quality finished product. Improperly adhering the tiles to the floor can result in them loosening and breaking over time. Also, special care must be taken to ensure that the gaps are consistent and that each tile is at the same height. Special tools are required to cut tiles, especially ones made of porcelain. Grout has its own challenges and can turn into a mess for the rookie DIYer. But a professional tile layer can make your kitchen or bathroom look incredible.

Are You Ready to Update Your Flooring?

There are so many options for flooring that it can feel overwhelming at first. We hope that this guide will allow you to approach updating the flooring in your house with much more confidence. Installing new flooring will undoubtedly increase your home’s value and cause you to love it even more. With some research and possibly hiring a contractor, you can install any of the types of flooring discussed here in your home!

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