Flooring options – wood, laminate, lino, carpet, uPVC, stone and natural floors
Need new flooring but don’t know which material to choose? Take a look at the options here – choose from wood, laminate, lino, plastic or stone.
“People like wood floors because they are hardwearing and look great, each wooden floor has its own individual grain and characteristics,” says Laurence Warburton from Woodworks Flooring in Kent. Wood flooring is particularly attractive at the moment because it’s sustainable, recyclable and a natural insulator. Hardwoods work well on floors because of their durability, oak being the most popular but you can choose softwoods like pine if you prefer. Different plank sizes and finishes can create unique looks in separate areas of your home.
Maintenance wise, high heels and bits of grit and dirt can damage wooden floors easily, so they need to be properly sealed and swept or vacuumed with a hard floor attachment regularly. Excessive moisture can cause warping and swelling so be careful to damp mop and if you want to use wood in bathrooms or kitchens choose a specially engineered kind which can cope with water exposure. Laurence suggests: “Never use harsh cleaning products on wood, fairy liquid is a good choice.”
Carpet provides a warm surface to walk or sit on and is ideal for children to play on. “Carpets are really coming back in to homes again after all the wood and laminate,” explains Craig Marshall, from BU Interiors in Surrey. Carpet is non slip and good for insulation and sound proofing. It can be as luxurious or functional as you like but it is best to choose a robust type for high traffic areas like hallways and stairs.
Carpet can be easy to stain and retains germs and dust which can irritate respiratory problems or asthma. Craig says: “100% man made carpet is the lowest maintenance kind, with built in stain protection.” As well as vacuuming regularly it is a good idea to shampoo or industrially clean your carpet once or twice a year. Price varies greatly depending on type; a tufted twist pile may cost £10 to £35 per square meter, a shag pile £30 to £60.
This is an extremely eco-friendly choice, made of all natural materials; linseed oil, wood flour and cork dust with a canvas or burlap backing. Linoleum’s best known brand is Marmoleum, which comes in over a hundred colours and designs and is hard wearing. Lino is also easy to clean – simply sweep and damp mop with lino cleaner or mild detergent.
“Marmoleum has real health benefits because linseed oil is anti-bacterial,” explains David Morley, form Authentic Natural Floors in Stockport, “Which is why it is often used in hospitals”. Lino does not trap dirt or moisture which means that it’s a good choice for those who suffer from asthma or respiratory problems. The cost of linoleum flooring is around £30 to £36 per square meter, cheaper types may not come ready bonded and need to be resealed or waxed over time.
Marble, granite, limestone or slate floors look great – no two pieces of stone are exactly the same, resulting in a unique floor which is bacteria resistant and non allergenic. Stone is a durable flooring material and if sealed and maintained properly, can last a lifetime. The down side is that stone is porous and needs to be professionally sealed and resealed regularly, installed by a professional and cleaned with a gentle solution. Stone is a comparatively expensive flooring option which can also feel cold underfoot, but coupled with underfloor heating can work well.
“I believe natural flooring is the future,” says flooring specialist David, “It’s healthy and the materials will never run out.” The most common natural flooring materials are sea grass, sisal, coir and linoleum, they come in natural greens, beiges, gold and bronze colours. Sisal, made of leaf fibre, and linoleum are the most durable types. Coir is made from coconut fibres and is a cheaper option, as is sea grass, from China and Vietnam. David suggests that these materials can cost 5-10% more than synthetic flooring types.
Other natural flooring materials like cork and bamboo are becoming popular too: “People are very interested in bamboo floors now because they are environmentally friendly and absorb stains well, so come in lots of colours,” says flooring installer Laurence.
Laminate is made of a heat resistant layer of melamine, a layer of fibreboard, a top skin which gives the material its design (usually a wood or stone appearance) and an outer protective layer. Matt Sweda, from the Better Wood Company in Bristol says: “Laminate flooring is a good alternative to wood because it’s cheaper and still results in a nice finish.” Depending on the quality, laminate is scratch, water and stain resistant and can come with a sound underlay which reduces noise.
Laminate floors are easy to clean; sweep or Hoover with a hard floor attachment regularly and damp mop using a gentle cleaner or one specified by the manufacturer. Excessive moisture will damage laminates, so be careful when using it in bathrooms or kitchens. The price of laminate flooring starts at around £10 per meter.
UPVC (vinyl) flooring is a fairly cheap choice which became popular in the 1960s. “Vinyl really replaced linoleum flooring in hospitals and schools until people realised that lino was anti-bacterial,” explains natural flooring installer David. Otherwise, uPVC is similar to lino in that it comes in a wide variety of styles in either sheet or tile format.
UPVC is waterproof but can be scratched easily; the colour of uPVC only saturates the top layer which means design may fade over time. You should make sure uPVC flooring is swept and mopped regularly, using a cleaning fluid recommended by the flooring manufacturer.