A Guide to Flooring Selections
Updated: Sep 4, 2019
Flooring is an unexpectedly hard decision to make. I mean, how do you choose between vinyl, LVT, and laminate? Or hardwood and engineered/composite wood? Hopefully after reading through our decisions, you’ll feel more prepared to take on this selection yourself!
To read about our personal decision in building our home, jump to the bottom of the page!
The importance of these items will definitely change based on your family’s needs, but they are the basic aspects you should consider when making your choices. Are you on a strict budget? Do you want a no-hassle product that requires little maintenance? Are you selecting for a particular room or throughout the house? What is my family’s lifestyle like, and does this flooring make sense for us? All questions that need to be asked!
Generally, the kinds of flooring available include vinyl, luxury vinyl tile (LVT), laminate, engineered/composite wood, hardwood, tile, and carpet.
The one least easily recognizable to you may be LVT, or Luxury Vinyl Tile. This has become increasingly popular over the years: It's available as planks or tiles and has a softer surface than other flooring materials like wood or stone, while still maintaining the same look.
In fact, since custom home building is such a "hot" market right now, most suppliers have upped their game in general and come out with more versatile and unique offerings for all flooring types.
Tiles come in all shapes and sizes, carpet quality has come a long way, and you can hardly tell the difference between engineered wood, hardwood, and LVT.
We typically see more customers using some kind of lookalike products for wood flooring, like LVT or laminate planks, since you can achieve the same look while also having durability and cost savings.
Our Ultimate Choice
Like everyone, we started with what we know: In our current "5 year starter home" (that we have been in for 26 years), we started with what most homes had "back in the day"... a classic sheet vinyl on our kitchen and bath floors, carpet in all other rooms, and a very small foyer leading into the kitchen of hardwood that was stained in place (good ole classic Gunstock).
By the time we renovated in 2008, the hardwood was a mess at the entrance from kids and dogs coming in with wet snow boots, etc. We knew we didn't want to do that again.
Our 2008 Renovation ----> New Build
Even though I am a designer, I tend to think about function first (shocking).
So, during our renovation:
Anyone else have an aching back from standing in their kitchen? I spend countless hours there baking, and the sheet vinyl had not been kind in that department. From my time in commercial design, I knew hospitals have used cork flooring for its antimicrobial properties, durability, and softness under foot for years. They had all sorts of new and cool visuals that really would have gone well with any type of aesthetic. We selected a cool pattern in a complimentary finish to our new deep java-finish cabinetry.
Dogs and kids wearing out your hardwood and no time for a refinish? We wanted a much more durable product to stand up to our dog and kids. After searching we liked the stranded bamboo flooring for the rest of the first floor and selected the same deep java finish as the adjacent kitchen cabinetry. It looked amazing with the bright white trim and pulled the kitchen into the rest of the first floor.
Open Plan. Since we were opening up the first floor to a more open plan (kitchen and great room open to one another), we wanted it to feel more like one space, but we did end up using the two products side by side in a creative way despite our attempts to find something that would work in both places.
Both flooring types have held up really well but I will say, in the spirit of full disclosure, you need to seal the cork floor more than we do... in high traffic areas. We have learned to love the "distressed" look of it but some may not appreciate that. Otherwise, it saved my back! I'd highly recommend both but our decisions here did affect our decision on the new house/office too!
Taking our past experiences into consideration, and how we live now, we wanted our farmhouse to:
Be very durable
Be easy to clean
Feel like one contiguous space
In keeping with our overall farmhouse vision, we also wanted the wood visual to be a natural stained deck that had some sun bleaching. We found a great product that provided the visual and the durability we were looking for and are probably more excited about this find than most people would imagine. We see it as the glue that will be holding everything together if it all works as planned.
Drumroll... It's a commercial grade laminate plank. We are using it everywhere. Yes, EVERYWHERE.
It's incredibly versatile, looks and feels like real wood, and checks all of our boxes for comfortability.
Keep in mind, I council folks to NOT DO THIS IN WET AREAS, but in our case, we will be sealing ALL joints (locking mechanisms between the planks) in the bathrooms to be able to use this product... praying the whole way through. This product was just too darn perfect to not try. My brother-in-law builds in the Catskills and suggested we do this, so why not!
**PSA: Since we are laying the floors ourselves, we can tackle this... it's not something you'd want to have to pay someone to do, as it will be very labor intensive! And we are insane that way. You would be hard-pressed to find an installer to do this for you.**
Despite all the amazing tile visuals now, we didn't want it in our bath floors; we have never been a fan of walking on cold tile, which is why we have loved having the cork in our bathrooms. We are hoping that the sealed laminate planks will provide the same feel underfoot. We won't be doing carpet either as we will always have pets, kids, etc. running around and I have allergies, so area rugs it is!