When building a new home, the flooring you select can give each room its unique character, look and feel. Our Flooring Buying Guide is designed to help you determine what flooring is right for each room. Given the vast array of flooring options available, you’re bound to find one that fits your lifestyle and budget.
The following four criteria should be taken into consideration when choosing to floor for your new home:
- Lifestyle – Durability and toughness will be necessary to consider if you have a family and pets. Hardwoods may not be an ideal choice in this case as they scratch and stain easily and can be sensitive to water and humidity. If you want something tough, laminate flooring has a scratch/stain resistant wear layer that makes it a real contender. Tile flooring is durable too and is even easier to keep clean.
- Comfort – In addition to how your flooring will look, you should also consider how your flooring will “feel”. Carpet is great for infants as it is a little more cushioned than other floors and also feels much warmer on cold days. Hardwoods, laminates and tiles can tend to feel drafty (although an area rug can often make the difference in these cases).
- Home Style – Because it covers such a large surface area, choosing the right flooring is important to reinforce the look you are trying to achieve in each room. Light colored hardwoods yield a classic, timeless look while today’s laminate colors tend to look more modern and add a level of sophistication and simplicity to any home. Tile flooring has such a broad range of looks that it can match almost any style of home.
- Maintenance – Cleaning and maintenance are important topics when selecting flooring. Hardwoods are susceptible to stains and require careful attention whereas laminates and ceramic tiles require minimal care. For rooms that get a lot of family use, like kitchens and baths, it is important that floors are easy to keep clean. Carpet can become soiled and requires occasional steam cleaning.
The following is a comparison of different flooring finishes included in this Flooring Buying Guide:
Natural rugs made from wool, grasses, or cotton have reduced impacts on petroleum-based products. They off-gas less harmful emissions, require less toxic chemicals to clean and maintain, and are biodegradable upon disposal. Carpets made from Nylon 6 or 6.6 fibers are very durable and can be recycled (either laterally or down-cycled), prolonging their life and keeping them out of landfills.
Carpets with recycled-content made from recycled PET derived primarily from post-consumer plastic soft drink containers reduce the amount of virgin material required but have a higher embodied energy because of shipping related to recycling efforts and the process of recycling the material itself. Their primary benefit is to keep material out of landfills. Carpet pads are either made from recycled carpet pad or recycled carpet fibers and reduce the amount of material sent to landfills.
- Huge selection of styles and colours.
- It feels good on bare feet and makes a room feel warm.
- Low price, low maintenance.
- stains easily
- harder to clean
- wears out on high traffic areas
Cost: $2 to $9/sq. ft.
Whether as sheet goods or tile, solid vinyl or vinyl composition products are made from petroleum-based materials and chlorides, some of the most toxic pollutants that have significant impacts throughout their manufacture, product life and disposal. Additives required to increase durability, flexibility and color produce off-gassing, and may flake off lead, cadmium and organotin – and phthalate plasticizers.
The products also pose a fire hazard, as they release gases, such as hydrogen chloride that turns to hydrochloric acid when inhaled. As it burns, whether accidentally or in waste incineration, it releases yet more toxic dioxins. (Healthy Building Network) Vinyl products require adhesives, surface coatings and a higher level of maintenance coatings over their life cycle than other resilient flooring products. Use low- VOC adhesives, cleaners, or finish coatings to reduce impacts.
- Huge selection of styles and colours. Available in tiles or sheets.
- Low price, low maintenance. Double-thick vinyl is ideal for damp areas like bathrooms.
- Tiles are easy to DIY if the subfloor is level.
- Vulnerable to scratches, tears, stains and wear.
- Difficult to repair
Cost: $2 to $9/sq. ft.
Recycled-content tile can be made using waste glass from light bulbs, bottles, or auto windshields. Also, tile can use a byproduct of feldspar mining for content. Tile can be ground up and used for base or fill at the end of its life cycle. Choice of aesthetically flexible patterns and colors prolongs the life cycle of products. Appropriate installation methods ensure longer life cycle. Maintenance impacts are lower because of product durability. Use low-VOC additives, mortars, grouts, and sealers.
- Huge selection of colours, styles and sizes.
- Can easily be coordinated with tile backsplash.
- Durable and low maintenance.
- Can cause discomfort to legs and back after prolonged standing.
- Not all tiles are equally wear-resistant; high-traffic areas like kitchens call for stronger ceramic.
- Can crack or chip.
- Needs a level subfloor.
Cost: $6 to $20/sq. ft.
This type of flooring uses engineered wood products as a substrate, reducing the use of prime wood fibers; however, most laminates include petroleum-based resins and have high embodied energy due to the pressure treatments required for laminations. They may off-gas formaldehyde and require some recoating to preserve their finish.
Not recommended for high-traffic areas because when they wear out they cannot be refinished and must be landfilled or burned, causing additional pollution. Some laminates use thin wood veneers on engineered substrates, which allow for refinishing at least once during lifecycle and prolong use. Use low-VOC adhesives, cleaners, or finish coatings, or mechanically fasten.
- Great selection of styles and colours. Looks like wood, stone, ceramic.
- Resists stains, scratches, dents, even cigarette burns. Relatively easy to DIY, often directly on top of existing floor.
- Click-into-place styles can simply be dismantled and taken with you when you move. Good-quality laminate can last up to 25 years.
- Not recommended for bathrooms or other damp areas.
- Must be replaced when worn.
Cost: $4 to $10/sq. ft.
Wood flooring has a high aesthetic value for residences. It also has a long life cycle and is relatively easy to maintain over time. Most wood flooring is derived from hardwood trees, which can come from local/regional or sustainable and certified forests.
Reclaimed or salvaged wood flooring saves materials and can come from species or grain types or sizes of trees no longer available, which increases their aesthetic value. From an environmental standpoint, this approach saves materials from the waste stream and does not impact living trees. Use water-based and low-VOC floor coatings, finishes and cleaners to further minimize environmental impacts.
- Oak and maple are the most popular. New: pre-oiled exotic woods, now available with semi-gloss and gloss finishes.
- Creates a warm, natural atmosphere. Never goes out of fashion. More comfortable for legs and back than harder surfaces. Durable if properly sealed. With oiled floors, a sanding and a coat of mineral oil will hide scratches. Look for longer boards to avoid a patchwork effect.
- Requires resealing every few years, but floorboards with a factory-sealed finish can be extremely resistant if they’re good quality.
- Dirt can accumulate in too-wide joints between boards.
Cost: $6 to $15/sq. ft.
- An alternative to hardwood and laminate, it is also a more versatile option.
- Produced by adhering sheets of real wood to a composite surface.
- Does not expand or contract with temperature changes.
- Sold prefinished.
- Can be glued or clicked into place directly over concrete or an acoustic underlay.
- Less durable than hardwood.
- Cannot be sanded more than twice.
Cost: $7 to $20/sq. ft.
Bamboo is a fast-growing grass that produces new shoots without the need for replanting. It is twice as hard as oak and is produced by compressing Bamboo fibers under extreme heat & pressure.The majority of today’s bamboo flooring products originate in China and other portions of Asia. Moso bamboo is the species most commonly used for flooring. More here: Bamboo Flooring
- Gives decor an exotic accent. Beautiful golden tone with natural striations. Carbonization process deepens grain and colour. Some natural shades are available.
- Environmentally friendly: Bamboo is a renewable, rapid-growth plant.
- Harder and more resistant to dampness than wood, making it particularly suitable for the kitchen and basement.
- Relatively limited selection of shades.
- Susceptible to water
Cost: $7 to $10/sq. ft.
Cork comes from a renewable resource but must be shipped from Europe and Northern Africa, increasing embodied energy. Shipping via sea routes tends to be less energy intensive than shipping by truck, but the material must still be shipped across the country to national distributors. Cork flooring requires minimal maintenance, produces minimal off-gassing, and is very durable if used appropriately. Select low-VOC adhesives, cleaners, and finish coatings.
- Available in either tiles or interlocking planks to make a floating floor. Good selection of colours and styles, allowing you to create a one-of-a-kind design.
- Warm and cushiony on bare feet. Hypoallergenic and mildew- and dent-resistant making it suitable even for bathrooms. As durable as wood, but an additional application of sealer is recommended in damp rooms.
- Does not go well with all decors.
- Less attractive than wood.
- Typically more expensive than other flooring options
Cost: $7 to $16/sq. ft.
Natural stone refers to a variety of mountain born materials including Slate, Marble, Limestone, Travertine, Granite, and Sandstone. Each of these has slightly different properties. It’s important to understand the characteristics of the type of stone flooring tile you are purchasing to determine whether it is appropriate for a particular location.
- Appearance improves with age
- Slate, marble, limestone and sandstone are popular choices.
- Slab marble and limestone are not especially hard-wearing but tumbled (travertine) marble is highly durable.
- Labour intensive installation
- May absorb stains
- Can cause leg and back discomfort after prolonged standing. Because it is a natural material, the stone can contain imperfections (texture, colour, veining).
- Needs regular sealing.
Cost: $10 to $30/sq. ft.
Concrete flooring is extremely tough and resilient and can withstand the pressure from very heavy equipment such as cars, trucks, forklifts, and stacked crates. That is why it is such a popular material for hard working commercial areas such as garages and warehouses.
- Provides the industrial look that’s increasingly popular.
- Perfect for lofts.
- Good selection of colours and finishes.
- Can cause leg and back discomfort after prolonged standing. Surface receiving the concrete must be properly prepared.
- Needs yearly resealing.
Cost: About $13/sq. ft.