Installing a new floor is a great way to liven up your house. Before you change your floor, however, you need to decide what type of flooring is best suited to your budget and lifestyle. Hardwood floors are a classic choice, while many homeowners prefer the ease of tile or the affordability of laminate flooring. While some floors can be installed by an inexperienced homeowner, other floor types require the services of a professional or an experienced handyman.
Hardwood floors have always been a popular choice. Beautiful, traditional wood floors can last a lifetime if properly maintained and, because hardwood floors are more hygienic than carpet, they are a good choice for people with allergies. The National Wood Flooring Association, points out that wood is:
Hardwood floor types can be new or salvaged and might be smooth, distressed, or hand-scraped for an antique look. Stains give you a variety of color choices, even allowing oak to masquerade as rare exotic lumber. Research all your options before investing in a hardwood floor, as each of the many choices offers advantages of its own.
Maintaining Hardwood Floors
Prefinished hardwood flooring can be expensive, but it is easy to maintain. To keep your hardwood floor looking its best, you should put down area rugs in places that get a lot of foot traffic. You should also damp mop your floor frequently to remove dust and dirt. If your hardwood floors get a few minor scratches, you can repair them with a touch-up stick. Solid hardwood floors can be refinished if they have a lot of scuffmarks, which is one advantage over other products like laminate flooring.
Installing Hardwood Flooring
If you have never installed any type of flooring, you might want to hire a professional to lay your hardwood floors. Get an estimate, ask for references and never pay for the entire job upfront. If you do decide to do it yourself, do your homework because installing flooring can be tricky. The following tools are needed for installing hardwood floors:
- Circular saw
- Measuring tape
- Nail gun or hammer
- Table saw
- Floor sealant
- Safety glasses
According to Steve Seabaugh, director of technical education for the NWFA, installers of wood floors must take care to:
- Check the subfloor for flatness.
- Avoid laying over particleboard, which does not hold nails well.
- Acclimatize wood to the space in which it will be installed.
Laying hardwood floors takes time, and this last step adds several days to your project calendar. The flooring should sit in your home for at least 48 hours before installation in order to expose it to the room’s environment. This allows it to expand or contract according to the temperature and humidity of the room. If this takes place after the floor is laid, you’ll wind up with shifting boards and uneven flooring. In addition to this brief period of acclimatization, plan to spend at least a few full days installing hardwood floors, depending on the size of your home.
Quick-Growing Alternatives to Hardwoods
Some homeowners choose cork or bamboo floors as an alternative to hardwood. These faster-growing products can be “green” in more ways than one – gentle on the planet and on your wallet. Prefinished bamboo is made from a grass and performs much like hardwood when it’s used as flooring. Cork is a wood-bark product that can also make an attractive floor. According to BuildGreen’s independently published Environmental Building News, the most eco-friendly bamboo floors are those with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.
Tile is another beautiful choice and a great option for DIY flooring. The price of tile varies greatly because there are so many choices, from ceramics and terra-cotta to marble and slate. Regardless of the price, tile is extremely durable and will last for decades with proper care.
Before installing new floors, you should first learn as much as you can about how to tile. Many hardware stores and home centers offer classes in tiling. You can also hire a professional to install your tile floor, but this will greatly increase the price of your total flooring expenses.
When you do undertake a tiling job, be sure you already understand the process. You’ll need to be sure your subfloor is suitable and then create a level bed of mortar. Tiles will be set according to a careful plan, with room left between for grout. After the mortar has set, you’ll fill the gaps with grout, carefully wiping the surface of the tiles as you go. Finally, a week or more later, you’ll seal the grout to protect it from stains.
The basic supplies for laying tile include:
- Grout floats
- Mortar trowels
- Tile cutters
- Tile grout, mortar, and sealant
- Tile saw
- Tape measure
- Rags and a sponge
Installing tile flooring will take time, as grout and mortar take several days to dry. You should expect to get your hands dirty during this process, but the end result will be one of the most easily maintained flooring options out there.
Laminate flooring is made from a synthetic material that looks like hardwood or tile. Laminate flooring is a great choice for anyone who wants the look of hardwood or tile but doesn’t have a big budget to work with. Laminate flooring is usually less than half the cost of hardwood floors.
Another advantage of laminate flooring is that almost anyone can install it. For most types of laminate flooring, the manufacturer’s instructions are easy to follow and the pieces snap into place for “lock and click” installation. According to the North American Laminate Flooring Association, glue and fasteners are usually not required. Durability and affordability are listed by NALFA alongside ease of installation as reasons to consider a laminate floor.
Environmental concerns can sway consumers towards laminates, too. A product with NALFA’s green seal will have the following features, according to the association’s website:
- Natural ingredients such as wood chips
- Low emissions
- Recycled content
- No VOC-producing installation adhesives
Easy to Buy, Install and Maintain
Caring for and maintaining laminate floors is very easy – simply sweep or wet-mop regularly. With excellent care, laminate floors can last up to 20 years. The time and skill required to install a laminate floor are relatively low, making this a popular choice for first-time DIY floor installations.
A Floor for Every Lifestyle
Whether you choose easy laminates, classic hardwoods, or beautiful tile, your floor will help define your home’s personality. By matching your budget, taste, and skill to the best product for you, you can find a DIY flooring solution that will make your home more comfortable, beautiful, and valuable.