How to choose flooring materials

Whether your preference is for traditional timber, natural stone, vinyl or poured resin, our guide is here to help you choose a flooring material that suits your space

Flooring is often overlooked during the process of designing a space, whether that be the kitchen, bathroom, living room or bedroom. While it's often not regarded as being important to an interior design scheme, getting it right can affect the overall appearance of a room.

Whether your preference is for wood flooring, natural stone, vinyl or concrete, our guide is here to help you choose a flooring material that suits your space.

Choose for a variety of wood floorings

Wood flooring has increased in popularity over the past decade and is high on the wish-list of many prospective homebuyers. Available in varying grains, tones and finishes, there is a timber to suit most rooms, including the hallway – although it’s not ideal for a bathroom.

Engineered wood floors – a real wood veneer over a middle core of heat-formed wood and a base-supporting layer – are used where shrinkage might be a problem. The stability of engineered flooring makes it a perfect choice over underfloor heating if the guidelines are followed, plus it is easier to lay than solid wood flooring.

Timber is usually lacquered or oiled, depending on the finish you prefer. A lacquered timber is more durable – but if it gets scratched, a large area of flooring will need to be sanded and re-lacquered. Re-finishing a more localised area is easier with an oiled floor. Prices vary according to the thickness of the decorative wood veneer and quality of the core. Some timber flooring is more prone to UV bleaching than others, so it is wise to check how scratch-resistant it is.

When choosing timber flooring, look out for a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC, mark which ensures the sustainability of the source forests but also environmentally responsible practices in production.

For a more budget alternative, consider laminate flooring

Laminate flooring is made from layers of high density fibreboard with a photographic image (of timber, tile etc) laminated to the surface below a tough, wear-resistant coating. Its advantages are its price, anti-scratching properties and ease of installation – take a look at our guide to laying laminate flooring.

Laminate is a great choice for a busy household in all areas that are not exposed to heavy moisture (so avoid using in a bathroom), although it can feel cold and hard underfoot. If laid badly, it may also be noisy and clunky.

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Retain character with original floorboards

If you’re fortunate enough to have original floorboards that are in good condition, you can transform them at the fraction of the cost of laying new flooring using our guide to renovating old wooden floors. Alternatively, consider opting for reclaimed wood flooring if you're looking to restore a period property or give a contemporary space an industrial feel. 

Create a comfortable feel with carpet

Available in either synthetic fibres, pure wool, or a mix of both, carpets come in a vast array of colours and budgets to suit every room (although they’re best avoided in a kitchen or bathroom). Choose 80 per cent wool and 20 per cent synthetic carpet for the best combination of wear, thermal insulation and comfort.

Patterned carpets have made a comeback, and stripes are particularly on-trend. Go for a bold stripe to add impact to a gloomy hallway and stairs, or to link a through room. 

A new underlay can prolong the life of a carpet by up to 40 per cent, so bear this in mind when you’re buying carpet. The market has also responded to consumers increased interest in environmentally friendly homes with an increased number of natural flooring options.

Consider real stone for a stylish and practical flooring solution

When it comes to choosing real stone flooring, options include limestone, slate, marble and terracotta tiles, each of which bring character and warmth to a kitchen, bathroom or hallway and can look very elegant in a living room.

As long as stone flooring is laid correctly, it should last for ever and is often perceived to add value to a property – but ensure that it is installed on a sturdy and sound sub-floor as any movement will cause cracks. 

As natural stone is a porous material, it must be adequately sealed when it’s first laid and re-sealed at least every six months thereafter. It is the porosity that allows the stone to take on the ambient temperature of a room, so it never feels as cold or hard underfoot as ceramic tiles.

Consider the room in which you’re laying the tiles and choose the surface finish carefully as highly polished stone can be very slippery when it’s wet, while matt finishes attract dirt more easily.

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For a contemporary look, choose a resin or concrete flooring 

A design led solution, poured resin or concrete flooring offers a smooth, seamless, noise-absorbing, hypoallergenic and waterproof surface that is hardwearing and easy to clean.

The perfect addition to a  bathroom, kitchen, conservatory, utility area or contemporary living room, resin is available in any RAL colour, with some designs incorporating stone or glitter – in fact, anything you can think of captured within the resin to add interest.

Poured resin can be used on most sub-floors and takes between two to five days to install. It’s not a budget option at £120 per m², but a great choice for a busy family home – try

Replicate the look of tiles or solid wood with vinyl flooring

Vinyl flooring is made up of a combination of polyvinyl chloride and plasticisers, with added colour pigments. Available in either sheet, tile or plank form, vinyl is a very useful flooring for a kitchen or bathroom as it is non-porous, but has an element of resilience which makes it comfortable to walk on.

A versatile material, vinyl can be used to replicate timber, tiles, glass and stone. Prices vary from the inexpensive (as little as a few pounds per m²) to almost the same cost as some solid wood flooring.

Consider rubber flooring if you're looking for a colourful and durable addition to your home

High resilient, rubber flooring is becoming an increasingly popular option for homes. Available in stunning bright shades, it makes a welcome addition to play areas, wet rooms and contemporary living spaces, although it's important to be cautious in areas likely to attract staining from oils and fats. 

While rubber flooring is often made synthetically, natural and sustainable options can be found. It requires a plywood sub-floor but is easy for DIY installation thereafter. Once installed, it will need a polished finish every six months.

Opt for a ceramic or porcelain floor tile in a kitchen or bathroom

Ceramic or porcelain floor tiles are a popular choice for a bathroom or kitchen because they’re non-porous, easy to keep clean and suitable for underfloor heating as they can store and conduct heat. Man-made ceramics are more uniform in size and thickness, making them much easier to lay than natural stone tiles.

Large format tiles create a sleek contemporary environment and will brighten a small space. A combination of gloss and matt tiles will provide interest without the need for strong colour.

Read more about each type of flooring...