How to choose flooring materials

New flooring materials are a great way to update your home, from traditional timber to natural stone, vinyl or poured resin, there is plenty of choice,

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A beautiful parquet, solid wood herringbone design from Fired Earth, £74.94 per m²

New flooring materials are a great way to update your home, from traditional timber to natural stone, vinyl or poured resin, there is plenty of choice.

Flooring is an element of decorating that is often not regarded as being important to an interior design scheme – but getting it right can affect the overall appearance of a room. For example, hard surfaces reflect light, while textures absorb it, so the deeper the pile of carpet, the smaller and potentially darker the space will appear. The right flooring will strike a balance between practicality and what suits the style of the room scheme in which it will be featured.

Wood Flooring

Timber 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 flooring 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, fsc.org) mark which ensures the sustainability of the source forests but also environmentally responsible practices in production.

Jo Messenger take a more indepth look in her series Focus on flooring

Laminate Flooring

A laminate 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 ease of installation (making it suitable for DIYers), price and anti-scratch properties. It’s 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 be noisy and clunky.

For Jo Messenger’s advice, see Focus on flooring

7 Quick step Impressive Ultra Concrete Wood Light Grey IMU 1861 jpeg

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. If there are large gaps between the boards that will allow draughts, noise and potentially light pollution from underneath (if on a first floor with recessed ceiling lights to the ground floor), fill the gaps with a flexible resin gap filler mixed with sawdust (up to a 6mm gap), or re-lay them reducing the gaps to a minimum. Boards can be rubbed down with a floor sander (available to hire locally for around £45 per weekend), then either painted or stained. Use flooring stencils to create a pretty border detail or contrasting colour ‘rug’ in the centre of your room – try hennydonovanmotif.co.uk for ideas.

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. Colourful rugs are always useful for bringing a cosy feel to hard flooring, adding colour to the centre of a room and helping to create zones within larger spaces.

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. If you’re looking for a natural carpet, check out the eco options.

For inspiration see Jo Messenger’s Focus on flooring

Natural Stone Tiles

Limestone, slate, marble and terracotta tiles bring character and warmth to a kitchen, bathroom or hallway and can look very elegant in a living area. 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.

In Focus on flooring, Jo Messenger looks at the options

7 Beswick stone keynes mix

Poured Resin Floor

Since the 1960s, poured resin flooring has been widely used in industrial and retail facilities, where its seamless, durable and functional features provided long-lasting results. Now available for residential homes, poured resin flooring is a design-led solution that offers a smooth, seamless, noise-absorbing, hypoallergenic and waterproof surface that is hardwearing and easy to clean.

It is perfect for a bathroom, kitchen, conservatory, utility area or a contemporary designed living space and is available in any RAL colour, corresponding to the European RAL colour-matching system, while some designs incorporate 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 flooredgenius.com.

Vinyl Floor

This flooring material 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, yet it has an element of resilience which makes it comfortable to walk on.

There is a wide selection of vinyls as it 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. Easy to maintain, it’s a great choice – and I have successfully used sheet vinyl in both sitting room and bedroom makeovers.

Rubber

It is a common misconception that rubber flooring is a natural product, but since the 1960s most rubber flooring has been produced using a synthetic petrochemical by-product. It is, however, a highly resilient flooring that is becoming increasingly popular for home projects.

It is available in stunning bright shades and suits a play area, wetroom and a contemporary living space, although be cautious in areas likely to attract staining from oils and fats. Rubber flooring requires a plywood sub-floor but is easy for DIY installation thereafter. Once installed, it will need a polished finish every six months.

Ceramic Tiles

These tiles are a popular choice for a bathroom and 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 ones.

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. Digital floor tiles are a great new trend – any photograph or design of your choice can be printed onto a tile that is totally unique to you; visit crinson.com for its range.

rh tiles craven dunhill

Ceramic Tiles are explored within Focus on flooring by Jo Messenger