New Flooring – A Guide to Choose Yours

Flooring Guide -

Don’t underestimate the value of the materials you are standing on! A new floor is one of the best home improvement investments you can make.

In fact, when surveyed, 90 % of Realtors agreed that spending money on upgrading your flooring was the best return for the money spent.

For a modest investment of $700 to $1000, agents report an average return of over $2500! Now that’s a tremendous ROI.

Does your stock portfolio perform like that?

Besides that, a DIY flooring installation can be a fun project if you have the right tools, materials, and skills for the floor type you want to install.

The degree of difficulty, time and effort required to complete a professional looking flooring installation will vary greatly depending on the floor type you choose and the floor over which you plan to install it.

Choosing new flooring can be a daunting task which requires discipline and organization. Fortunately, there is Think of it as your home renovation binder on the go. It is a free service that will help you keep tabs on all your projects as a home improvement portfolio tool.

There are many materials to choose from and each type has many variations. Depending on the room it’s for and the traffic flow, there are a variety of details to think about.

This guide explains the eight most popular types of flooring materials and will assist you to choose a floor type.

It will also provide information on the installation and help you to determine whether a DIY flooring installation is right for you, or best left to a professional.

Let’s look at the alternatives!


Flooring Guide - Hardwood -

To start, let’s take a look at the traditional favorite – hardwood.

Because of hardwood’s natural beauty, warmth and long term durability, this choice is the favorite of many homeowners.

There are many species of wood to choose from and it may surprise you that there are different levels of hardness in wood floors and there is a corresponding rating scale created when wood is tested using the Janka Hardness test.

You can find out more about this aspect at the American Hardwood Information Center.

The level of hardness and durability, aside from the beautiful appearance, is one reason choices like Oak, Ash, Hickory, Walnut, and Cherry have be perennial favorites.

Just like the hardness of the wood, there are differences in the appearance of each species. All natural wood products are graded after they are milled. There are specifications in each grade that judge aspects like the size and number of knots, the color of the wood, pin holes, the length of each strip and various other characteristics.

Generally, the select and premium grades will have fewer imperfections than more rustic grades. However, knots and imperfections might be exactly what you are looking for in your project.

In some cases, wood is scraped and distressed to make it look old and well used. Remember, the grade of the wood does not mean it is not sound or of good quality for a floor, it is simply a measurement of the appearance of the wood.

Hardwood also comes in a variety of styles like parquet, strip, and plank in both unfinished and pre-finished. Most strip floors, pre-finished or not, are nailed or stapled directly onto a wooden sub-floor.

Parquet flooring is the exception as this format is usually in a tongue and groove tile that is glued with a mastic adhesive.

Strip hardwood is applied across (perpendicular) to the floor joist structure, over top of a treated paper underlayment.

This project does require a number of power tools and can be messy with wood dust in the air so it’s best to seal the room you are working in. If you don’t have or cannot borrow a nailer and miter saw, your local rental shop can help you out with these tools.

​Hardwood floor choices don’t stop at the nail down solid strip product we just talked about thanks to the advent of the engineered wood floor. This product is different from traditional solid wood flooring and is made with a sandwiched wood core just like plywood with a thin wood veneer glued to the top layer.

This type of wood floor is very versatile in that it’s easier to install, can be glued, stapled or floated with the use of interlocking mechanisms. The distinctive properties of the construction of engineered wood allow it to be installed in many non-traditional areas like on a concrete slab or below grade.

The installation of hardwood flooring can be a rewarding DIY project and with the alternative installation systems available today it’s well within the reach of a competent DIY homeowner.


Flooring Guide - Laminate -

Laminate flooring is a very popular choice. It’s much easier to install than hardwood and is a lower cost alternative.

Laminate is similar in many ways to engineered wood. Both are floating floors made up of tongue and groove or interlocking planks that snap together. Both floors come in various widths and dozens of colors and wood grain patterns. There are also versions that simulate ceramic or porcelain tiles, slate and other solid surface types of materials.

The primary difference between engineered wood floor and laminate is the core composition and the top surface veneer. Laminates get their name from the way they are manufactured with the various core components layered, finished with a photographic imprint and top coated with a melamine resin overlay and then and laminated together.

It is different from real wood in many ways but most manufacturers do a very good job in simulating the wood look. Laminate should not be overlooked as a choice for your floor if for nothing else for it is surprisingly durability.

Laminates are stain, wear and fade resistant. Remarkably, the scratch resistance of the top layer in a good quality laminate can match that of a commercial floor tile, vinyl tile and some cases even ceramic. An AC rating is a common term used to indicate laminates durability. These ratings are based on the tests and specifications applied by an independent body known as EPLF to help buyers understand the differences in durability. The ratings start at AC1 – Moderate Residential up to AC5 – Heavy Commercial.

To find out more about the ratings check this link for the European Producers of Laminate Flooring.

So the point is: don’t always rule out laminates in favor of wood.

For example, in a family recreation room where children and pets may play, this can be a cost effective solution.

Because laminate is a floating system, it can be applied directly over a basement cement floor with a layer of vapor barrier and a good quality foam underlayment that is properly taped at the seams.

One other thing that you should be aware of when it comes to laminate flooring is its formaldehyde content.

It is important to raise this issue because there have been cases in the past where low quality laminates have been imported that do not meet the North American and European standards. Since the European standards are even tougher than ours, you can likely be assured that anything made there will meet the guidelines.

Read the manufactures labels and if it does state these facts, you would be wise to check with the supplier of the product before installing it in your home. There are many manufacturers of laminate and there are vast differences in price and quality.

So choose your floor based on the characteristics that are most important in your particular application.


Flooring Guide - Bamboo -

Unlike wood floors, the material used to create bamboo floors is not a tree but actually a lightweight woody grass.

The fast growing, regenerating plant has the tensile strength rivaling steel. This makes for a highly durable floor that resists swelling and contraction caused by the home’s changes in humidity that is common is some wood floors.

Bamboo flooring comes in solid plank form, just like hardwood strip, as well as in an engineered format with tongue and groove and also an interlocking mechanical fastening system.

Most bamboo is grown in controlled forests and takes just to years to reach maturity as compared to old-growth hardwoods that can take 120 years to grow to full size.

This naturally makes it a lower cost solution for wood floors as well as a very environmentally green choice.


Flooring Guide - Cork -

The popularity of cork flooring has grown exponentially in recent years and it is easy to see why.

Like bamboo, cork is a green flooring alternative that is harvested from the bark of some species of trees.

One unique characteristic is that the wood bark has a honeycomb-like cellular structure.

This gives the flooring a soft underfoot feeling. It bounces back if dented, and has exceptional vibration and sound absorption qualities.

These two characteristics in particular make this type of floor and excellent candidate in multi-storey buildings constructed with steel and concrete.

The tiles also have a natural, non-slip surface that makes it an ideal choice for moist environments like kitchens and bathrooms.

Cork flooring is available in pre-finished tiles and planks in a variety of colors and finishes. Because cork is so absorbent it can be stained and finished in many ways.

One manufacturer has a selection of over 54 colors in their product offering. The way that cork is cut and from which tree allows the manufacturer to highlight various characteristics of the material.

In some cases the cork is ground, mixed with binders and pressed together and laminated to a core to provide a floating application easily installed by the average DIY'er.


Flooring Guide - Tile -

Under this category there are many types of materials used to achieve different results depending on your needs and budget.

Ceramic is a popular choice as is Porcelain. There are many other variations as well in Natural Stone, Terra-Cotta, Granite, Travertine, and Slate to name but a few.

When selecting tile on a budget, Ceramic and Porcelain are the most cost effective.

They combine the beauty and hardness of Stone and Marble but cost much less and are easier to maintain.

Glazed tile is a very durable and easily handles heavy traffic and performs well in wet areas. This is a natural choice for entry ways, kitchens and bathrooms.

Today there are literally thousands of sizes, patterns, colors and finishes to choose from. You are limited only by your imagination with this choice

All of these types of tile flooring do require some consideration of the sub-floor onto which they will be applied.

A proper structural substrate is critical to the proper installation of these products. After this step is accomplished though, the average-skilled DIY’er can take on this project, provided he or she is armed with the right tools.

There is another tile product that I should mention to you and that is vinyl tile. The peel and stick adhesive-backed vinyl tile is a fast and easy DIY installation project and is a great way to give any room a cost effective make over.


Flooring Guide - Linoleum -

This product has been around in various forms for well over 150 years, however in its present day form Linoleum’s current popularity is due primarily due to its appeal as a green flooring choice.

Linoleum is considered eco-friendly because it is made from all natural materials and does not deplete forests. It’s made primarily of linseed oil, pine rosin, cork dust, and wood flour.

Because linoleum is composed of natural materials, it creates no adverse health issues during production, installation, use or disposal.

The bacterial properties of natural linoleum stop microorganisms from multiplying. This is why you so often see natural linoleum floors in many health care facilities that are concerned with non-allergenic conditions.

In addition to the health benefits, linoleum flooring is anti-static, reducing the potential of electric shock.

Linoleum is also water, dent and scratch- resistant, easy to clean, comfortable underfoot and is available in tiles in a wide range of vibrant colors. These can be combined to create a multitude of distinctive patterns.

You should note that sometimes people will use the term Linoleum interchangeably with sheet vinyl flooring. The two are very different in that PVC – Polyvinyl Chloride flooring does contain materials that are not natural or biodegradable as is Linoleum but these are generally considered safe to handle.


Resilient vinyl sheet flooring has been around for decades and is still a popular choice.

It is also one of the most value-conscious flooring options today. Vinyl is an especially popular choice for rooms that are prone to moisture problems such as basements, bathrooms and kitchens.

It is soft underfoot, particularly when compared to tile.

Vinyl is available in sheet form or, as I mentioned earlier, in tile format. It is also available in a strip format. The general rule of thumb is: the thicker the vinyl, the more traffic it can bear. This will also apply to the cost of the product.

The earlier versions of sheet vinyl had to fully adhere to the entire sub-floor with a mastic adhesive that had to be troweled down. Then a new version of perimeter-bonded sheet flooring, glued around the edges, came along.

Today, there are floating sheet vinyl floors that are not adhered to the sub-floor at all. These new versions make vinyl easier to install. They are thicker and more durable than standard vinyl which results in a long- lasting, durable yet soft surface.


Flooring Guide - Carpet Tiles -

Carpet is widely used in residential as well as commercial and office environments. There are thousands of types, materials, colors, patterns, thicknesses and applications.

One trip to your local floor store will attest to that. Carpet is typically manufactured in 12 foot rolls. This is great for a continuous run in a large format but the handling of this product does not make it a typical DIY project that I would recommend.

If you do get by the handling of the product there are some specialty tools that are required to stretch and seam the carpet into place. Besides all that, one small mistake in your cutting could ruin the whole piece.

There is one type of carpet product that does lend itself well to a DIY application and that is carpet squares.

This product typically comes is a 20 inch square format. These are easy to transport from the store to your home. They are usually peel and stick, with edges that allow you to complete a full wall-to-wall look, one piece at a time.

Besides the ease of installation, there is another advantage to this product over the full size sheets. If some of the tiles get worn, damaged or stained, they can easily be cut out and replaced. Imagine your piece of mind in a family recreation room where your pet and family are playing with snacks and drinks!


As mentioned at the start of this article, the choices in flooring products is expansive and continues to grow.

There is no shortage of choices based on you décor, budget and skill level as a DIY’er. This is a home improvement project that will not only provide a great return on your investment, but a high degree of satisfaction and enjoyment.

So get going, get inspired - dream it, do it, then share it!


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6 Thoughts to “New Flooring – A Guide to Choose Yours”

  1. It helps that you posted information about these different types of flooring. I think it’s really interesting that cork can be used as a green flooring alternative. It’s pretty cool that cork tiles has a natural, non-slip surface that can be put in my kitchen or bathroom. There have been a few times when I almost slipped getting out of the shower, so maybe I should look into installing a new cork floor to make my bathroom safer. Thanks for posting this!

  2. I appreciate the information on hardwood floors. My wife and I are building a new home this summer and want to install hardwood. I really like the look of cherry, hopefully with maintenance it will look great for a long time.

  3. My husband and I are in the middle of doing some renovations, so I really appreciate this information on how to choose new flooring. I like how you point out that the degree of difficult, time and effort required to complete a professional looking flooring installation will vary depending on the floor type you choose. I imagine that in order to be satisfied with new floors, we will need to choose a professional company that will provide quality materials and service. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. It is interesting that flooring is one of the best returns for money spent. Why do you think this is the case? This has definitely been on my mind as I am working on a home remodel, but I hadn’t considered the value it might add to my house. Thank you for such a helpful article, hopefully I will be able to choose the perfect material!

  5. I love the information you provided on the different types of flooring. It will be really informative for those who are going the DIY route and for flooring contractors like us who always like to stay up to date & further our education on flooring. Thank you for posting!

  6. Alex C.

    Really great article!


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