When you build a custom home, you need to decide what kind of flooring will go in each room. This used to be simpler because there were fewer choices, but nowadays it’s more complicated.
If you want “wood” floors, that could be solid hardwood, but it could also mean engineered wood, laminate, bamboo or vinyl plank. Choosing carpeting involves multiple materials and methods, all of which have different pros and cons. What you choose needs to be influenced by your family’s habits and lifestyle. Climate can also be a factor because what works in Arizona might not work in Maine.
That’s why we compiled this guide. Here you’ll find a wealth of information on flooring — not just from our own designers, but also from many other sources.
Get started on flooring
Pick a topic below for tips, photos and links to help you choose flooring for every room.
|Wood & Plank||Stone & Tile||Vinyl & Linoleum||Carpeting|
This section might be more accurately referred to as “plank flooring,” because not all of the materials are actual wood. However, most of these look like wood, and come in planks that lock together in tongue-and-groove fashion.
Hardwood flooring: This is the real deal — solid wood planks that come pre-finished or unfinished with staining applied after installation. Solid hardwood floors are, of course, more expensive than other plank flooring options, but have important advantages — including resale value. Above a certain home value, buyers (and their Realtors) may be turned off by anything less.
Because they are cut from trees, hardwood planks become more expensive with width. Most hardwood planks are 3.25 inches or 4.25 inches wide. Wider planks are available, but price per square foot will go up as the plank width increases.
The disadvantage to hardwood, other than price, is that it can be scratched, dented or warped by moisture. Big dogs and active children are likely to leave their mark here and there. Changes in relative humidity can cause expansion and contraction that may result in distortion, and a plumbing leak can be devastating. Wide planks are more susceptible to moisture damage than narrow planks.
Ordinary scratching and other normal wear can be repaired with sanding and refinishing, and if necessary a hardwood craftsman can replace individual boards. Hardwood floors are intended to last the lifetime of the house.
Engineered wood flooring: This is still real hardwood, but only on the surface. Most of the thickness of the plank is a wood-based substrate, which is covered by a thin top layer of hickory, birch or other hardwood.
Engineered wood is less expensive than solid hardwood, and looks virtually the same — at least at first. Over time, that thin top layer will wear even thinner. Big dogs and active children might scratch up a solid hardwood floor as well, but solid hardwood can be sanded and repaired repeatedly. With engineered wood, those scratches can cut through the veneer, exposing the substrate. The substrate is wood also, but a lighter color than most hardwoods, so the damage may be less visible with lighter wood stains with some grain patterns, like hickory. Being a wood product, it shares hardwood’s risks of moisture damage.
A big factor in the decision is simply your family’s lifestyle. Big dogs and kids? Tapdancing? If your lifestyle is more sedate, engineered flooring can be a great choice.
Laminate flooring: It’s similar to engineered wood in construction, but the top level is laminate and not wood. Today’s laminate is quite realistic in appearance, very durable and economical. The downside? Just that it’s not real wood, and that can be a disadvantage at resale if all the other houses in your price range have hardwood. Ironically, it’s not necessarily laminate’s appearance that gives it away. Walking on it sounds different than walking on hardwood, and some prospective buyers will notice that right away.
If you decide on laminate, you’ll have a lot of choices — including some colors and patterns not trying as hard to look like hardwood. You’ll also have more options for wider plank sizes — and you can install special pads under it to make it sound more like real wood.
Laminate is less likely to be water damaged than either engineered wood or hardwood. It’s not completely waterproof, so an ill-timed plumbing leak can still damage it, but otherwise it’s quite durable. As a result, laminate has become an option for kitchens, bathrooms and even basements.
Luxury vinyl tile: Unlike sheet vinyl, luxury vinyl is closer to laminate in appearance. Because it is vinyl, this is one wood look that is truly waterproof, which makes it a great option for bathrooms if you’re going for a rustic, farmhouse look. However, because it is vinyl the same resale issues may be a factor.
Wood-look ceramic tile: If you really want waterproof, this is it. Functionally the same as regular ceramic floor tile, this is crafted to resemble wood. Unlike the wood-look plank flooring options, it’s not necessarily trying to pass as real wood. It doesn’t need to — it’s tile.
STONE AND TILE FLOORING:
While stone tiles are carved out of the ground like granite, ceramic tiles are made from baked and glazed clay.
Stone tiles: Limestone, slate, granite and travertine are among the natural stones available as flooring tiles. Granite and slate are relatively dense, while limestone and especially travertine are more porous. As a result, they require more maintenance. When travertine tiles are installed, they are completely covered in grout in order to fill all of the holes. When wiped smooth, the resulting surface includes a lot more exposed grout than with other types of tile. You will need to have it cleaned and resealed on a regular basis.
Ceramic tile: The term includes porcelain tile, which is slightly denser and stronger than regular ceramics. Both are fired clay, so the array of colors and choices can be as sprawling as artistic imagination and consumer demand may require. Ceramic tile is an ideal choice for kitchens, bathrooms and foyers — especially for higher-end homes where it has become a market expectation. Not recommended for outdoor use in areas where freezing occurs.
Quarry tile: Similar to ceramic tile in its manufacturing process, but more like bricks in result. Much more durable than ceramic, quarry tiles can be used indoors or outdoors and are usually left unglazed.
Pebble tile: Just what it sounds like. Naturally flat stones are best for this, but sliced stones are sometimes used to achieve a flatter surface. Even when pre-assembled like puzzle pieces into the most efficient combinations, pebble tile still requires quite a bit of grout. Like travertine, this option can be striking, but will require regular cleaning and sealing.
VINYL AND LINOLEUM:
These are both economical options with many designs to choose from. However, as with laminate flooring, they may be too low-end for certain home values if you’re concerned about resale.
Linoleum flooring: The older of the two, linoleum has been in use since the 19th century. It’s made mostly of solidified linseed oil, which makes it a renewable material worthy of “green” designation.
Vinyl flooring: Made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), vinyl is an oil-based plastic product that was introduced as a flooring product in the 1930s, but was not widely used until after World War II. Like linoleum, it comes in squares or sheets, and in many patterns that simulate ceramic tile.
You may decide on all bare floors and area rugs for your open floor plan living area, but it’s hard to beat the comfort and warmth of wall-to-wall carpeting for the bedrooms. Here are things to keep in mind:
Carpet materials: As with materials used in clothing, carpet materials are often a mix of the following:
- Wool: The most luxurious choice, it also comes from a renewable resource. However, it is more expensive than its synthetic alternatives.
- Nylon and Olefin: These man-made materials make up the vast majority of carpet installed in homes. They’re economical, durable, resistant to moisture and available in many colors and styles. Olefin (polypropylene) is ideal in direct sunlight situations because its color will not fade.
- Polyester: Although this is also a man-made plastic product, it’s becoming greener, often being made from recycled soda bottles. It’s a little less expensive than nylon, but may not hold up as well as in high-traffic situations.
- Acrylic: Used as a filler in some wool carpeting.
Carpet pile: Carpet manufacturing starts with long strands of yarn that are looped through the spaces of a sturdy, loosely-woven backing material. The term “pile” refers to the height and density of the weave, and whether the loops are cut or left intact.
- Cut pile carpeting: Many methods are used to cut the loops, and these produce different characteristics. The simplest cut, and historically the most common, is the “Saxony” in which the loops are simply cut and the fibers left to stand straight up. The downside to this type of cut is that foot traffic or vacuuming leave visible impressions. In newer methods such as the “frieze” cut, the fibers are twisted into a coil and long enough to bend over. It does not show imprints the way the Saxony cut does, but will eventually show wear in high traffic areas such as staircases.
Looped or Berber carpeting: Although the term “Berber” has a slightly different original meaning, nowadays most looped carpeting is referred to as Berber. Because the loops are tightly woven, Berber won’t show tracks and is more durable than cut pile carpeting. A potential disadvantage to Berber is the possibility of a loop getting snagged and pulled loose by the rotating brush of a vacuum cleaner. Also, your cat may be tempted to sharpen his claws on it.
Carpet padding: Whatever carpet you choose, do not skimp on the padding. This is what makes the carpet feel good under your feet.
Most pads are made of urethane foam and come in varying degrees of thickness and density (measured in pounds per cubic foot). For example, you might use a five-pound pad in a lightly trafficked space, but an eight-pound pad in a more heavily trafficked space. You can also get carpet padding made of “memory foam,” a high-density polyurethane foam that changes shape and bounces back.
Thickness of the pad may vary depending on the thickness of the carpet.
Read more at the Drees Guide to Custom Home Building
About Drees Homes
Drees Homes, family-owned and operated for 90 years, is ranked nationally as the 32nd largest homebuilder and 14th largest private builder by Builder magazine. Headquartered in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky, Drees operates in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Nashville, Raleigh, Washington D.C., Austin, Houston, and Dallas. The company operates as “Drees Custom Homes” in Texas. Visit the company’s website at http://www.dreeshomes.com.