Flooring: What’s the best choice for your project

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Decision fatigue is a real thing, especially in home renovation projects. Flooring is overwhelming to be blunt but not necessarily in the wrong way. We are so fortunate to have a variety of options to choose from when it comes to style, color, and price. 

When my folks were renovating their kitchen in the 90s there were not many options to choose from. My parents didn’t want tile in the kitchen, and having to clean grout was always a nightmare for my mom.  They could not afford real wood floors. Faux wood floors were limited and looked overly fake. The most budget-friendly option in the early 90s was sheet vinyl, oh yes who can forget?! Many of us remember the few patterns that graced the neighborhood kitchens and I know some of those floors are still vinyl to this day, including my folks. That stuff was made to last and it’s challenging to get rid of.

Figuring out what your top priorities are for your floors is the first step. When consulting with clients I like to ask the following questions:

  1. What is your budget and timeline for this project; think material plus installation. 
  2. Where are you looking to replace your floors and what do you do in these areas? For example, are you washing dishes, taking a shower, or is this a major walking path in the space?
  3. What color are you going for and how will this complement the other elements in the space? This is important for both new construction and just a flooring project itself. 
  4. Is this a rental? Do you need to have a material durable for pets or kids? 
  5. Are you updating the floors for resale value?

With all that said let’s dive into a handful of options that can meet your goals long and short-term. 

Tile – I love tile. To me, it’s another piece of artwork in your home. There are SO many options when it comes to colors, patterns, size, cost, and function. Something to consider when looking at tiles for your project is installation. Tile is labor-intensive to install even if you find a product that is a few dollars per square foot. Another aspect to think about is that it’s cool to the touch, so unless you are planning to put in a heated flooring element your tile will always feel a bit cooler. Lastly, grout. Yes, most tile needs grout though there are some on the market now where you get to achieve thinner grout lines. I like to use tiles in areas where you will potentially be using water on a daily basis. Kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and even an entryway or foyer are optimal areas for a tile floor. 

Tiled Bathroom Floor 

Photo Courtesy of Pinterest.com, thisisourbliss.com.

Tiled Laundry Room Floor 

Photo Courtesy of Pinterest.com, backsplash.com.

Laminate – Laminate has come a long way! Many of the laminates on the market today are very real looking. They offer the color and texture of real wood. There is a drawback to using laminate as it’s not going to be waterproof. This means that you will need a water barrier on the subfloor, which is not the end of the world. However, I would never use laminate in the bathroom as I just do not see it lasting the test of time. The good news is it’s easier to install versus tile and it tends o be very budget friendly if you are looking for a lower-cost flooring upgrade. 

Laminate Flooring 

Photo Courtesy of Pinterest.com, lucylovestoeat.com 

Luxury Vinyl Plank/ LVP/ SPC – This is a new-ish flooring option on the market. It’s taking the look and feel of laminate mixed with hardwood and an added waterproofing element. If you want to have a seamless flooring look from room to room in your home, LVP is a wonderful option, especially since you can use this in a wet area, like a bathroom. The installation is similar to laminate and the subfloor will also need to be properly prepped per the manufacturer’s instructions. One drawback is that if you plan to add a heating element to your home this will need to be a recirculating system with water, not an electrically heated floor system. The reason is that most manufacturers of LVP/SPC will not warranty an electric-heated floor system with their product. This material is also fitting for a rental given that is durable for kids and pets. They even make some floors that give you the flexibility to create patterns like herringbone. 

Luxury Vinyl Plank Floors in a Herringbone pattern.

Photo Courtesy of Pinterest.com, mariakillman.com

Engineered Hardwood Floors –  These are a great choice for high-moisture environment areas and can withstand a higher range of temperatures. If water is left on this floor for a long period of time it can warp. Engineered hardwood floors are made from 100% real wood with a plywood backing and a thick wood veneer top. Similar to LVP and Laminate the installation is a click-together system so it’s less expensive to install. If you are looking for more exotic wood, sourcing an engineered system will also help you save on cost. Unlike real hardware floors some cannot be stained later on down the road if you choose to change the color, the layer of veneer must be thick enough to sand down to remove the existing color. It’s important to source engineered hardware from a well-vetted supplier, as some brands are not as sturdy as others and will not wear and tear as well over time. Similar to real hardwood floors these floors are susceptible to scratches and will need to be treated. The material is much softer than Laminate or LVP. It is virtually impossible to tell the difference between some engineered hardware floors and real hardwood. 

Engineered Hardware Floor, Wide Planks

Photo Courtesy of Pinterest.com, stonewoodproducts.com

Real Hardwood – This is a fan and designer favorite. If you have the budget then 100% go for real hardwood floors. Hardwood will give you the most flexibility in the future if you wanted to change the color. If it gets scratched it can be repaired unlike laminate or luxury vinyl plank. Real hardwood is going to be a softer material than other options so plan to repair it, often. The installation will be more expensive but the overall look is high-end and timeless. These floors are not waterproof and I don’t recommend putting real hardwood floors in bathrooms however if you choose to do so make sure the water gets dried off immediately. If you choose to add wood floors to your kitchen I’d recommend using rugs next to any sinks and again make sure to mop up any water as soon as possible to avoid extensive expansion and contraction. 

Real Hardwood Flooring

Photo Courtesy of Pinterest.com, studio-mcgee.com

Make sure to do your research, find trusted sources, and evaluate all your options before making a decision. Flooring is a huge expense and you only want to have to do a project like this to your home once!

Dream. Design. Redefine.

-Niki Milliken

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Niki Milliken

Mom, wife, and design enthusiast living in Rocklin but originally born and raised in the Bay Area. Niki has been creating unique spaces for over 16 years. From mid-century to the modern farmhouse aesthetic, & everything in between, she loves every style, and mixing them together is her specialty. Incorporating found objects and sourcing the right collection of products for a project is where her passion lies. She believes that everyone deserves a space to be proud of and will help bring together a beautiful functional home. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with an emphasis in Interior Design as well as a minor in Art History from CSU Chico in 2006. She began her career designing model homes, moved into commercial interiors, then took her expertise to several well-known manufacturers acting as a material consultant between the manufacture and architects or interior designers. In 2019 she started my own firm to help work towards making all her own dreams come true. She spends her free time designing for Rooms of Hope, a Bay Area non-profit that provides design services to children in need, see more here: http://www.roomsofhope.org.