Rowena Vaughan goes through the pros and cons of various floor finishes.

Choosing flooring for your home isn’t as easy as it seems. There are a huge range of materials and substances which can now cover your floor: vinyl, carpet, concrete, rubber, wood, ceramic, linoleum (lino), terrazzo and many more. In this article I will sprint through the pros and cons of the various floor finishes. For ease of reference the floors will be separated into hard, soft and natural floors.

Hard flooring
Under this title you would put tiles, all ceramics, marble, concrete and terrazzo flooring. These floors are hard wearing and often used in areas of high footfall as they have a high resistance to abrasion and will survive the vicissitudes of lack of care, hob-nail boots and a high level of abuse.

Some tiles/ceramics can be brittle and will need to be treated with a certain amount of care. Excluding ceramic, these floors can all be polished and finished to a high shine. They are all water impermeable and are often used in wet rooms and in exterior situations too. Of recent years concrete in domestic situations has proved to be very popular, to meet this demand but avoid the difficulties of a poured concrete floor, have developed a wonderful recycled concrete tile (pictured opposite) for residential and commercial use.

Soft flooring
Carpets, vinyl, rubber are all very different substances with very different uses. We all know carpets, be they twist pile, velvet pile, wool, bamboo, synthetic, short pile, long piles, tiles or rugs, and the discussion of carpets could be an article in itself. For the purposes of choosing for your home you need to consider the following. For high foot fall areas, e.g. stairs, I would always recommend a percentage of synthetic fibre in with the wool mix to give the carpet longevity and a higher rub factor than a 100% wool carpet would give you. As to texture - twist, loop or velvet - to a certain extent that would be a matter of personal choice. From experience, twist or loop piles wear well on stairs and velvet piles are more comfortable underfoot in the bedrooms.

Vinyl and rubber
In recent years the style and finish of vinyl flooring has improved hugely since the early days. Often it is not easy to tell from a distance if you have a real wood floor or a good vinyl floor as the look and finish is that good. Both vinyl and rubber are excellent for bathrooms where you don’t want ceramic, and you need a water resistant floor which is softer under-foot than tile or stone. They are practical, easy to clean, hard wearing, easy to lay and replace when the time comes. Rubber flooring although not (at present) that popular does come in a vast range of funky colours and designs and is warm underfoot.

Natural flooring
Under this category I would include wood, linoleum or marmoleum (brand name for linoleum/lino). Linoleum is made from a compound of linseed oil, resins, cork flour, limestone and wood flour that is adhered to a non-toxic jute backing and is totally recyclable. It lasts around 30 to 40 years but does need more maintenance than vinyl flooring.

Lino has natural antiseptic qualities and has in the past often been used in hospitals and clinics for this exact reason, which is why this amazing product is so associated with large-scale installations and not seen as the versatile and interesting flooring that it certainly can be.

Wooden floors have enjoyed a renaissance in the last 20 years. Each wood has its own properties and uses, but for the purposes of this article I’ll limit the discussion to oak, being the most popular wood used in flooring. Wood is beautiful and with the vast range of finishes and colours that manufacturers can now achieve includes everything from white to black and many colours in between. Use planks, or set as parquet herringbone style if you want to be more creative.

The variety of wood floor manufactured has also grown over the years to include engineered board for underfloor heating applications, solid floor and thin veneers (the least expensive option). Also arriving on the market in recent years are acoustic systems which enable you to use wood in places where previously, due to noise transference, it would have been impossible.

Selecting a flooring used to be easy, but now with the huge variety of finishes, types and styles around it can be a daunting experience. But with the right advice and careful consideration of the look, use and feel of the room in which you are going to be installing your new floor, you should be able to make the right choice.