Flooring has a big impact on the look and feel of a room. Installing new flooring can also be a significant investment so it's worth taking your time to fully consider the benefits of different types of flooring.
Wood flooring is beautiful and relatively soft, making it easier to stand and walk on than tile or concrete. Solid wood flooring can be expensive but has the potential to last an extremely long time. Since the entire board is made of the finish wood the floor can be sanded and refinished a number of times before it needs to be replaced with a new floor. This effectively produces a brand new floor without the material and labor investment of installing new flooring. There are also a great many quality engineered floors that combine real wood or other material veneers over various substrates. These floors cannot be refinished like solid floors but provide great looking floors and are less likely to warp the way natural wood does making installation easier.
Oak, maple, pine and fir are the species of wood most commonly milled into flooring. However, if you go looking you can find all kinds of exotic species of flooring! Aside from the look of the floor, the species will determine the hardness of the floor. A harder floor will be more difficult to damage.
Pre-finished or unfinished? Most flooring comes pre-finished these days. This means that the individual pieces of flooring are coated with polyurethane in a factory. Unfinished flooring would be sanded and finished on site after installation. Generally, it is more cost effective to use pre-finished flooring. It also reduces the amount of time you (and your things) need to be out of the room where the floor is being installed. Finally, finishing in the factory allows the temperature and humidity to be controlled precisely during the curing which, arguably, can lead to an optimal coating. A benefit of sanding and finishing in place is that the floor can be absolutely flat. Since pre-finished floors are not sanded (and, therefore, flattened) in place they have to have a small chamfer (a diagonal cut) along the edges where they meet the next piece.
|Sanding revitalizes a 100 year old red oak floor!|
|new pre-finished solid maple flooring|
High moisture areas are not ideal for wood flooring. Although wood floors are often successfully used in kitchens and bathrooms care needs to be taken to clean any standing water immediately. Wood is an organic material and can rot. For this reason, it is a good idea to consider tile, linoleum, or vinyl flooring in basements, bathrooms, and kitchens. There are many types of flooring made from engineered materials that look like wood and are impervious to water. Often these are also so-called "floating floors" which means that pieces of flooring are connected to the rest of the floor but not the sub flooring below. This makes them a great choice for installing over concrete floors.
|Here I transitioned from wood to tile for the bathroom.|
There are lots of ways to transition from one type of flooring to another. Ideally your floors will all be on the same plane (as above) but, if not, transition strips can be made or purchased to link the floors together smoothly.
Also consider tile for an entryway where snowy boots or rainy umbrellas can make this a high moisture part of the house.