The Dilemma of Appropriate Flooring Choices

Home-ownership comes with many decisions – flooring being one of the most important. Like roofing, flooring is a requirement for Western Living Standards. So many choices on the market make it a daunting task for the homeowner. Oftentimes choice is based on trends instead of what is needed. The aesthetics, or “look” of the floor outweigh the importance of the material chosen.

Flooring decisions need to be made based on several factors, not just “the look.” Too many times a homeowner’s disappointment with a floor has nothing to do with the flooring, but everything to do with personal expectations.

Carpets will get dirty. Hardwood floors will scratch. Ceramic, porcelain and stone floors are hard, cold, will chip and break. Vinyl melts in the sun. Linoleum requires maintenance. Bamboo needs perfect living conditions and cork is soft. These are the absolutes about flooring.

Homeowner Know Thyself

Take stock of what is needed for your home, your family and your lifestyle. Make a wish-list of characteristics you want in a floor. List what it MUST DO versus what it CANNOT DO. List special interests such as allergies, chemical sensitivities, asthma, COPD, aging in place, young children, etc. Work with the characteristics you must have, then go shopping. Ignore the trends. Find the list of materials that will offer the characteristics you require. Now that you know the materials to shop, you can find the look you are after.

Personal Preferences: Cleaning, Maintenance and Appearance

Personality plays a huge role in how a person reacts to the look of a floor. There are many people who believe shiny = clean. These shiny people enjoy the look of a newly cleaned floor because it offers a glorious, mirror-like finish when they are done. They feel happy and content when they see their floors shining like the sun. The personality that likes high-gloss will never be happy with a satin or matte finish. Today’s trend towards low-gloss flooring is a nightmare for shiny people. The hardest part of this is the homeowner maybe unaware of this themselves. Not until they have purchased, installed and cleaned their matte finish laminate do they realize something is missing – the glossy finish. Heartache ensues. New flooring is purchased quickly afterwards; often causing financial distress to those who can least afford it.

Expectations and Wear

Each floor material has different characteristics as they age. If you must have “perfection” for 20 years, then porcelain tiles are the perfect option. If you must have a soft floor then carpet, cork or rubber is the direction you must head. Expecting carpet or cork to appear perfect for 20 years is an unrealistic expectation. Expecting laminate to work well in a kitchen is another unrealistic expectation. Getting upset with hardwood floors that scratch is like getting upset with a baby who cries when hungry.

To Trend or Not to Trend, That is the Question

Purchasing flooring for resale value is not always the best route to take. Resale value should be looked at only when a 5-7 year plan is in the works. That means you KNOW you will sell your home inside 5-7 years. This is the short-term time frame that requires resale value to enter the conversation. Trends change and they change quickly in many areas of North America. Trendy areas will change their preferences in a heartbeat. More conservative areas will take a decade to change styles.

If you plan to live with your floor for more than 7 years, please purchase what you like/want/require for today. Tomorrow is too far away to make an informed decision. Solid hardwood, glue-down cork, stone and ceramic tiles are all long term products (20+ years of service) and should be viewed with that permanence in mind. Floors such as laminate, vinyl, floating cork, bamboo and engineered floors can be viewed as short-term (5-7 years) or moderate term investments (10-20 years). Carpet, sheet vinyl and linoleum all have their fingers in each pie with products capable of lasting 5, 10 and 25 years depending on type and style purchased.

Appropriate Floor Coverings and the Flooring Sales Professional

As flooring professionals, especially point-of-sale professionals, it is up to us to help guide clients towards the most appropriate floor available for their needs. For many sales people this can be a double-edged sword. The boss wants X, Y, and Z sold ASAP. The client’s needs indicate they should purchase A or B, but is sold Z instead. Now the complaints and installation nightmares begin. No one wins when a client is sold the wrong product.

A career in sales involves listening to clients as well as in-depth product knowledge. Just because a client says, “I really want bamboo,” doesn’t mean bamboo is what they should be purchasing. A large family, in Nevada without climate control and several large dogs should be asked to reconsider their “wants” to purchase low-end floating engineered bamboo flooring this weekend. If they do not have climate control, cannot afford the $12/sf high-end solid strand woven bamboo and are unable to allow 2 weeks acclimation of product then bamboo should be considered inappropriate. The sales associate should enlighten the client about the pitfalls of moving forward with their first choice. To steer a client towards appropriate flooring requires a soft-sales technique that gently encourages alternative choices. These choices should include everything the company has to offer, not just the move-x-y-z-ASAP list handed down by the boss.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Mo Chuntass

    Hello Steph

    Building a new house on the coast in Australia, should I stick with Tiles or go with Hybrid Vinyl Planks?

    Kind Regards


    1. Jim McClain

      Questions like yours should be asked on the forum. Articles, especially 5-year old articles like this one, aren’t always monitored by the author. The forum is free and you’ll always get a response from professionals who participate regularly.

  2. Thank you Amit…sadly I live in a cold wet climate which means my experience with hot/humid weather areas are outside of my comfort zone. Porcelain tile is always the best option for your situation. To prevent heat/cooling costs from escaping, the slab can be insulated before it is poured.

  3. Amit Shukla


    Need your help, and advice.

    I need to decide on residential flooring : and in India heat and dust are always there. So my priorities are flooring material that
    a) Can be wet-mopped once a day
    b) Provides thermal insulation, so that I don’t lose most of the air conditioning to heating coming up through the floor.

    Looks and trends are secondary to me.

    What would be your advice ?

    Amit Shukla

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