Earlier this week, we started discussing the flooring options available to homeowners looking to remodel their kitchen or bathroom. In Part 1, we focused on wood, bamboo, and laminate flooring. Today, we’re going to briefly discuss ceramic, stone, vinyl, cork, and concrete options.
Ceramic and Stone
Ceramic tile, also called porcelain tile, is a natural product made of clay, minerals, and water. It is pressed into shapes, fired at high temperatures and then glazed, depending on the intended use. Glazed tile is used more often for residential flooring than unglazed tile. With today’s technology, tile manufacturers are able to produce a wide selection of colors, sizes, shapes, and textures. Large tiles – typically 12” x 12” squares, but sometimes larger – are becoming more popular, and decorative elements such as strips and borders are being used more.
Large tiles offer two big advantages: there are fewer tiles to install and there are fewer grout joints. Therefore, as a rule, large tiles are less expensive to install. Grout is much less of a problem than it was just a few years ago. Newer urethane and epoxy grouts are flexible, long lasting, and easy to clean, so the days of the grungy grout lines on floors are gone forever!
Another option is natural stone tile including granite, marble, slate, and limestone as well as a huge variety of exotic stones. Some varieties, such as granite, are practically indestructible, while others are vulnerable to scratching, cracking, and other wear. Certain kinds of stone tile can warp under moist conditions unless they are installed with an epoxy adhesive and grout. Stone tiles with a highly polished finish, like marble, may be dulled by heavy floor traffic, so you may want to limit them to areas where only soft footwear is worn. Some stones commonly used for countertops, such as soapstone, are too soft and are not recommended for floor use.
The disadvantage of stone and unglazed tile is that they need to be resealed regularly. Manufacturers usually recommend that your floor be resealed annually, but it may be necessary to do so more often in high-traffic areas – as often as every three months in a busy kitchen, for example.
Vinyl flooring is also called resilient flooring because it yields, which makes it comfortable to stand on. It is available in sheets or tiles and is comprised of several layers, including a clear “wear layer” which helps to protect the floor. The better the wear layer, the longer a vinyl floor will keep its fresh, new appearance. A urethane wear layer will maintain the new look longer than a no-wax surface which–contrary to its name, needs to be polished periodically.
Wear-layer thickness varies, but in general, the more expensive the vinyl floor, the thicker the wear layer will be. As you’re comparing different brands and price points, also note how easy the flooring is to clean and how well it resists scratches and stains.
Sheet vinyl, which is produced in roll form, is commonly available in 6- and 12-foot widths and almost any length. It has few seams to trap dirt; however, you might have to replace the entire floor if becomes burned, torn, or damaged in any way.
Vinyl tile is usually sold in 12” x 12” squares, but other sizes are offered. Some tiles are the peel-and-stick variety, while others require an adhesive spread over the floor before setting. However, it is important to note that since these tiles don’t have a felt backing that sets into the adhesive, they may loosen more easily. In addition, a vinyl tile floor can be harder to keep clean because the seams collect dirt and liquids. On the other hand, if the floor is damaged, individual tiles can be replaced.
Vinyl flooring that has the look of wood, stone, and other natural materials continues to be a big trend. Metallic accents, such as brass, copper, bronze, and pewter, are also becoming popular. Commercial vinyl flooring is sometimes used in homes but may require waxing and other maintenance that isn’t necessary with residential vinyl.
“Cork” is not a material that immediately comes to mind when thinking of kitchen and bath flooring. Yet it is about as close as we can come today to the perfect material for flooring. Durable, yet resilient, nearly waterproof and one of the most sustainable and renewable of green materials, cork’s unique properties make it an excellent choice for bath and kitchen flooring!
Cork contains micro-cells filled with air (about 2.4 million of them in each cubic inch of cork), which is what gives cork it resiliency and buoyancy. Cork has a little give to it when it is walked on, but immediately springs back to its original shape. While cork can be dented if enough pressure is applied and the micro cells are ruptured, ordinary use causes no damage. Still, you should keep pointy-legged tables and chairs off the material. Cork is also very water-resistant due to its cellular structure, but allowing water to stand for long periods on cork should be avoided, if only because it is likely to damage the subfloor under the cork.
When installed properly, cork provides a long-lasting floor and gives your interior a warm, natural look and feel that will retain its functional beauty for decades. Maintenance is simple – damp mopping with a mild detergent is all that is needed to maintain a cork floor. Cork does not stain easily nor does it require scrubbing or cleaning with harsh chemicals, and it should never be sanded. Like wood flooring, periodic reapplications of finish are recommended. In addition, damaged cork tiles can be easily replaced.
For a very durable surface, consider concrete for your kitchen or bathroom floor. Interior concrete floors require a denser, finer concrete mixture. Acid staining and dyeing the concrete can produce a huge variety of looks from rustic to industrial.
New flexible thinset materials can even be applied over old floors for a fresh, new look. Additionally, concrete is a natural insulator if you want to add radiant heat in the floor. It transmits the heat better than just about any other flooring material, with the possible exception of ceramic tile.
With so many options available to homeowners today, it can difficult to narrow down exactly what type of flooring will work best with your kitchen or bathroom redesign. Take advantage of the expertise of MDV Remodeling with our TruYouDesign™ process to help you decide what would work best with your lifestyle, design, and budget. And don’t forget, you always have the option of contacting us for a free estimate.
*image courtesy of Paul Flint & Company/Flickr.com