There are several factors that influence the decision to select and specify a specific floor type.

Flooring for a residential or semi-commercial environment is a big decision and one that cannot be taken lightly. When stringent budgets are formulated, there is no room for error, as it will not only become a costly exercise to fix or replace a floor failure, but it will inevitably affect deadlines. As such, there are several considerations that need to be made before selecting a specific floor type.

Before choosing a floor, however, it is advisable to first consider the needs of each room individually and what would be required from a flooring perspective. Secondly, budgets need to be planned carefully and, as a specifier, you need to be satisfied with your flooring selection, installation and delivery.

The rule of thumb is to purchase the best flooring the client can afford, bearing in mind that lifecycle costs and maintenance programmes will be required to keep the installed flooring looking at its best. You will also need to ensure that you choose a reputable and accredited flooring contractor, as any product will inevitably fail if not installed properly.

Functionality and aesthetic appeal also need to be considered for every room. When selecting colours and designs it’s crucial not to decide on these alone, but consider how they will complement the room as a whole.

The above are important aspects to consider before selecting any floor type. There are also numerous benefits associated with the specific floor selected, with a range of driving factors that will influence this selection. This feature identifies these driving factors and expands on the benefits of carpets and carpet tiles; tiled flooring; concrete flooring; epoxy coatings; exterior flooring; natural stone; luxury vinyl and resilients; wood; laminates and bamboo.

Before delving deeper into these topics, it is useful to note that residential flooring is defined as a floorcovering that is suitable for use in a residential setting, while semi-commercial flooring is a floor that is adapted for use in environments with medium traffic such as offices, classrooms, hotels, boutiques and conference halls.

Carpets and Carpet Tiles

The nature of a timeless, soft, beautiful carpet is what drives us to select this versatile floorcovering which continues to “wow” with its awe-inspiring looks and advanced technology. Carpets and carpet tiles are strong and therefore often outlast the lifespan of a home. However, this is dependent on the quality of the carpet selected and correct maintenance from day one. Carpet tiles, which are usually commercial grade, are very durable, making them ideal for areas exposed to wear and tear.

Carpets are also soft underfoot and this is enhanced by a good underlay as well as the type of fibres used, making them comfortable to walk on while minimising added pressure on the feet. Some carpets are extremely plush, making them even softer and more luxurious.

Another desirable attribute of carpets is the fact that they act as sound insulators and offer excellent acoustic properties. So when something does fall onto the carpet, the sound is almost completely stifled, adding a sense of harmony to any home or semi-commercial space. There are limitless ranges of products to choose from and, with so many colours, textures, styles, designs and patterns available, you will have to carefully specify the carpet in order to suit the needs of the client.

Another drawcard of carpets and carpet tiles is the fact that they retain the warmth in a room as they have low heat conduction and are natural thermal insulators creating a heat barrier. With regard to safety, carpets and carpet tiles play a big role in reducing the hardness of any given impact and preventing slips and falls due to their construction.

When choosing carpet or carpet tile for any installation, it is advisable to consider the above benefits not only to improve your own knowledge, but to also educate your clients on the benefits of carpets and carpet tiles, which should be specified with their needs in mind.

Tiled Flooring: Ceramics, Porcelain & Terracotta

These hard floor types create beautiful, memorable spaces and can transform any room from bland to extravagant. Ceramic tiles are durable and as a result have a long lifespan. They are available in a variety of colours, designs, patterns and sizes. Be sure to look out for the breathtaking technology which enables ceramic tiles to imitate the look and feel of real wood, stone, concrete and many other floors.

If you are intent on high sanitary standards, ceramics are a good choice as they are easy to clean. They also offer resistance attributes, and are often installed in high-traffic areas as they are very resistant to tread wear.

Glazed porcelain tiles are much harder and more wear- and damage-resistant than non-porcelain ceramic tiles. They are also ideal for both light and heavy traffic while full-bodied porcelain tiles carry the colour and pattern through their entire thickness, making them virtually resistant to all forms of standard wear. They also come in large-format tiles for large floor areas and commercial spaces.

In turn terracotta tiles are hardwearing and provide natural and polished finishes. The colour is consistent throughout the tile and, when unglazed, the tile bodies range from ochre to very dark red, providing excellent decorative possibilities. In addition, maintenance is made simple and easy to implement due to the factory-supplied surface finishes.

Concrete Flooring

Concrete floors are a popular choice for homeowners, not just because they are ideal for garages but because they are sought after for interior spaces too. This is as a result of the vast range of concrete finishes available today.

These floors can be custom painted to create variations and looks such as marble, stone, slate or even a tiled appearance. Easy to clean and maintain and, if cleaned daily, the floor will keep its pristine look, ensuring a healthy floor and in turn a healthier, more hygienic environment.

Concrete floors also have a long lifespan and will probably outlive their occupants, however, this is very much dependent on the maintenance programme adopted. Furthermore, concrete floors are not subject to mildew, mould, warping or fading and offer low lifestyle costs due to their strength and durability.

To the specifier, the numerous benefits of concrete floors propose exciting alternatives to what is typically considered a garage floor, making room for innovative design solutions.

Epoxy Flooring

An epoxy floor coating is both hardwearing and durable and can be successfully applied over a concrete floor to provide a high-performance, attractive, decorative surface. It is resistant to degradation and bonds extremely well to its substrate.

Even though epoxy coatings and systems are generally used in industrial applications, they can also be used in the most demanding of environments within a residential or semi-commercial space. They can be turned into non-slip or high-gloss finishes and are quick to install and easy to clean. They are chemically resistant, prevent slips and falls by creating traction and are low in VOCs and therefore environmentally friendly, which in turn prevents further harm to the environment.

Should a quality product be used, an epoxy coating system is cost-efficient as it is much easier to clean and maintain and fewer cleaning products used in the long term decrease the rate at which the coating has to be reapplied. They are also resistant to mild acids, bacterial growth, water and abrasion.

Exterior Flooring

The numerous types of exterior flooring options available make it quite a challenge to decide on one which best suits your needs as specifier, which are directly related to the needs of your client. The solution may lie in trying to create harmony between the indoor and outdoor spaces. Simply put, the indoor floors should be congruent with the exterior floors that you install.

•    Block Paving & Concrete
They are aesthetically pleasing and offer an array of options with regard to colour, shape and size. They have a long lifespan, which will save your client money as they don’t need to be repaired or replaced often. They require little or no cleaning, other than the removal of weeds.

•    Wood & Composite Decking
A wood composite product is an approximately equal mix of recycled wood fibres and recycled plastic, durable and impervious to rot. Both composites and wood are visually appealing and come in different shapes and sizes.

•    Ceramic, Porcelain & Terracotta
It is advisable to install unglazed tiles to reduce slips and falls. Tiles are easy to maintain and are generally cheaper to replace or repair.

•    Stone & Pebble Paving
When used in conjunction with cement, the end product becomes a beautiful alternative paving as opposed to just a general concrete. If the stone and pebble paving is coated with an epoxy, it will be long lasting, weather resistant and at the same time visually attractive. Simulated stone is also a contemporary-style paving brick and is available in a range of colours and sizes of stone. It is not, however, advised for areas with high levels of vehicle traffic.

•    Artificial Grass
So-called ‘imitation grass’ is growing significantly in value due to the fact that it requires little or no maintenance – that means no weeding, fertilising or trimming. This is a great option for women with young children, for those who don’t want to spend time and money on maintaining a lawn or for children in play facilities, who will appreciate what looks like actual grass. Office spaces are also great areas in which to install imitation grass, especially in sections of the canteen to create the look and feel of being outside.

Natural Stone

People are drawn to these floors because they are dynamic and versatile, offering several types to choose from including limestone; marble; slate; granite; travertine and terrazzo.

Limestone is suited to both classic and contemporary interiors and its availability in larger formats makes for a timeless interior. In turn, the crystalline structure of marble enables it to be polished to a high gloss, creating a distinguished classical look that complements every environment.

Slate is a hardwearing stone and suitable for all applications, both interior and exterior. In the form of limestone deposited by hot mineral springs, travertine often has a fibrous or concentric appearance and comes in white, tan, cream-coloured and even rusty varieties.

Granite is another popular choice as scratches and most other damage can be buffed out, offering significant wear-and-tear resistance characteristics. There are several colour varieties that can be used indoors and outdoors.

Sandstone’s variety of earthy tones makes it a popular choice and is also considered one of the most affordable natural stone options. The variety of natural stones available to the industry ensures that you are never at a loss when it comes to creative and innovative ideas for a flooring installation.

Luxury Vinyl & Resilients

Although vinyl is a popular material found in resilient flooring, this flooring category also includes linoleum, cork and rubber. Resilient flooring is known for being inexpensive and a unique option for areas requiring a hygienic or slip-resistant floorcovering. Another attraction is its surface layer, which is extremely resistant to scratching, fading and wear, and as a result can be installed in areas exposed to spills such as kitchens and bathrooms.

All vinyl options come in a wide spectrum of colours, patterns, textures and designs and are easy to install. In addition, they are one of the most cost-effective and affordable floorcoverings available.

Luxury Vinyl Tiles/Planks

Due to developments in technology such as HD printing, LVTs and LVPs are now able to be reproduced in realistic-looking images of hardwood, stone and tiles. They are an affordable option, especially when budget constraints mean that a natural floorcovering cannot be specified. LVTs/LVPs are easy to clean and maintain, requiring only a sweep or a slightly damp mop every so often and they are soft underfoot and warm during winter.

Linoleum

This floor type is an eco-conscious individual’s dream because it is made from natural sustainable products including linseed oil from flax, wood powder, limestone, resins and coloured pigments that provide a wide variety of design options and bright, lively colours. As its backing is comprised of jute, which is a natural grass, and the rest of the products used in its manufacture are natural, linoleum is fully recyclable – a big drawcard when aiming to specify sustainable flooring.

Linoleum is easy to clean, hardwearing, has a long service life, and is ideal for any space exposed to an active lifestyle.

Rubber

Available in a wide variety of colours and patterns, rubber floors have very desirable attributes including sound reduction, excellent slip resistance, and resistance to cigarette burns, water and high-impact loads. Rubber is an exceptionally durable and robust flooring option while being easy to maintain, therefore requiring minimal chemical cleaning products. It doesn’t show scuff marks easily and is an ideal choice for playgrounds or indoor gyms.

Cork

Cork is an ideal floor as it is antimicrobial and less likely to be affected by mould and mildew. In addition, it doesn’t absorb dust or pollen and acts as an excellent insulator, cutting noise by 53%. Cork also retains heat very well – a feature that saves your energy bills by providing minimal heat loss and a comfortable and warm walking surface.

Wood, Laminates and Bamboo

The warmth, beauty and performance provided by wood, laminates and bamboo are a testament to their popularity among consumers. While wood will remain a firm favourite due to its timeless qualities, the latest technology in laminates and innovation in bamboo have resulted in floors that are truly memorable.

Wood

Wood is a common choice as a flooring material due to its environmental profile, durability and restorability. If preserved properly, wood lasts for decades and, if looked after properly, its aesthetic appeal is further increased. Wood floors are easy to clean and, should stains or spills occur, all that is required is a damp mop with some floor cleaner.

Wood is a good medium when it comes to installing underfloor heating, and what makes it unique is that it remains a timeless floorcovering. Where other floorcoverings may lose their visual appeal after a few years, wooden floors will still be performing handsomely and can do so for a lifetime. They create a look and feel of warmth and comfort in any space, as well as value, as an added extra.

Laminates

It is almost impossible to differentiate between a laminate floor and a solid hardwood floor. This is because the surface of a laminate floor has high-definition photographic images of natural hardwood printed onto melamine-infused paper. This enables limitless design potential, from wood looks with all the distinctive grains, to patterns or imitations of textures.

Laminates are easy to install as they don’t require glue or fastening to the subfloor and they are capable of expanding and contracting to adapt to any environment because of their click-lock installation method. Due to their construction they are extremely versatile and durable, an excellent combination of characteristics when looking to install a floor in high-traffic areas are such as offices.

Bamboo

Bamboo is a sought-after floor as it is environmentally friendly, very durable, attractive, sustainable and renewable. It is also easy to clean and maintain, requiring only a dry or damp mop to prevent dust and dirt from accumulating on the floor. However, it should never be over-wet as excessive water can cause damage.

This floor type is extremely tough, strong and hard, and certain types of bamboo can undergo manufacturing processes to make them even more durable. In terms of looks and visual appeal, bamboo can elevate a space to elegance almost immediately. It has a look and feel that is similar to hardwood, yet uniquely different.

Over time bamboo floors may discolour, get scratched, etc. but thankfully they can be refinished by sanding them down and then reapplying the finishing coats to give a fresh new look.

Upon reading the benefits of each floor type it becomes clear that there isn’t one floor type that is better than another one. However, depending on your needs as specifier, there may be one floor type that is better suited to certain environments, or more lenient in terms of costs and maintenance. The end goal is to specify a floor type that achieves the needs of your client, and this alone demands that numerous factors be taken into consideration – all of which will determine your selection and inevitably the success, or otherwise, of the flooring installation.