Flooring: Pros & Cons

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Real Estate

Have you given much thought to the floors in your home? Your floors are one of the first things people will notice upon entering your house. Your floors take a beating -- shoes, pets' nails, dropped objects, spills. Your floors may be left bare for all the world to see, or you may cover them up with area rugs and carpets. No matter what, your floors work hard for you, providing the area where you live out your life daily while also making a statement about your interior decorating preferences. Let's talk about floors.

Natural stone floors, like granite or marble, used to be the gold standard choice for flooring, and they were expensive. While pricing has come down, these floors will cost more than man-made ceramic floors. Installing these floors is a bit more labor-intensive, so paying for the work will cost more too. When was the last time you asked, "What kind of floor is this?" And heard, "Marble," as the response? Now you know why. Another drawback to these materials is that they stain and scratch easily, so they need to be sealed regularly. Because marble and granite are natural materials, your floors would not look like anyone else's, but their elegance disguises a danger -- they are slippery. These floors, while beautiful to look at, may not be best suited to how we live, work, and play in our homes today.

Ceramic tiles, on the other hand, are durable, stain resistant, and can even be made to look like stone or wood. The only maintenance they require is the occasional re-grout or reseal. Another plus to this material is that if you chip or break one of the tiles, it's pretty easy to replace just that one piece.

Raise your hand if you remember vinyl and laminate floors! You may also remember the peeling and yellowing that accompanied them. Well, they've come a long way. These materials are probably your least expensive option, and they are much more rugged now. In addition, laminate floors come in options that mimic stone and wood, and it can be difficult to tell the difference. I can't tell you how many times we are showing homes to customers and we all crouch down to further inspect whether the floors are wood, ceramic or vinyl. Often we must confirm with the listing agent.

Solid wood floors are always a popular choice. One reason is you get a variety of choices regarding the type of wood, color, and pattern. Wood is classic and has never gone out of style. However, wood is expensive, it's easy to scratch, and it requires some maintenance with periodic refinishing and resealing. One way around this would be to go with engineered wood flooring. It looks like solid wood but costs less and doesn't require the same effort for upkeep.

Of course, no discussion of floors would be complete without mentioning my favorite...terrazzo! Terrazzo floors are made of chips of marble or stone, or sometimes other natural materials like shells, mixed with either concrete or resin. The result is a slick-looking and shiny floor. Terrazzo floors were popular in mid-century homes, and you'll often see them at homes near the beach (the floors are easy to sweep AND they keep the house cool). Sometimes we'll go in a home, and I'll sense the presence of terrazzo. If I don't see it right away, I'll go in a closet, peek under the corner of the carpet, and have my heartbroken when it's confirmed that there are terrazzo floors, but the owner has carpeted or tiled over them. They can be restored, and they are making a comeback.