Carpet, concrete or cork – which flooring is best for your home?

FLOORING is the often-overlooked and unsung hero of every room, but is – literally – the foundation of our homes. Luke Rix-Standing runs through the key pros and cons of some of the most popular floor materials around today.

A FLOOR must tie a room together while fulfilling a range of very important practical requirements.

While aesthetics are a key consideration, flooring should be relatively unobtrusive.

Different flooring options will suit different parts of the home, so it’s vital to think carefully before coming to a decision. You don’t want your bathroom floor going soggy from shower spray, or a cold playroom surface punishing your children’s knees, for instance.

Here’s a look at 10 of the most popular choices.

1. Wood

Oft-neglected softwood floors can work wonders in low-footfall areas, but as the name suggests they can struggle with the rough and tumble of a busy family home.

Most modern wood floors are hardwood – highly coveted surfaces that can also add value to a property. Relatively pricey, prone to scratching and potentially sensitive to moisture, hardwood flooring is nevertheless popular in living areas for its elegant appearance and underfoot warmth.

For a tougher, cheaper alternative, try laminate – fibreboard printed with a hi-res image of a wooden finish, which these days can look practically as good as the real thing.

2. Tiles

For such a popular flooring choice, tiles have a long list of drawbacks: they are relatively difficult to repair if they crack or get damaged; the grouting easily accumulates dirt; sock-wearers risk slipping; and they feel extremely cold in wintertime.

But a durable surface makes tiles pet-friendly, and flooring shops offer an array of colours and patterns, from Victorian florals to abstract collage.

Being easy to clean, tiling is the bathroom surface of choice for generations of homeowners, and brushes up nicely in the kitchen.

3. Carpet

A go-to for rooms with soft furnishings, carpet can be both chic and cosy. It’s warm, insulating, generally cheaper than wood or tile, and can be fashioned into almost any design. However, it stains easily, struggles with moisture, traps dust and pet hair, and needs to be replaced when worn down.

Do – bedroom and sitting room. Don’t – bathroom and kitchen.

4. Cork

Cork floors aren’t as common a sight as they perhaps once were, but they are soft to the touch, naturally insulating against sound and temperature, relatively cheap and eco-friendly, and the reddish-brown patterns tally particularly well with hardwood furniture. The drawbacks? Cork fades in direct sunlight, is prone to water damage, and may distort under table legs and other pressure points.

5. Vinyl

The IKEA wardrobe of home flooring, this low-cost, approachable option is all the rage among practical homeowners with middling budgets.

Vinyl looks pretty good, insulates well, repels water and soaks up high footfall nicely – but it can be prone to fading in sunlight and is easily dented by sharp objects. Vinyl lacks the elegance of hardwood and the comfort of cork or carpet, but it’s a functional surface that will serve you well.

6. Concrete

This staple of the multi-storey car park is also a creditable option for your front room or kitchen floor. Virtually indestructible, concrete adds a modern, almost post-industrial ambiance to the home and partners well with underfloor heating. But the sturdiness comes at the expense of comfort – it’s really hard – and even well-finished surfaces can look a little bleak.

7. Rubber

This unconventional pick is sure to raise eyebrows. It’s highly durable with superb sound insulation.

However, rubber can also be more on the expensive side, and difficult to clean. It’s commonly used for shock-absorbing qualities in spaces with a risk of heavy objects being dropped, such as gyms. Rubber is perfect for a music room or home gym, and possibly a bold choice elsewhere for style junkies.

8. Stone

A stone floor is supremely hard-wearing, low-maintenance and ideal for high footfall areas like hallways.

On the flip side, imperfections may give an uneven surface, and the price tag can be high-ish price tag. Stone tiles can be freezingly cold in winter, and for goodness sake don’t drop any plates.

9. Marble

Long a byword for luxury, a marble floor could well add value to a home, but it can chip, costs the earth, and can be dangerously slippy under slippers or socks.

10. Bamboo

This relative newcomer to the flooring scene has found a niche with eco-conscious householders. The world’s fastest growing plant (technically a species of oversized grass), bamboo is attractively textured, goes well with modern interiors, and is highly sustainable. It can be fairly expensive though and will need a little more TLC than some of the hardier materials.