Hard Flooring

Options abound.

Linoleum Flooring

Linoleum is a well tested technology. Recently, its popularity has been declining. Linoleum’s found extensive use in both residential and commercial structures since 1860, when it was invented. This long and prolific history undermines its modern appeal. Many view it as yesterday’s design alternative. Additionally, technical advances in other flooring options, especially vinyl flooring, have created a more competitive environment.

As you may gather from the name, it’s manufactured from linseed oil. Other ingredients vary somewhat, but generally include either wood or cork powder, resins, mineral fillers (frequently calcium carbonate), and pigments. This mixture is mounted on a canvas or burlap base. Finally, a varnish is added to the surface to make it more appealing.


  • Comfort – Linoleum is a softer flooring that is easy underfoot and absorbs sound.
  • Durability – With proper care a life time of between 20 and 40 years can be expected.
  • Fading – The pattern goes all the way through the material. This prevents fading.
  • Cleaning – Linoleum usually only requires sweeping and damp mopping.
  • Eco-Friendly – Linoleum is biodegradable and does not emit volatile organic compounds.
  • Installation – Linoleum comes in large easy to install sheets. This minimizes installation costs.
  • Cost – Basic patterns typically cost $2 – $5 / ft2. More complex or multicolor patterns can cost as much as $10 / ft2. These costs do not include installation.


  • Style – As mentioned above linoleum is falling out of stylistic favor and, therefore, may not contribute effectively to resale value.
  • Yellowing – Linoleum can yellow, especially when exposed to direct sun light. Some linoleum has an anti-ambering coating.
  • Moisture Resistance – Water and humidity can damage linoleum. Some recommend against installing it in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and basements. Others recommend it for kitchens and bathrooms because spills can be easily cleaned up. The key is long term exposure to water and high humidity needs to be avoided. It’s important that the room is properly ventilated and that the linoleum can not absorb water from the sub-floor.
  • Cleaning – Some cleaning products can damage linoleum. Fortunately, damp moping is usually all that’s required.
  • Damage – Linoleum is prone to denting and cutting by furniture legs, high heels, and sharp objects.
  • Installation – While the installation is easy, there are a few downsides. Linoleum expands and contracts. As a result, it should be allowed to acclimate to the environment prior to installation. This doesn’t add a labor cost, but does add calendar time to the installation. Also, linoleum emits linseed fumes for up to a month after installation. They smell, but are not harmful to people, pets or property.

Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring is a three layer construction. The top layer is a protective clear coating. The middle layer is a printed image that allows virtually unlimited creative options. Finally, these are mounted on either a felt or fiber glass backing. Vinyl flooring comes in either planks or tiles.


  • Visual Flexibility – Vinyl can match any décor because the visual presentation is a printed image.
  • Appearance – High quality vinyl can look very similar to hardwood.
  • Comfort – Sometimes vinyl flooring is referred to as resilient flooring because its softness renders it easy to stand and walk on.
  • Cleaning – Like linoleum, only a good sweep and damp mop is needed.
  • Moisture Resistance – Vinyl flooring is impervious to water. This not only eliminates a concern with other flooring options, but makes spill clean up easy. It is universally recommended for kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms.
  • Durability – Usually, the top layer provides a wear surface that prevents scratching and damage.
  • Installation – This flooring comes in either tiles or planks. Both are usually manufactured with peel-and-stick backings that make for a quick and relatively inexpensive installation.
  • Cost – Vinyl is a relatively inexpensive option that typically runs between $2 and $7 / ft2, excluding installation.


  • Yellowing – Vinyl products can yellow when exposed to sun light. This is most problematic in the low quality products on the market. Higher quality products include anti-ambering compounds in the protective top layer. Scuffing with rubber (e.g., shoe soles) can cause a chemical reaction that permanently discolors the flooring.
  • Damage – Vinyl tiles and planks are not prone to crack, chip or break. However, they can be easily gouged by furniture and sharp objects.
  • Maintenance – The planks and tiles are not repairable, but can be replaced provided you can find a match to the non-damaged planks or tiles.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring was developed as an inexpensive alternative to hardwood. The construction of laminate flooring is remarkable similar to vinyl. A printed image is glued to a moisture-resistant, fiber base board. This is covered with a protective wear layer that’s scratch and ding resistant.


  • Appearance – Advances in printing technology allow laminate floors to look remarkably similar to hardwood. The difference can still be distinguished, especially if viewed up close.
  • Durability – High quality laminate is dent, scratch, and stain resistant. There are five quality levels: AC1 – Moderate Use (e.g., Bedrooms, closets), AC2 – Medium Use (e.g., Living and Dining rooms), AC3 – Heavy Residential or Moderate Commercial, AC4 – All Residential and Commercial, AC5 – Heavy Commercial.
  • Moisture – Laminate floors tolerate high humidity and non-standing water well. Spills can be easily wiped up.
  • Cleaning – Usually these floors just need to be swept and occasionally damp mopped with laminate floor cleaner.
  • Installation – Most laminate floors are constructed as planks that attach to adjacent planks with a tongue and groove joint. Glue is not needed during the installation.
  • Cost – You can expect to pay between $0.65 and $4 / ft2 depending on the quality.


  • Comfort – Laminate floors can be ungiving making them harder on the legs and feet. Most installations address this by adding a underlayment that cushions the steps. Laminate floors are also slicker than other types of floors.
  • Water – Laminate flooring does not tolerate standing water well. It can seep between the boards and cause warping. As a result, it is not recommended for moisture rich rooms like kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms.
  • Resale Value – While the introduction of techniques like beveling and embossing have create a look more similar to hardwood, laminate’s resale value still doesn’t approach that of a hardwood floor.
  • Maintenance – Laminate floors can not be refinished. The only repair is to replace the laminate planks.

Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring is available using woods from a variety of different trees. Not only does wood selection control the look, but also some of the properties of the floor. Unfinished flooring is also available. This allows the home owner to select a stain to match their décor.

Hardwood can be purchased in three forms: strips, planks, and parquet. Strips usually refers to hardwood having a width of 1 ½” to 2 ¼”. Planks are similar, but wider. These are both sold with random lengths making it easy to avoid repetitive alignment of board ends during installation. Both strips and planks using a tongue and groove joint along the edge to hold the boards together. A variety of wooden shapes are pieced together into appealing geometric shapes to create parquet.


  • Style – Hardwood creates a warm, luxurious look.
  • Durability – With proper care, hardware floors have an extremely long life. The are examples of hardwood floors that were installed more than a century ago that are still in place.
  • Cleaning – These floors only require sweeping and damp mopping.
  • Maintenance – If a floor is scratched or scuffed, it can be sanded down and varnished. There’s not a need to tear out and replace parts of the flooring.
  • Non-allergenic – The wood repels pollens and pet dander creating a non-allergenic environment.
  • Resale Value – Hardwood flooring is the most sought after flooring. It adds significantly to the resale value of the property.


  • Noise – Hardwood flooring can be loud to walk on. It also contributes to echoing in the room.
  • Water – Hardwood is not water resistant. If allowed to sit, the water will seep between the boards and can cause warping and staining as well as providing an environment that’s conducive to mold and mildew growth. As a result, these floors are rarely installed in high moisture rooms like kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Damage – Hardwood floors are susceptible to scratching and scuffing. This is especially true of floors made from soft woods. The owner should use furniture pads to protect the flooring.
  • Installation – Hardwood flooring is difficult and time consuming to install well. It can be challenging to get transitions and sizing correct. As a result, professional installation is usually required and can be quite expensive.
  • Cost – Depending on the wood type and quality, this flooring can cost $8 – $15 / ft2, excluding installation.

Cork Flooring

Cork flooring is manufactured begins by grinding the bark of the cork oak tree into a powder. Then, it is baked and pressed. Finally, a varnish is added.


  • Comfort – Cork is soft and cushiony making for a comfortable surface for standing and walking.
  • Noise – The softness of cork absorbs sound. Not only does this make it a quiet floor to walk on, it reduces echoes in the room.
  • Warmth – If you look closely at cork, you’ll see that it has many small air pockets. These make a good insulating layer that avoids the cold feeling associated with other flooring.
  • Eco-Friendly – Cork is a completely natural material that comes from a replenishable source.
  • Maintenance – All that is normally required is a good sweeping and damp mopping.
  • Cost – Expect to pay $3 – $8 / ft2, excluding installation.


  • Damage – Cork is soft and easily damaged. It’s prone to puncturing by furniture, high heels, and sharp objects. Cork flooring is not advisable in a house with dogs and cats. Their claws will likely damage the floor. Furniture should also be placed on furniture pads.
  • Water – Even though the floor is coated with a water resistant layer, it is still readily damaged by water.
  • Fading – In direct sunlight, cork floors will fade.

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tiles are clay slices that have been kiln fired.  Usually they are glaze coated, but can be purchased without it.


  • Style – Ceramic tiles come in a variety of colors and styles that will compliment the décor of any room in the house.
  • Water – The glazing on the tiles makes them extremely resistant to water. This is not true of the grout, which should be frequently sealed.
  • Durability – Ceramic is strong, hard and sturdy. It’s rare for tiles to crack. When they do, they can be individually replaced. Ceramic tile flooring has been known to last for over a century.
  • Cleaning – Generally, all that’s needed is to sweep and damp mop the flooring. If a more serious clean up job is needed, most commercially available cleaners will not damage the tile.
  • Cost – $3 – $7 / ft2, excluding installation.


  • Hardness – Ceramic is a hard substance. It can not be lain over underlayments that soften the floor. Hence, it is not recommended in locations where people will stand for long periods of time.
  • Coldness – You can expect it to be cold against your bare feet on a winter morning.
  • Installation – It can be tricky and is frequently time consuming to install. This adds to the installation cost.

One thought on “Hard Flooring

  1. Co

    Will you do underfloor heat?

    Would any of the moisture resistant ideas – linoleum, vinyl – survive on my back porch? Temperature range roughly 20 degrees to 90 degrees.


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