When faced with selecting a floor finish for a new home or apartment, the choice may be wider than you initially think.
Most people are well acquainted with the most common flooring types. Timber, carpet and tiles are the first three that will spring to mind, but there are other types of flooring that may suit your lifestyle.
Timber has been used for flooring for centuries. Many types of timber can be used as flooring, either in the form of floorboards, parquetry or as a veneer.
Veneers have become popular in the last 10 years due to their cheapness and because you lay them over a concrete slab.
They do not have the resilience of solid timber though, and if your washing machine or dishwasher leaks then a veneer will start to peel at the edges and discolour.
It is extremely difficult to patch a veneer, and you might find you have to start all over again if repairs are required.
Solid timber is favoured by many because of its perceived warmth, both in terms of appearance and feel on bare feet.
This is despite the fact that a timber floor is quite cool to the touch, but not in comparison to finishes like tiles and concrete.
Timber can be sanded back every few years and refinished and will therefore last for generations (beware termites!). This means that recycled timber is also a viable option and one that has become more popular as a means of reducing the impact on old-growth forests.
Tiling has also been around since the Egyptians worked out how to fire clay tiles and used them to line the insides of pyramids.
As far as wet areas are concerned, nothing will ever beat tiles for resilience and water-tightness, though the manufacturers of new reconstituted and artificial stone products are coming up with close equivalents.
Tiles used for flooring need to be slip-resistant and it is recommended that a smaller tile be used for bathrooms as these tend to be less slippery than larger tiles.
Carpet is another old favourite for both residential and office uses. Carpet is nice on bare feet, but there are disadvantages.
It is very difficult to keep carpet truly clean so it is not recommended for people with dust allergies. The glues and underlay used with carpet may also irritate sensitive noses.
There are, however, products on the market that are specifically low-allergenic, and these may solve the problem for those who really want to use carpet.
It may also be better to use loose rugs as these can be taken outside and beaten to really get the dust out.
Sisal, coir and jute flooring have also experienced a bit of a renaissance in recent years, but are not recommended for high wear areas or rental properties as they cannot be steam-cleaned.
Concrete has started to appear in a wider variety of applications over the last 10 years.
Strong and cheap, concrete has been favoured for industrial and workshop applications for ages.
Now, more and more people are looking at concrete for residential use. This idea may take a bit of getting used to, but the results can be really striking.
It’s not just as easy as pouring some concrete though. Concrete tends to stain and generally needs a resilient finish. It also looks better polished and can be mixed with pigments and inlaid with decorative elements.
The flexibility of this material means that it is also possible to recess lighting and heating into concrete floors.
For a cheap and easy solution a few coats of concrete paint can look fantastic.
Ultimately your choice of floor finish will depend on budget, application and aesthetics but it may pay to think outside the usual suspects when planning your renovation.