Which Floor is Right for You?

Environmental, natural—and beautiful—floorcovering options abound these days. Let your lifestyle and aesthetic sense be your guide.

| September/October 2003


Site-finished flat grain natural bamboo flooring is beautiful and durable.

Photo courtesy TimberGrass, by Art Grice

Flooring is constantly underfoot, so to speak, making it an important component in your home. By choosing natural materials such as stone, wool, sisal, or bamboo, you will add the beauty of nature. Or, you may prefer recycled materials as a way to green your home: Glass tiles, carpet made from recycled PET plastic, and reclaimed barnwood are gaining popularity.

Consider your needs carefully when selecting the best floor. If you have three noisy teenagers, for example, the acoustics of tile, glass, or stone might prove annoying.

Think about temperature. Tile, glass, or stone might be perfect in a warmer climate where the cooler surface is a plus, or a poor choice in northern areas if you don’t have radiant heat or stoves in your home. Carpet or rugs provide snuggly warmth and softness. But a dark floor of any type in direct, hot sun can scorch your toes and inflate your cooling bill. Lighter colors are the best where summers sizzle or large windows focus the sun’s rays.

People with allergies should choose smooth surfaces that can easily be washed and swept, not carpets and rugs that collect dust and microscopic irritants. Washable rugs add softness to harder floors but are not good choices where small children or elderly family members might trip.

The installation may determine what type of flooring you choose. Think about what substances will be used when installing the new floor. While it’s possible to find options that are nontoxic or outgas less, you or your family may need to relocate temporarily to another room or house if adhesives, grout, or finishes are troublesome. And is the surface free of pits, warps, or snags? Any blemishes may have to be corrected, depending on the flooring you choose, or a subsurface may need to be installed.

Also consider the life of the new or replacement floor and where it will be located. Is it a high-traffic area? How sturdy and long-lasting will the new surface be? Fewer replacements is good for your pocketbook, your patience—and the environment.

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