Kya deLongchamps gives the lowdown on flooring — from warm woods to cool tiles — and how it can be used in the most important rooms of the house.
The big ticket items in large areas of the house — metres of materials grouted, glued, nailed into position — make many of us extremely nervous.
Flooring is a fixture with so many real and intangible influences on a room’s final finish.
Getting it right first time, deserves a pause for practical and aesthetic questions to be fully answered.
Expect multiple car trips to suppliers, exhaustive sampling and a little struggle.
Wood and tile lead the field in contemporary and classic interiors, but what choice and type is best for you and where are they best situated?
When it comes to bathroom floors, wood is not a first choice material as the area demands full waterproofing, something not easily achieved with even sealed hardwood planks or pre-lacquered engineered wood.
Nowhere else in the house is there more fluctuation in temperature and humidity and this can cause all but a poured or tiled floor to discreetly move and lift.
Compromise — if you want that driftwood look in the bathroom, use lookalike tiles or confine boards to the relatively dry side of the room with a poured concrete or tiled floor around the bath and shower area —this will need a large room to pull the look off.
A funky vibe can be had by tiling the walls vertically with wood effect tiles and using large scale concrete tiles on the flooring for contrast.
Include a marine ply subfloor beneath any solid wood to fight warping, and seal tightly with several applications of yacht grade varnish.
Resilient hardwoods will not snap up off the floor with the occasional deluge.
* Bathrooms demand tiles and when it comes to a choice, there is just one — between porcelain or ceramic.
Porcelain is composed of denser clays than ceramic, with a baked-on, top coat and is through-coloured, making it more expensive but a top class choice for bathrooms.
Complementing a bathroom floor, take a look at Moroccan-inspired dusty matt patterns to run up walls, under counters and around splash areas, or be brave and look into new monochromes and serious blacks (very much back, if you’re into the dark side).
Floor and wall tiles have different upper weight limits, unless products are advertised as suitable to both applications. For fashion — break starkly between colour from wall to floor.
For harmony, stay with the same family of tones. Grey, anthracite and charcoal are popular neutrals for 2017. Materials must match activity and your family habits.
* When it comes to the kitchen, if you’re longing for something that moves away from stark modernity, limestone and sandstone slabs, along with quarry tiles and terracotta, sing with a hygge spirit.
And they match well with a pared down, rustic-urban kitchen, the sub-industrial look, or paired with on-trend, plank front designs.
If you cannot afford the real thing, digital print technology in tiles presents some exquisite budget alternatives to stone and clay, with serious durability.
Upstairs an underlay of cork or a quality, sound absorbing material will cut down on traffic noise from wooden floors, stairs and corridors.
Electric fed UFH mats can overcome the chill of tiles on bare feet and work well in a bathroom retro-fit.
* Wood flooring in the kitchen may be dismissed as impractical, but it continues to be used for beauty’s sake and can work under a mask of sealant, be that paint or varnish.
Wood, in engineered planks and in solid runs, demands a keener eye in terms of maintenance than tile, and a certain level of acceptance that it will mark here and there.
I ran the same thick softwood throughout my living spaces 18 years ago, and the distress of thousands of dog tangos and the smack of wet boots to the largely unprotected kitchen floor, is evident.
Still, its characterful face is the very first thing everyone who visits comments on.
For year-on-year ding-free perfection give up on wood and use something like QuickStep Lyvin vinyl with its HydroSeal coating and a 20 year warranty.
A Concrete Wood plank in Lyvin? A confusing decorative stew and mis-step too far down a synthetic road for me.
Laminate with a contract quality finish is excellent in kitchens and practically bomb-proof, (try Irish brand Canadia for quality and value; www.mdoshea.ie) and, as it’s cheap to buy and fit, can be lifted and changed when fashion or fickleness demands.
In pinched, high traffic spaces where repeated footfall will beat out on the flooring, you can either choose a tough, hardwood flooring or a softer wood spec, layering it against damage with water based varnishes, floor paints or rugs.
Tiles in hallways are crisp, beautiful and functional, but for traditionalists, wood planking has warmth that will always win toes down.
The clatter of family arriving over the front tiles is a plus with some buyers, and to slop a mop without worry, again, it has to be tile.
Engineered wood flooring with its multi-layered core is a superb contender here, and with a real wood top coat will always convince over a photo-effect laminate.
Engineered woods are also structurally more stable in relatively humid conditions, are perfect for underfloor heating and can even be sanded once or twice to remove damage.
The only drawback is that they are as expensive, if not more, than top of the range hardwoods.
If you can handle getting the edges right, T&G engineered flooring is DIY friendly, but why take the risk?
Laminates, especially the fit and click variety will work for even the most ham-fisted of DIY-ers and are great for bedrooms.
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