Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Tread carefully to choose a flawless floor

Yorkshire Post - 15th July 2009 - Life & Style Section : Homes


Interior Designer Jamie Hempsall explains how to avoid putting a foot wrong when choosing the best flooring option for your home.

Flooring is a make or break decision for any room. Choose well and you successfully set the tone for your scheme. Choose badly and you end up with a finish that jars and is expensive to replace; in terms of money, time and disruption.

Before parting with cash, draw up a list of key considerations, the most important of which are:

* The amount of wear the area will have.
* Is it subject to moisture?
* Does the floor need to act as a sound barrier?
* How slip resistant does it need to be?
* How much time are you willing to invest in maintaining your floor?
* Does anyone in the family suffer from allergies? Generally, the harder the surface, the healthier the floor.
* How durable is the product?
* Costs of material and installation?
* What sub-floor surface will you be laying on? For example, tiled floors cannot be laid directly onto floorboards, so you will incur extra cost for preparation.
* Budget. Generally you do get what you pay for.

Avoid being influenced by high fashion finishes, they may look great in the short term, but can quickly date and be an expensive short term indulgence.

Different floors have individual merits. Here are my guidelines to steer you in the right direction.

Resilient flooring – finishes that can bounce back to their original form after something is dropped on them; such as cork, linoleum and vinyl. A warmer alternative to hard surfaces such as tile. Flexible to lay (a good DIY project and helpful in difficult shaped areas), hardwearing and most finishes are bacteria resistant. Prices for most budgets.

Porcelain/ceramic tiles – easy to maintain and great in areas with moisture, or immediate access from the outside. Very hardwearing, but can be expensive. They require a level sub-floor and benefit from professional fitting. The overall effect can be harsh if not chosen well.

Wood – gives a rich, architectural finish and looks great stained or painted. It has a laid-back, rather than formal appearance. Not all floorboards look great, ensure yours are in good repair and of visual interest. Will require maintenance and show wear, but, if cared for, is a very durable surface. One of the most expensive options. Avoid if you have under-floor heating and opt instead for engineered planks. Requires specialist fitting.

Laminate – cheaper, quicker to fit for damp areas and can have a hollow sound when walked upon. Relatively easy to maintain, but needs care when installing.

Carpets and rugs – warm and help deaden noise. Not as durable as other surfaces and should not be installed in areas with moisture. Stain resistant treatments can help prolong its life. Probably the least hypo-allergenic option. Variety of price points, but a good underlay and professional fitting are essential for carpets. Rugs also provide a quick, cost-effective method to introduce contrast (such as texture or pattern).

Stone – the most permanent solution. Terrific for the minimalist look and excellent in wet areas. Cooler than other finishes, but good for underfloor heating as it retains warmth. Expensive and must be perfectly laid. Ideal for hallways in older properties and garden rooms.

Opting for a specific flooring type does not finish the design decision. For example, consider combining different types of hard surface, such as tile and steel, or break up a block of colour with borders or runners in a contrasting colour, material or pattern.

Alternatively, include contrasting textures in an area (such as carpet and stone), which can be both visually attractive and provide sensory stimulus.

Remember, preparation is paramount. A subfloor surface without lumps and bumps equals no trip hazards, easy installation and the longest life possible for your product.

Jamie Hempsall is one of the region's leading interior designers and a member of BIDA. He can be contacted on 01777 248463 or visit www.jamiehempsall.com

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