While a flood of new flooring options — laminates, engineered woods, vinyl, and tiles in both natural and man-made stone — has resulted in more choice than ever, it’s also sent some old rules about covering “the fifth wall” out the window. Among those is that quality is inevitably measured by price, and that natural materials are always better than man-made.
“You can get a hardwood for $4 a square foot and be looking at $6 or $7 for engineered wood or vinyl,” explains designer Linda Mazur. “People have preconceived notions that they should not cost more than real wood. That’s because they don’t understand what it offers them.”
It’s now possible to find everything from realistic concrete finishes in vinyl tiles to life-like wood grains on porcelain planks. That makes it easier to get the right product for the application, says Mazur, who says she’d be asking “what’s the humidly like, how will the room be used, do you want to do in-floor heating?”
Condo-dwellers, she adds, should always check building regulations before purchasing anything.
Hardwood is still a favourite, because it’s “classic, beautiful, and has longevity,” says Mazur, who’s loving the warm brown and ashy grey tones she’s seeing in natural woods now. But engineered wood (manufactured by binding wood strands, particles, or fibres to form a composite) has many advantages.
For planks wider than six inches, for example, “you want the durability of engineered wood”, which avoids the arcing or wows that you can get in wider planks of natural wood, says Mazur.
Distressed looks, such as Metropolitan Hardwood Floor’s Kentwood collection of textured, saw-marked and raw finishes in soft greys and browns, are increasingly popular.
Mazur also sings the praises of the new generation of vinyl flooring. “It’s very easy, very versatile, very forgiving and very comfy.” The patterns, she says, are both wide-ranging and realistic. ”You can get it in anything from barn board to poured concrete looks. People look at some of them and cannot believe it’s not wood.”