Types of Flooring
The floor of a room will always take the severest beating from the wear-and-tear of daily living and working. Choosing the right type of flooring for a particular interior space is essential. But any style of flooring will only be as strong and stable as the surface onto which it is laid. Sometimes problems with the sub-floor are only made apparent when an old floor-covering is removed, so make sure you budget in terms of cost and time for the sub-floor imperfections that you may uncover. You may need to re-level the floor or treat a damp problem, both of which will add days to your refurbishment schedule, or you may just need to re-screw a couple of squeaky floorboards. Never lay a new floor on top of old carpet or underlay.
The floor you choose should be considered semi-permanent as it is unlikely it will be replaced at anything like the frequency of other decorative items in the room. This often leads to neutral colours being chosen to fit more easily into future, unforeseen decorative schemes.
There are three basic types of flooring:
Hard floors - These are usually permanent features and include wood, stone, slate, marble, granite, brick and tiles.
Hard-wearing floors - Unlike hard floors, these do not become part of the fabric of the building and are often used alongside carpets and rugs. Examples include lino, vinyl, rubber and cork.
Soft floorcovering - These are soft and warm underfoot and the most obvious examples are rugs and carpets. Carpets are available in a huge number of styles, colours and materials, some more hard-wearing than others. Natural flooring such as seagrass, sisal and coir, although sometimes rather "knobbly" underfoot, should be considered in the same category as carpets.
It can be quite difficult to visualise how a certain flooring will look in a room, considering how many other decorative items with which it has to relate. This is especially difficult with patterned carpets which can have a very dramatic effect that is only hinted at by the small sample you brought back from the shop.
You can avoid obvious mistakes quite easily. For instance don't choose a flooring because you believe it won't "show the dirt". Flooring gets dirty, it's a fact of life. Conversely, white or cream carpets in high-traffic areas will never be a good idea. Strongly geometric flooring is best reserved for places like hallways and kitchens because the general lack of standing furniture in these areas allows the pattern to be seen and enjoyed properly.
Some basic psychological rules apply to floors:
Large patterns and strong colours will reduce the perceived size of the room;
Small patterns and pale colours will lose their impact when applied over a large area;
Dark colours will absorb light, pale colours will reflect light;
Bright colours used on shiny surfaces (such as glazed tiles) will appear brighter and stronger;
Using the same flooring throughout an area comprising several rooms wil increase the feeling of apparent space;
Stripes placed across a narrow space will increase the apparent width, border patterns will decrease the apparent width;
In large open-plan areas try "zoning" the space by using different floor coverings in different areas;
Combine floor coverings for interest, a large persian rug on a distressed wooden floor is a classic example;
Changes in floor level can add drama, imagine a roll-top bath raised on its own platform.
Safety First - Assess your chosen flooring for its potential as a slip hazard. Most hard floors are intrinsically safe but some may need treatment to be made slip resistance. Always avoid polishing tiles to a mirror finish. If you use rugs on top of a hard floor, invest in some specialist ant-slip tape for the underside of the rugs. Some hard-wearing floor materials can become slippery when wet so are best avoided in bathrooms. Carpets are generally safe as long as they are fixed down correctly by gripperods or tacks. However some materials may prove slippery if used on stairs, such as sisal and seagrass.
Article by Melvyn Fickling
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