We Are Floored

Everything looks better underfoot when you shop smart and then properly maintain and protect your investments in carpeting, hardwoods, stone and more

You don’t need to trade up from green shag carpeting to Brazilian cherry hardwoods to know that a new floor can completely transform your home. But new floors come with a price. Carpeting is expensive. Hardwoods are more so. And then there is the task of upending your living spaces to pull the old stuff out and put the new stuff in. Even when you pay a crew to do it, you’re still out of living space for some time. When you’re talking about a kitchen, your refrigerator and stove are put out of commission for the duration as well.

Of course, beautiful flooring can be worth the cost and the inconvenience. After all, even a ten-year-old coffee table looks better on a brand new rug or refinished oak.

Yet before you rush out an place an order, do a little research, says Staci Chappell, a flooring specialist at Coyle Carpet One Floor and Home. Find out what your options are, and generally price out a few of them to determine what might work within your budget. Of course, you don’t need to come in with your mind made up, but it helps to know whether you can afford hardwood before you fall in love with it.

“I can’t tell you how many clients come into the store and have a dollar amount they won’t exceed when they haven’t shopped for flooring in twenty years,” Chappell says.

Also, flooring materials change all the time. So if you haven’t shopped in a while, make sure you know what the terms mean. For example, linoleum is not the same thing as vinyl. Engineered wood is not the same thing as laminate.

Then spend some time with the sales staff at the flooring store says Mark Geller, owner of Flooring Designs, a specialty showroom under the same roof as Coyle Carpet. Options are unlimited, and numerous manufacturers will offer what appear to be identical carpeting—the same color, the same pile, the same pattern—but in different grades and fibers and at different price points. Knowledgeable professionals can help walk homeowners through the options to find the best selection.

Alicia Szekeres, co-owner of Nature Stone of Wisconsin, agrees that customers should take advantage of the selection assistance to ensure that they are satisfied once flooring is installed. “We’ve never had anyone regret their color choice,” Szekeres says. “We spend a lot of time with our customers choosing the right color.”

Most shoppers are considering more than just color; cost is also critical to decision making. However, Geller warns shoppers that economy and value are not the same thing, and he strongly advises shoppers against purchasing on price alone. Experience matters, he says, and skilled staff can accurately measure and estimate orders to ensure that your selection looks as good in your home as possible. In other words, the exact same carpeting can look different in your home depending on where you buy it and who installs it, so going with the lowest bid isn’t always the smartest choice.

“It’s not a game about the least amount of carpeting it takes to carpet your house. It’s getting the right amount of carpet so we do it properly,” Geller says. “If there’s a seam in the middle of a main walkway, maybe that ends up there because you didn’t figure the right amount of carpet. It’s not all about price.”

Geller also advises homeowners to consider higher quality. For shoppers planning to stay in their homes for several years or more, it is probably worth it to invest a little more in higher quality carpet that will last longer and hold up to wear better. “Spend a little more for a higher quality carpet,” he says. “In fact, spend twenty-five percent more. Carpet is such a tough thing to replace, and you’re much better off spending a little more for new carpet and having it last longer.”

Quality is only one factor in longevity. Proper maintenance also determines how long your flooring will last and how good it will look while you have it. Gordon Massey, owner of MASS Carpet Cleaning, a locally owned professional commercial and residential floor-cleaning company, recommends professional carpet cleaning twice a year in most circumstances. “It’s amazing what we can get out of carpets that look clean,” he says.

Don’t be fooled, he says, by the do-it-yourself machines at grocery and home-improvement stores. They are not comparable to what a professional can offer. “The rental machines don’t have the power that you need,” he says. “Carpet is really tough stuff and it’s meant to hold dirt. You just can’t get the power you need out of the wall socket to get your carpet clean.”

Rental machines are also more likely to leave detergent residues that attract and trap dirt, soon making carpeting look worse than it did before cleaning.

Massey advises homeowners and businesses looking to hire a floor cleaning company to do a little homework. Equipment and experience can vary dramatically, so following up on references is important. He advises home and business owners to make sure companies use truck mounts that supply all their own water and power, and he recommends asking about drying time. Carpet-cleaning chemicals are also getting greener, so eco-conscious consumers should inquire about that as well.

Most of all, Massey encourages both home and business owners to consider professionally cleaning their flooring—carpeting, wood, vinyl or other material—before replacing it. “People just don’t realize how different a true professional cleaning is,” he says. “We can come in and make a floor look brand new.”

Maintenance is important for all flooring. Even products like Nature Stone, which is a blend of natural stone and epoxy especially formulated to go over concrete, benefits from a regular maintenance schedule. “Nature Stone is permanent, so once the flooring is done and everything is moved back it, that’s it. There’s no more worry about any future flooring replacement,” Szekeres says. Yet she notes that even Nature Stone benefits from regular vacuuming and an annual deep steam cleaning.

Protecting flooring is another valuable maintenance strategy particularly for hardwood flooring. That is where area rugs can be valuable. They protect wood floors in high-traffic or high use areas and they also function as accessories that tie together or enhance décor.

“Rugs are an accessory, but they are also necessary,” says Kelly Hofmeister, manager at Woodworks, a west-side furniture showroom that also carries area rugs and other accessories. Rugs, she points out, also provide color, warmth and sound control. With patterns and colors running the gamut from traditional Middle Eastern or Indian motifs to splashy, geometric or abstract contemporary patterns, area rugs can suit any interior.

Hofmeister recommends looking for durable materials, such as wool, that are tightly tufted or woven. Those will last the longest, feel the softest and repel stains the best. Another tip is to always use a rug pad—whether it’s on a hardwood floor or on top of carpeting—to extend the lift of the rug.

Another benefit? Safety, says Hofmeister. “A pad keeps the rug in place so it doesn’t slide out beneath you.”

– Jennifer Garrett


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