Five rules for choosing, installing and maintaining flooring
You spill things on it. You drag things across it. You walk all over it. And still you expect your flooring to look great day in and day out. Well, it can—and it will, as long as you follow a few simple rules.
Rule #1: Buy for Your Lifestyle
Yes, wood floors as far as the eye can see—even in the kitchen and bathroom—can give a new house a warm and rustic look. And fluffy off-white carpeting in the bedroom can be soft and soothing underfoot, especially when winter’s chill lingers into spring. But if you have a house full of four-legged friends or a preschooler prone to spills, you might want to think twice or three times before putting form above function.
“First and foremost, when selecting a flooring material, take a true look at your lifestyle,” says Amanda Funk, lead designer and product specialist with JG Development, a Madison-area contractor offering complete remodeling and new-construction services. “If the durability of the flooring material does not correlate with your lifestyle, the aesthetic value that drew you to the product will degrade quickly.”
So what about wood for a dog-loving, messy cook? “A better choice would be to opt for something more durable, like an oversized tile throughout the heavy traffic areas and use the wood you fell in love with in an office or bedroom that won’t get as much use.”
Rule #2: Consider Quality
With something that takes as much of a beating as flooring, differences in quality will become apparent quickly. Don’t buy your flooring twice. Cutting corners up front might mean you’ll have to replace your floors much sooner than you anticipated, which comes at no small expense and great inconvenience.
“Flooring can be quite the investment,” says Nick Miller, a flooring sales expert at Madison Block and Stone, which sells natural stone products for interior and exterior applications, including countertops and flooring. “However, it receives more use and abuse than any other part of a home or building. When a floor is out of commission we all know the hassles it causes. So it really doesn’t pay to skimp on flooring.”
Jeff Grundahl agrees, and he advises homeowners to consider not only quality of material, but also quality of construction or fabrication “Quality . . . [is the] bottom line for flooring selection,” the owner of JG Development says. “Your flooring should be manufactured to withstand use, which requires a high product standard and adds expense.”
Rule #3: Research Your Options
From finishes to styles to the materials themselves, flooring evolves. If you haven’t been in the market for flooring lately, be sure to explore the options out there. Talk to friends who have built or remodeled. Interview designers. Pop into retailers to see materials in showroom displays.
Linda Young, co-owner of Granite Transformations, with locations in Madison and Rockford, was herself surprised when she first discovered the granite and glass composite floorings that her company sells and installs. A friend in Iowa was remodeling her kitchen and told Young about the company and its products. Soon after Young learned about the versatility, durability and beauty of the flooring, she and her brother did more than use the products in their homes—they bought a company franchise.
“We can do countertops. We can do flooring. We can put it on the wall. We’ve done fireplaces,” Young says. “There are very few surfaces that we can’t figure out a solution to.”
Miller adds that many homeowners are blending materials in applications. An example, he notes, is adding a stone inlay to a wood floor. So while the list of potential materials may be finite, the designs using or combining them are limitless.
Rule #4: Install Properly
The life of your flooring depends as much on quality of installation as it does on quality of material. Skimping on construction, Grundahl notes, can lead to problems and could shorten the life of your flooring.
That is a big reason all Granite Transformations projects are installed by employees and not contractors. “They’ve been trained in how to work with the product,” Young says, noting that her employees know how to prepare sites and make sure conditions are ideal for installation before any product goes in. “It’s important to us because we can control the quality and we can control the customer service.”
Even if you’re not doing it yourself, make sure that the people who are installing your flooring know what they’re doing. Since finishes, seals and even fabrication vary tremendously even among similar tiles or wood planks, be sure to ask if installers have experience with the particular product you are using.
Rule #5: Follow the Manufacturers’ Maintenance Recommendations
Proper maintenance is just as important to durability as material quality and installation, Funk says. “Pay attention to product warranties and cleaning and maintenance guidelines put out by the product manufacturers,” he adds. “There are various recommendations depending on the product, so don’t assume that your all-purpose cleaner is all-purpose!”
Miller reminds homeowners to check the manufacturer recommendations for finishes as well. You want to make sure that the cleaner you use is not only safe for the stone, but also safe for the sealer. “There are many different types of sealers out there,” Miller says. “Following the manufacturer’s recommendations along with common sense will only add to the life of the floor.”
That means you should stay away from chemically abrasive cleaners, bleaches and gritty materials. “And always test a new cleaner in a non-conspicuous area first,” Miller adds.
– Jennifer Garrett
SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL SECTION