About Hiring a Flooring Service Provider

More than any other element of your home, flooring gets the steadiest use and creates the most basic ambiance of a room. Does your personal style call for wood floors or carpeting in the living room and bedrooms? Do you prefer a marble bathroom floor or a softer vinyl tile? In the kitchen, do you make clean-up a priority and prefer function over form? Your floors should be attractive as well as durable, and it’s important to do some research so that you do not invest in flooring that scores high marks on looks but low points for practicality.

Where Do I Start?

Take note of your flooring needs before you speak to any flooring professionals. What type of flooring exists in these rooms now, and what lies beneath them? How much traffic will be in the room you want to recover? Is the subfloor suitable, or will it cost you money to fix it before installing the new floor? If you have children and/or pets, do you want to select a floor covering that is more practical than exotic? Or do you want to invest in imported hard tile to complement your new state-of-the-art gourmet kitchen? To get ideas, look through home furnishing magazines and pay a visit to a flooring showroom or two. Internet sites that will help you learn more about flooring options include FloorFacts, a consumer site filled with links and information (www.floorfacts.com), the National Wood Flooring Association’s site (www.woodfloors.org) and the Carpet & Rug Institute’s site (www.carpet-rug.com).

Service and Warranties

The flooring company as well as the flooring material manufacturers should have warranties for your new floor coverings. Before you sign a work agreement, find out exactly who will be installing your floor: will your contact from the firm be doing the job himself, or bringing in a different crew? Check the work agreement to make sure that the firm will supply nails, glue and other installation accessories.

Know Your Floor

Insist upon receiving written information about the care and maintenance of your new flooring. What cleaning products should you use, and what should you definitely avoid? Is there a standard timetable for cleaning your hardwood floor or carpeting? Does your carpet warranty come with a consumer hotline for stain emergencies? Who can you call for advice about stains and/or damage?

What Are My Choices?

  • Wood
    A real wood floor never goes out of style. It compliments every décor, from minimalist to Louis XIV, and ages gracefully. The most popular woods used in flooring are oak and maple, which can be stained or color washed to your exact specifications. Wood flooring can be designed in numerous patterns, limited only by your imagination (and budget). Some of the most popular are parquet, plank, strip and herringbone. When choosing a stain color, have your contractor apply a few color samples and look at them in different kinds of light. Think of the ambiance you are trying to create in the room—traditional or modern, causal or formal, spacious or cozy. Wood floors can also be bleached for a light and airy look or painted. Hardwood floors can be customized to satisfy every taste and personality and installed in any room regardless of what type of flooring—concrete floors, existing floorboards or particleboard subflooring—is already there.

    Aesthetically, a wooden floor is stunning. But consider a few issues before you make this your final choice. How much traffic does the room get every day? Hardwood floors can be dented and scratched, especially from high-heel shoes. Although a variety of urethane finishes provide excellent protection (and shine), they do not completely prevent dents and scratches. These same finishes, however, make wood floors much easier to clean and maintain than previous generations of wood flooring. Humidity is another factor to consider. If the humidity in your area varies from season to season, a wood floor may expand and contract with the rise and fall of moisture in the air. Storing the wood on site for a period of time before installing will allow the wood to acclimatize to the specific humidity level in the home. The service provider should consider whether the floor is being installed in a particularly humid or dry time of the year, and make his measurements accordingly.

  • Laminates
    If you love the look of real wood but have an active household, laminate flooring may be the perfect choice for you. Laminates are plastic- or wood-based products that look like hardwood. They come in various textures, are durable and easy to maintain. Laminates can also imitate the look of stone, marble or tile, offering a wide variety of creative looks you may not have imagined. A wood-patterned laminate floor has some significant advantages over the real thing; for example, it will not be discolored by sunlight and is very scratch resistant. Laminate floors wear well and usually come with a guarantee of ten years or more.

    Cleanups are also a breeze with laminate flooring. Laminates repel liquid and do not allow stains to set in. This point alone saves your floor, your time and your psychological well-being.

    Both hardwood floors and laminates, while possessing the great qualities of longevity and beauty, are quite expensive. If you are looking to invest less money, you may want to explore vinyl or carpet floor coverings.

  • Vinyl
    Vinyl floor covering (linoleum) is the least expensive choice and offers more options than any other type of flooring. Patterns range from classic black-and-white squares to brick, stone, abstract shapes, animal prints—just about anything you can dream up has already been manufactured in a vinyl print. Vinyl is a very popular flooring, but it’s important to consider that this material is vulnerable to cuts, rips and scratches from furniture that may be moved across it or sharp objects that fall to the floor. Although it resists moisture, vinyl can stain, so spills need to be handled quickly and carefully according to the manufacturer’s directions.

  • Carpeting
    A cozy, lush floor covering, carpeting adds warmth, soundproofing, texture, color and insulation to a room. When considering carpeting, inquire about the carpet’s durability and consider whether it will receive light-, medium- or heavy-duty use. Industry experts suggest light duty for occasionally trafficked areas, medium duty for the bedroom or office, and heavy duty for hallways, stairs and other high-traffic areas. Carpeting requires extra maintenance as stains are more difficult to remove and general cleaning is more work. If you or someone in your home is allergy prone, carpeting is not a good option because it retains dirt, dust and other particles.

  • Hard Tile
    Ceramic, quarry (stone, including marble) and terra cotta make up this premium category of floor covering. The look and feel of a hard-tiled floor is unlike any other, with grooves and textures that can be felt underfoot. Often used in kitchens and baths, tile flooring can give a distinct look and originality to any room in your home. In light colors, these materials do take on stains, so it is important to keep this in mind when choosing hard tile for particular rooms. Tile may be one of the most expensive kinds of flooring, but its remarkable beauty and longevity make it a good investment.

On Cost

Some floor installers charge by the square foot and others by the hour. If your service provider charges by the hour, confirm that this fee is per person per hour or for the whole team. Will they charge for moving furniture around? Make sure your order includes extra quantities of flooring in your dye lot to replace broken, worn or stained parts in the future. This is especially crucial with hard tile which can crack if something heavy is dropped on it, and any material which stains easily.

Questions to Ask Your Flooring Service Provider

Does the company have its own workshop? If so, they will have more control over the product than one that purchases its materials from another supplier. Ask the company if they do repairs as well as installation. If you need repairs done at a later date, you will probably have more clout if you also had the same contractor install your flooring.

Flooring Comparison Chart

Ratings: Very Poor * Poor ** Average *** Good **** Excellent *****
Basic Floor Types Vinyl Wood Laminate Hard Tile Carpet
Ease of Maintenance **** *** **** **** ***
Damage Resistance ** *** **** ***** ***
Moisture Resistance **** * *** ***** *
Stain Resistance *** ** ***** ***** **
Fade Resistance *** ** ***** ***** ***
Scratch Resistance ** *** **** **** N/A
Ease of Repairing * *** ** ** *
Softness Under Foot ** * * * *****
Design/Color Selection ***** ** ** *** ***
*Price Range (sq. ft.) $.50 - $4.50
$2.50 - $6.00 $2.50 - $5.00 $2.50 - $8.00 $.50 - $5.00

*The price range is for material only and is to be used as a general guideline. Prices will vary from supplier to supplier.
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