Finding the Perfect Hardwood Floor
How to Begin Shopping for the Perfect Flooring

How to Begin Shopping for the Perfect Flooring

So you’ve decided to purchase new flooring for your home. But with so many design options and flooring materials to choose from, where do you begin? Following are some important things to consider in narrowing down your flooring selection to one that best meets function with style.

Location, location, location

The location of the room you are planning to cover is one of the most important considerations when determining the best flooring material to purchase. Not all flooring is suited for use in all locations. This is especially true when a home is built on a concrete slab or for rooms that are below grade. For example, basements tend to be damp due to ground moisture. Therefore, flooring that is highly susceptible to damage from moisture and humidity, such as solid hardwood, is not the best choice in this room. Here, an engineered wood is a better alternative.

Diagram of flooring grade installationSo the first question to answer is: Will the flooring be installed in a room that is above grade, on grade, or below grade?

Other important location questions to consider include:

  • Does the room directly open up to the outside, creating the possibility for tracked-in dirt and moisture?
  • Does the room get direct sunlight that could potentially fade the flooring?
  • Is the room susceptible to dramatic changes in temperature?
  • Does the room visually flow into other rooms within the home, or does it stand alone?

Consider the use

The room’s use is another big factor. For instance, is the flooring for a kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room where moisture, mold, mildew, and the possibility of spills or standing water are of concern? Is slip-resistance important? Is the flooring for a family room where food and beverages will be consumed? Will kids play in this room? Will pets be allowed in this room? Is this a high-traffic area of the home? Ensure your flooring choice is durable enough to stand up to your room’s specific use.

Get the best bang for your buck

New flooring is a big investment. So it’s always a good idea to think about not only what you are willing to spend, but also the value you will get from your flooring purchase. For example, some hardwood floors are more expensive than many laminate floors with a similar wood appearance, but most wood floors can last a lifetime with proper maintenance and never go out of style, which may not be true with other flooring types. What is driving your flooring purchase? Are you overhauling an outdated room to give it a renewed style that you will enjoy for years? Or are you replacing old, worn out flooring in an effort to quickly sell your home? In the latter case, something less expensive may be a quick fix. However, if you are hoping to increase resale value with new flooring, an engineered wood, for example, may be a better investment than a laminate. Keeping in mind the expectations you have for the flooring will help determine the best value for your money.

Bedroom hardwood flooring stylesMarry function with design

Once you’ve narrowed down the best flooring choices based on location and function, and you’ve crunched the numbers, next comes the fun part – choosing the flooring style that best fits your design aesthetic. How do you want the room to feel – formal and elegant, causal and comfortable, or a little bit of both? Is your style traditional, rustic, contemporary, or a bit eclectic? Will the flooring set the tone for the room or serve as a neutral backdrop to your furnishings? Are you using flooring to visually open up a small space or divide a large space?

When shopping for flooring at a showroom, bring items that will help match flooring with your décor, such as paint chips or fabric swatches. Many stores offer a free in-home decorating consultation, which is a great way to test out samples with your décor and see how they look in the natural lighting in your home.

Know ALL the costs

It’s important to investigate any additional costs. If your flooring retailer offers in-home estimates, ask if there is a charge for this service. If so, will this apply to the cost of the purchase? Be clear about any preferences you may have for the direction of the pattern or layout of your flooring. For solid hardwood installations, discuss how planks with extreme color variations will be used – in closets or under furniture, for example. For carpet, discuss ways to minimize the number of exposed carpet seams. Some flooring styles will require additional material (and costs) to achieve your custom look.

Ask about installation procedures and any related charges. Will installation require the removal of the existing floor or the addition of a subfloor? Is this service provided, and if so, at what charge? Is there an extra charge to move furniture? If purchasing carpet, is the carpet cushion included in the price? How much extra is it to upgrade the cushion? Who is responsible for disposing of old carpet and padding, and is there an additional fee? If there are unopened boxes of tile or wood after installation, will the retailer buy these back? Be sure to get all the answers you need before scheduling your installation.

Kitchen hardwood flooring stylesUnderstand the product warranty and maintenance instructions

Finally, be sure you understand the product warranty and the specifics of what is covered – and what is not. For instance, some flooring manufacturers will not honor warranties if issues result after a DIY installation. If the retailer is handling the installation, find out what the installation warranty covers and if the retailer offers after-sale support.

Understanding the proper maintenance instructions is also critical. Find out which cleaning products are recommended and which are not – and how use of improper products may impact the product warranty.

Prepare for the perfect purchase

The better prepared you are going into the buying process, the likelier you are to select the best flooring for your home. Arming yourself with the right questions is the perfect first step to finding the flooring of your dreams.