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Go ahead. Let the dog in. Juggle your coffee, your crossword and a piece of toast on the way to the sofa. Pour the red wine at the party. Today's flooring can take it. From hardwood and tile to stone composites—and even carpeting—floors now are made for living.
Cost and comfort are key factors for many flooring shoppers. Carpeting often has a friendlier price point and feel than hard surfaces, especially for families with young children who spend a lot of time on the floor. But it is that same group of shoppers that struggles with carpeting because it inevitably shows the telltale signs of life with the preschool set
Paul Dominie, general manager of Coyle Carpet One Floor and Home, says it
doesn't have to be that way anymore. Many new carpets can handle all the curve balls—and hot cocoa spills—that life throws at them. In fact, Dominie says durability and stain resistance have never been better. Plus, manufacturers are taking things one step further with warrantees that essentially guarantee that carpeting can stand up to normal living without looking worse for the wear.
"We have products warranted against coffees and teas and harsh dyes," Dominie says. "We're talking about lifetime warranties."
Homeowners are required to properly clean their carpeting, but if a stain won't come out, the manufacturer will send out a professional team to repair the damage or replace the carpeting. "Basically, you've got no risk," Dominie says. "If you're an active family, you don't have to worry about spilling things and ruining your carpet."
Worry-free living is one of the features that attracts homeowners to hard flooring. People also love the beauty of wood, tiles, stone and other natural materials. Nothing is more durable: Properly installed, most natural flooring can last a lifetime.
Allen Curran, senior designer at Bella Domicile, says natural choices such as tile, stone and wood are still the mainstays for kitchens. The hues of each run the gamut, so the homeowner has seemingly unlimited options. Curren advises clients, however, to avoid monochromatic looks in their kitchens. Instead of matching flooring to cabinetry, he encourages homeowners to create contrast.
"Especially in a kitchen if you walk into a space and you have wood floors and matching cabinetry," he says, "the eye is going to be starving for a focal point."
Tile and stone, Curran notes, are still tops for bathrooms. Not only do they withstand the high moisture, but they also work well with in-floor radiant heat, which makes stepping out of the shower an altogether different experience.
The ability to withstand moisture is also important for lower levels. "When some flooring gets saturated, it has to be thrown out," says Alicia Szekeres, co-owner of Nature Stone of Wisconsin. "But Nature Stone can withstand any kind of water that enters the basement. It's permanent."
Nature Stone is a stone composite that won't trap moisture between the flooring and the concrete, making it an excellent choice for basements that are prone to mold or mildew. So if the water heater leaks, the washing machine overflows, or the sewer line backs up, Nature Stone can take it.
The product also works with radiant heat, which is a popular choice for basements as well as bathrooms.
Above all, Dominie, Curran and Szekeres agree that shoppers are as concerned with durability and performance as they are with price. In essence, they are looking for value. And they're finding it.
*SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL SECTION
Most people don't hesitate to see their doctors for preventive care. When they get sick, they usually make an appointment before the illness gets severe and hard to treat. But they tend not to do the same with legal issues. "People often wait way too long to consult an attorney," says Joe Boucher, cofounder of Neider & Boucher, S.C., which specializes in legal services for small- to medium-sized businesses and their owners. But for both businesses and consumers, having a relationship with an attorney can actually end up saving them money. Boucher cites an example on the business side. "If a business owner wants to sell a company, and works with a potential buyer to put together an agreement, and they agree on a price—and then come to us—the owner may have locked him- or herself into terms that aren't advantageous," he explains. "It'll likely end up costing more, and taking more time, than if the owner had come to us up front." On the personal side, he says many people approach his firm for estate planning after a loved one has died or become incapacitated, causing a costly, time-consuming legal tangle. Then they see the value of proactively developing an estate plan. Doing so—and updating it regularly as your circumstances change—can make things go much more smoothly for your beneficiaries and heirs. That's true with a personal estate plan and with the succession plan for a business. Neider & Boucher helps businesses plan for an orderly change in ownership, whether it happens according to plan or because of an unanticipated event. Prospective business owners should also consult an attorney before starting a business, Boucher indicates. And during the course of business, attorneys can help with things like large equipment purchases, establishing a patent, employment issues, raising capital, or protecting a brand or intellectual property. Whatever the legal issue, if you're going to involve an attorney, do so in advance. "Don't start the process before you call your attorney. That's like starting a remodeling project and then calling in a professional when you get into trouble," says Boucher. "Get to know your attorney over time, so they know your legal history," he advises. "Then when you do call, you can have a five-minute conversation instead of a five-hour one." He recently got a call from a client he's known for ten years. "He left me a short message, saying, ‘Do this, don't do that, I'm going to New Zealand for three weeks.' I know his situation, so I understand what he means and can get it done for him while he's gone." Your attorney can also help educate you about handling some legal matters. "I've taught at the UW for thirty years and I've written books; I want to educate people," says Boucher. "We want our clients to understand what things they can do on their own. Sometimes when clients come in with an issue, we tell them they can handle it themselves. Some don't even call us—we've trained them to know what they can do on their own." *SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL SECTION
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