This Will Floor You

This Will Floor You

What is it: Hardwood floors are prized in a home because of their rich look and durability. Wood floors can come in any color, from light blonde to deep espresso. Oak, maple and birch are all harvested in the Wisconsin Northwoods and are popular (and sustainable!) choices.There are two types of wood floors: prefinished and unfinished (or site-finished, as it’s also called). We’re putting in a lot of unfinished hardwood and then people pick the stain color,” says Mark Geller, president at Flooring Designs. “The floor is stained and finished on-site.”

Pros: “Site-finished is the elite for resale value,” says Tracey Lust, owner of Yankee Classic Flooring and Trades. Site-finished floors can be custom-stained as well as have inlays, too, says Lust. And wood floors accumulate heat better than carpeting, and are hypoallergenic and easy to clean.

Cons: Unfinished floors have a seamless look because after they’re sanded and finished on-site there are virtually no board seams, but they are more labor-intensive to install. Prefinished floors have more visible seams, and dirt and dust can accumulate in the cracks.

Cost: $6.50 and up per square foot, including labor (depending on wood species).

What is it: Larger tiles twelve to twenty-four inches in diameter are hot right now. Unique shapes and colors enhance the customer’s choice, like natural stone, metallics, patterns, polished concrete—even highly unique tiles that look like wood or fabrics.

Pros: “Tile can last the life of the house,” says Geller. “It’s extremely durable, doesn’t look worn out, and doesn’t absorb stains.” Grout lines have decreased and cleaning has been made easier with new silicone-based grout, says Lust.

Cons: Natural stone tiles need to be sealed. Tile is cold in the winter, but customers can opt to install an electric floor warming mat underneath, says Geller. It’s not great for those who love to cook and stand for long periods in the kitchen—it can be hard on feet and joints—so consider a softer surface like hardwood or cork. Customers should have tile installed by a professional because tile can crack if there are subfloor issues—something a professional will check before it’s installed.

Cost: $6–$15/square foot installed.

What is it: Today’s carpets are commonly made out of nylon, polyester, acrylic or wool. (Each has pros and cons; check out for more information). Carpet is excellent for injecting a little style in a room (houndstooth or striped patterns, anyone?) and adds warmth and softness under the feet.

Pros: Carpet is much greener than in the past, says Lust. “Greener carpet alternatives can reduce noxious overload in homes. Natural fibers present the most environmentally friendly alternatives in wool, sisal, jute, coir and sea grass.” Seconds Geller: “Carpet is being made out of recycled materials. Once we tear it out, it gets recycled and turned back into carpet or some other product. Very little of it goes to the landfill anymore.” Carpet is also much more stain-resistant and resilient nowadays.

Cons: Traffic wear is the biggest concern—although Lust and Geller both say that carpet really is stronger these days—fading or traffic wear can still become visible. Outdated patterns and designs are also a reality, so go for a neutral design for a timeless look.

Cost: $20–$150/yard including a six-pound pad and installation.

Cork: This sustainable product is soft to stand on, forgiving and hypoallergenic. It’s easy to take care of, too—just use a hardwood floor cleaner. “You can get really fun colors and patterns—red, yellow, checkerboard—or do a simple off-white or caramel,” says Lust.

Laminate: “Laminate is basically a photo print of a wood or tile floor put on to a man-made material,” explains Lust. It resists scratching and can handle high traffic. It’s also easy enough to install yourself, she says.

Marmoleum: This is the new, improved Linoleum. Made with a plant oil (lanolin), it’s eco friendly. Marmoleum, unlike Linoleum, is coated with acrylic so it’s virtually maintenance free—that means no waxing required, like with Linoleum.

Vinyl: Vinyl can make for funky looks. “High end vinyl can mimic ceramic tiles and hardwood floors. It’s indestructible and comes in gorgeous colors.”

Shayna Miller is associate and style editor of Madison Magazine.