Tom Silva
Choosing the right flooring for a particular room in your home may seem like a daunting decision. It's a process that combines your personal taste with careful thinking about practicality. After all, it's a surface you, your family and friends will walk, stand and sit on, your kids will spill, play and grow up on. But asking yourself a few key questions at the beginning of the process should help reduce your worry, ease your choice and increase your long-term satisfaction with your new floor.
Questions on the Floor
What's the size of the family that will regularly use the room, and how much traffic will the floor receive? Children definitely make a difference. Any pets? Will the floor be exposed to moisture regularly? How often is the floor likely to need cleaning? How long do you hope and expect your new floor to last?
Kitchens
For kitchen flooring, durability and ease of cleaning are top criteria. Good choices are linoleum, ceramic tile--both very common--and wood. Linoleum is inexpensive and provides an easy-to-clean surface and comes in countless designs. Ceramic tiles are even better. Also easy to maintain and available in a huge range, they offer superior durability, resisting most dents, dings and scratches. There are a couple of things to bear in mind about tiles, however. One is that if installed over a floor that has structural movement, ceramic tiles are prone to crack. So if your house is very old, it's probably a good idea to replace your subfloor while you're at it. A second point that's worth thinking about, particularly if your family includes children or anyone with special safety needs, is that smooth tiles can be very slippery when they get wet, so you may want to consider ones with a textured surface.
Then there's wood. While some feel it's an unusual choice now that there are so many different flooring options, I personally think hardwood is an excellent choice for the kitchen. Everybody ends up spending a lot of time there, and wood floors can add a great deal of "homeyness" to the kitchen. At the same time, wood is also good at coping with the high traffic volume. One important reminder: When installing wood flooring in a kitchen, do make sure you apply a good protective finish, such as a polyurethane, to guard against the many kinds of moisture that inevitably make their way onto the kitchen floor.
Bathrooms
Even more so than kitchens, bathrooms obviously see a lot of moisture. Linoleum, ceramic tile, limestone, marble and granite are all popular and functional flooring choices, coming with a range of different price tags and requiring various levels of expertise to install. Working with ceramic or even vinyl tiles is relatively easy, and many homeowners should be able to successfully do it themselves. Ceramic tiles look great and provide superb durability, but they aren't cheap. And if you should elect to go with an even more challenging and higher-end material such as marble--as Rob Thompson did in his master bath during the recent West Palm Beach renovation--you're going to need to hire professionals.

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