New Flooring Options

Flooring selection is one of the most important - and expensive - decisions that buyers make in a new home, so it's no surprise that they are paying closer attention to this decision. Consumer hot buttons include affordability, durability and environmental consciousness, and the latest flooring choices address all of these.

Green Choices

As is true with other materials, sustainability is a major trend in flooring, according to Joe Ventura, president of ArtWalk Tile, a national tile retailer in Rochester, N.Y. Ventura specializes in LEED-certified products such as cork and bamboo floors, as well as tiles that make use of recycled material, or that are made in a sustainable manner: for instance by recycling the water used to press the tiles, or reusing the heat from the kilns to heat the building they're produced in. "They are a little more expensive than normal tiles, but when people hear they're green products, they don't mind about that extra 50 cents or dollar per square foot," Ventura says.

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based flooring consultant David Capezza says that one of the most interesting green trends he's seeing in flooring today is the resurgence in what he calls "upscale linoleum." It's made entirely from natural materials: a combination of linseed oil, wood or cork powder, resins, and ground limestone, attached to a jute backing. It's also easy to install; requires no underlayment; is very durable and waterproof; and comes in a variety of styles that mimic other materials, such as tile, wood, slate and even marble.

Manufacture green flooring with recycled material in a sustainable manner

Tile Innovations

Ceramic tile remains a wonderful flooring option for the kitchen and bath, and some of the newer choices also hit the green button. For instance, Shaw Floors recently announced a line of porcelain tile, designed in Italy and manufactured in the U.S., with 40 percent recycled content. The recycled material makes the tile more environmentally friendly and also helps control costs, says Emily Morrow, owner of Emily Morrow Home.

Another innovation is tiles manufactured with clips, such as Snap Stone and Kwik-Tile. They allow installers to snap the floor together quickly, and eliminate the need for mortar or backer board - both of which raise the installed cost of a tile floor.

Like all ceramic tile, these new options are waterproof and virtually indestructible, and offer looks ranging from rustic to contemporary. "Some of the decorative tiles and mosaics offer ways to incorporate interesting design elements into a floor without breaking the bank," says interior designer Ceil Petrucelli of Bennington, Vt. "You could do some type of a border with mosaics or make a rug pattern in a bathroom floor."

Tile flooring manufactured with recycled materials

Some buyers love the look of hardwood flooring but are less enamored of the high cost, or the warping, expansion and contraction that are common with solid wood. For those people, Morrow and Capezza point out that the lower-cost options of engineered hardwood (a plywood or fiberboard core topped with a hardwood veneer) and hardwood laminate (similar in construction but with a laminate top veneer that's made to look like real wood) have progressed light years in terms of quality, ease of installation and durability.

Capezza says that people looking at traditional hardwoods would be remiss not to consider engineered wood. "In the past, the choices offered by engineered floors were limited, but now you can get them in exotic tones. And the veneers are thicker than ever so the product will last longer."

There has also been innovation in hardwood laminates, according to Morrow. She works in research and development and frequently looks at prototypes of new products. "I come through and give it my high heels' test," she says. "They have fooled me with the sound, the touch and look of laminate."

Hardwood laminate and engineered wood flooring

Whether the choice is wood, tile or linoleum flooring, Morrow says there's one thing that needs to be considered: the realities of daily life. "We're moving away from any flooring that is high-maintenance," she says. Manufacturers are now offering more textured surfaces; mottled surfaces; and heavily grained hand-scraped products. "All those products make it easy for families to live in their homes and not spend all their time wiping off footprints and handprints."