ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JANET HAMOUS
If spring fever has you itching to give your home a new look, updated floor covering may be just the facelift your house needs.
Whether you’re looking for the trendy or the tried and true, local experts can help you sort through the choices and find the floor material that is right for your home.
“Nationwide, they say there’s a trend toward flooring rather than floor covering-floor covering being something you expect to replace down the road like carpet or vinyl,” said Jeannie Wildin of County Seat Decorating Center in Marion. “The trend is toward flooring, which becomes a permanent part of your home.”
That trend has sparked interest in what decorators call “hard surface” materials such as ceramic tile, wood, natural stone and laminates.
“We’re still selling a lot of carpet,” said Wildin, “but we’re definitely seeing a trend toward some hard surface.”
Wildin said the hard surface flooring is often more expensive than traditional floor coverings such as carpet or vinyl.
“But it’s flooring, not floor covering, and it becomes a permanent part of your house,” she said. “If you factor in that you will have to replace the floor covering after a number of years, over the life of the house you are probably breaking even or maybe even saving some money.”
Laminate flooring hit the market several years ago and is still riding a wave of popularity, Wildin said.
“They’ve gone from a system where you had to glue it together to where it just snaps together,” she said. “So it’s perfect for the do-it-yourselfer.”
Wildin said the quality of the various products on the market varies greatly.
“There are cheap laminates that I would never put in my house,” she said. “But there are some really good products. You’ll pay more for the product, but if you can save on the installation, that’s a good thing.”
Wildin said they give buyers instructions on how to install the laminate, and they also have videotapes that provide step by step guidance.
For customers who want the rich look of real wood without the expense of solid wood, Wildin recommends “engineered” woods.
“They’re essentially a plywood, but they run the grain opposite directions every layer, and that actually makes a more stable wood product than solid wood,” she said. “Solid wood is affected so much by the environment.
“With heat, humidity and cold, wood is constantly bending and contracting and warping and shrinking. Engineered floors are far more stable.”
Customers who opt for wood should be forewarned that wood floors do take extra care, Wildin said.
“You can’t just mop it with water,” she said.
Wood floor buyers should also be aware that rugs may be needed on top of the floor to absorb the sound.
“They say that 99 percent of the people who put a wood floor in will buy an area rug within one week,” she said. “Because you get those hard surfaces in your home and the room starts echoing.”
Home decorating magazines are full of pictures of rooms with ceramic tile. Wildin said tile is a popular replacement for floor covering in “kitchens, bathrooms, utility rooms dining rooms.”
“Ceramic tile is awesome on the floor,” she said. “You get a richer look aesthetically. It’s beautiful.”
Wildin has tile in her own home and says it is easy to maintain.
“Once a year I do some extra cleaning on the grout, but usually it’s just mopping it like I would if I had linoleum,” Wildin said.
When selecting a ceramic tile, Wilden advises buyers to select a tile that won’t become dated.
“It’s becoming a permanent part of your house,” she said. “I try to make selections that have a timeless look.”
Wildin said ceramic tile “is not as conducive to being a do-it-yourself product.”
“There are people who do it, and I’ve seen some really botched ceramic tile jobs,” she said. “When that happens, it’s really sad because they’ve just permanently put it in their house.”
One complaint some people have about ceramic tile is that it can be cold underfoot. But Wildin said that all depends on the installation.
“There are heating units that you can put under the tile,” she said. “So you can have it so it feels totally toasty warm on your feet.”
Sheryl Baker of Baker Furniture and Carpet in Peabody said she still prefers the more traditional floor coverings that don’t need as much dust mopping.
“As far as decorating, I think these new hard surfaces are great. People love it because it looks expensive and it’s kind of classy looking,” she said. “But personally, I still like living on carpet.”
She said she finds the hard surfaces “cold, hard, inhospitable and hard to take care of.”
“That’s why people started using carpet instead of hardwood floors,” she said. “It’s warmer, quieter, insulating, and carpets repel about every kind of stain there is.”
Baker said even coffee and Jell-O stains can be removed from today’s stain-resistant carpeting.
“If people have a difficult time, I always give them a formula of two cleaning agents that work,” she said. “Everybody has them already in their home.”
“That’s ammonia and peroxide-you just mix the two in equal parts and put it on a stain and let it soak there for 20 minutes.”
Baker said to blot the stain, you use several layers of white paper toweling, and, if there’s a lot of liquid, you layer newspapers on top to weight it down.
“The stain and the liquid will wick up into the paper, taking the stain with it,” she said. “It’s easy and it works.”
Baker said the buzz word in carpet right now is frieze (pronounced fri-zay). It is a type of textured carpet that is highly twisted and designed for high-traffic areas.
“We’re using a lot of friezes,” said Baker. “Some people call it shag, but it isn’t shag-it’s a much tighter twist and has a lot of texture. And it isn’t the maintenance problem that shag was.”
Neoma Flaming, co-owner of Hillsboro Carpet Center, said she is still seeing a lot of interest in berbers and even commercial carpeting in homes.
“In carpet, about anything goes now days-it’s personal preference,” she said.
She has two carpets on order from England and Belgium that come complete with the pad on the back of them.
“Most carpets you put tack strip down and you stretch it in,” she said. “These you cut, then you just lay it in the room and you’re done. Then if you want to move, you can just roll it up and take it with you.”
Flaming said she is also seeing a trend back to vinyl, which can be a cost-effective alternative to ceramic tile.
“Where they used to have kitchen carpet, they’re doing vinyl now,” she said. “You can wash and clean your floor and it’s really clean.
“When you have a carpet, you spill things and they soak in the carpet. You can clean it, but it’s really not squeaky clean.”
She said vinyl has been popular with many grandparents who want to grandchild-proof their homes.
“There are several who have taken their carpet out of the dining room and put in vinyl,” Flaming said. “When you get older, it’s harder to clean and it’s easier to clean up on vinyl than it is on the carpet.”
Flaming said people who haven’t purchased floor covering in a while will be surprised at how different today’s vinyl is from yesterday’s linoleum.
“Linoleum sounds to me like something from the olden days,” Flaming said. “Vinyl is so much better than linoleum-they’ve improved it so much. My best vinyl is thick and has a more cushiony feeling.”
Sheryl Baker said she also likes the look and durability of the new vinyls.
“The cushioned vinyl is stronger and more scratch and cut resistant to compete with the new natural materials like stone and ceramic,” she said.
It also meets her requirement of being easy to care for.
“Some women love to house clean-they’re neat-nicks,” she said with a laugh. “But I pick things I hope aren’t going to make us slaves.”