There are so many choices available to us to dress the floors of our homes, businesses and shops! Here is an overview of the different materials. This will help you to choose what suits you best.
PVC (vinyl) floors
PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is a material that offers a wide range of colours and patterns, and can even imitate natural materials such as wood flooring, terracotta tiles or concrete to perfection.
PVC floors are economical and easy to install, which makes them a good candidate for interior design, especially for home staging, renovation or preparing a home for rental. They are waterproof, so they can be used in any room. PVC flooring gives a smooth feel and a comfortable floor that is pleasant to touch (no cold feeling).
They come in different forms: rolls of 2, 3 or 4 metres wide that are spread throughout the room, adhesive tiles or strips that are laid like tiles, or clip-on tiles or strips that are managed like laminate flooring.
There are woven vinyl floors (Bolon, Dickson…) which look like textile floors, but with all the advantages of vinyl. They are very resistant, have a good appearance and are easy to maintain. They are also rot-proof and non-slip. They are available in rolls or tiles and are particularly suitable for public environments such as hotels, shops and restaurants.
Finally, for those who may wonder about the environmental impact, it is, contrary to popular belief, limited.
“PVC is the only commonly used plastic material made up of more than 50% of raw materials of mineral origin (salt), the source of which is considered inexhaustible. As a result, its share of non-renewable fossil energy (oil) and therefore its environmental impact are limited compared to other major polymers. Especially since PVC is 100% recyclable!
Source : usinenouvelle.com
People mistakenly call vinyl floors “lino”. However, real linoleum is of natural origin: jute cloth waterproofed with linseed oil and wood powder. This does not make it particularly suitable for damp rooms, as it does not like water.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was widely used in high-traffic areas (department stores, gymnasiums) and in hospitals. Its high resistance and ease of maintenance make it very hygienic, especially as it is bactericidal.
As with PVC floors, there is a wide range of colours and patterns. Thus, it does not deserve its reputation as a “low-end” floor covering, as it is robust, practical, environmentally friendly and offers good sound insulation.
Its only drawback is that it is particularly difficult to handle (it’s heavy!) and the cut must be firm to be neat and precise. As you can see, it is better to go through a professional.
Today, it is the preferred floor covering of the French. It is indeed very shock resistant and easy to maintain. The choice of materials, colours and patterns is immense. It is the use of the room to be tiled that will guide your choice.
- Porcelain stoneware: made from clay with added mineral components (silica, quartz). It is suitable for floors and can imitate marble, stone, wood, metal and even leather! Full body is the most resistant.
- Glazed stoneware: it is covered with a white or coloured glaze. It offers more aesthetic choices but is also more fragile.
- Terracotta: porous ceramic (fired from clay or loam). It is particularly suitable for the floors of old houses (tomettes).
- Zellige: these are glazed terracotta tiles that originated in Morocco. It is a top-of-the-range product that requires the intervention of a professional.
Parquet can be solid (a single species of noble wood) or laminated (3 layers of wood, one of which is noble wood). Laminated parquet is not “made of wood” even if it is well imitated. It consists of 3 layers (an impregnated layer, a layer of wood fibres and the wear layer which contains the decoration).
There are also several types of wood available: oak, chestnut, ash, fir, larch, poplar… Parquet floors can be nailed or glued.
Wooden flooring should be seen as an investment, it is durable, and can be renovated several times (sanded, oiled, varnished). It is natural and always gives the floor a noble, warm and authentic feel, whatever the choice of installation or colour.
It can be left “raw”, without any finish, or varnished, sealed or oiled to protect it from scratches and dirt. Varnishing is recommended for dry rooms, while the most appropriate treatment for a kitchen is oiling (because it can be washed with a cleaning soap).
For the bathroom, the wood must be adapted to humid environments, either by the nature of the wood (e.g. teak, mahogany, etc.) or by the treatment applied to it.
In addition to the finish, the width of the planks is also important: when you want to visually enlarge a room, it is better to choose wide planks. The installation also plays a major role in the style you wish to give to your room: staggered installation, herringbone, herringbone, stone cut, ladder… Patterned” laying requires the use of so-called short planks, which creates a lot of waste.
Cork can also be found in wooden floors: cork floor tiles are a good ecological alternative because they are 100% natural. The contact is soft and warm. This covering is waterproof, solid and easy to lay. It also has good thermal and acoustic insulation.
Natural fiber floors
There are several types of natural fibre flooring:
- Sisal: fibre extracted from the leaves of the agavacea tree. Sisal is very resistant.
- Coir: made from the bark of the coconut.
Sea rush: woven fibres from aquatic plants. It is resistant but still fragile, and not easy to lay.
- Mountain rush: fibre extracted from high altitude marshy plants. It is not suitable for damp rooms and must be in well ventilated rooms.
These floors do not have the characteristic of being soft to the touch, which can slow down many people (just wear slippers or keep your socks on!).
Carpet is one of the warmest looking floors. It is ideal for the sleeping area of our homes. It is easy to maintain, especially if you choose a carpet that has been specially treated to prevent stains.
It can be woven, loop pile, shaggy or shaggy. It is soft to the touch, you like to walk on it barefoot, especially as it insulates well from the cold.
The choice of colours and patterns is immense, it is rather easy to lay and absorbs sound well.
It is available in natural fibres (wool, cotton, silk, etc.) or synthetic fibres (polyamide, polypropylene, etc.). It can be in rolls or in tiles.
Other floor types
I have only detailed the main coverings most frequently used in our interiors. But there are other materials, such as :
- mineral: pebbles which can be used for bathroom floors,
- comblanchien (a limestone similar to marble), travertine (a limestone tuff), slate, or marble.
- Cement tile: this is not fired but is manufactured using a hydraulic press. This high-end covering is now imitated by tiles.
- terrazzo or granito: an assembly of stone and marble debris bound with cement and then polished
- Waxed concrete: mortar or concrete coloured by pigmentation then varnished
- resin: a mixture of resin, hardener and mineral fillers. A very aesthetic, seamless coating.
- paint: let’s not forget that some paints are specially designed for floors
Finally, there are classifications that provide information on the different criteria of floor coverings.
The UPEC classification expresses the performance level of the flooring on 4 criteria. Each letter is associated with a number from 1 (low) to 4 (very high):
E: water resistance
There are also classifications that express the flammability of the material (how it behaves in the event of fire). There are also labels that express a rating for air quality (emission of Volatile Organic Compounds).
Pay attention to the labels.