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Léa Noémie Plourde-Archer
Léa Noémie
Plourde-Archer

(Author)

7 Flooring Materials (That are Alternatives to Wood)

Last modified: 2018/03/15 | 5 mins

Wooden floors are so common that we tend to forget that other options are out there. Here are 7 types of floor coverings that serve as alternatives to wood, if you are looking for something different.

Bamboo floor covering

Originally from Asia, bamboo is a flexible plant that is also very resistant. Sold in the form of boards, parquet flooring or floating floor, bamboo often has a look that is very similar to wood. It can have a natural tint, or it can be carbonized. In most cases (except for floating floors) nails or glue are used for the installation process.

It is a very durable material, in addition to being renewable and somewhat resistant to humidity. Therefore, it works well for most rooms, except those that have a very high humidity level (superior to 60%).

Soumission-Renovation_ floor covering_bamboo

Bamboo flooring

Cork floor covering

Cork originates from cork oak. This flooring material is available in the form of tiles, rolls and floating floor. Oftentimes, a vapour barrier will have to be installed under the cork covering. The rest of the installation process for the cork pieces will require a special glue. In addition to being renewable, environmentally friendly and durable, this material is fire and water-resistant. It is shock absorbent and provides good sound and thermal insulation.

However, cork has a tendency to sustain damage under heavy weight (furniture, etc.). Moreover, its insulation properties tend to dissipate when it is covered with too many layers of varnish. Using PVC as protective coating will correct this problem. Beware of cheap cork, which could be too flexible, as well as counterfeit cork which is made of plastic.

Cork flooring

Cork flooring

Ceramic floor covering

Ceramic is a word that regroups every material derived from high temperature mineral solidification (earth, clay, mineral glass, etc.) In terms of floor covering, this usually means either tiling or porcelain. The resistance level of these materials is ranked and determined according to their grade, with higher grades meaning that they are more wear resistant. Floor materials of this sort are graded between 2 and 5. Installing ceramics will require the use of cement, grout and, in certain cases, a coat of varnish.

This material is easy to clean, durable and very resistant against fire, water and stains. The wide variety of colours, shapes and designs mean that endless layouts are possible (mosaic, square, round, hexagon, etc.). However, the problem with ceramic flooring is that it feels cold,  it can be slippery and it breaks quite easily. Moreover, it isn’t very sound resistant.

Ceramic flooring

Ceramic flooring

Concrete floor covering

Concrete is often used to build house foundations. Currently, this popular building material is having its own shining moment in decor and design magazines. It works well with contemporary and minimalist decors. One of the main advantages about concrete is that surprisingly enough, it actually retains heat very well.

On the other hand, installing a concrete floor can be a long and complicated process, due to the extended drying time that has to be completed before the polishing step is carried out. The concrete will have to be sealed with chemical products that release volatile organic compounds (VOC), which are harmful to the environment.

Concrete flooring

Concrete flooring

Linoleum floor

Linoleum is a floor covering that is made of renewable natural compounds such as flaxseed oil and cork powder. Retailers sell it in the form of tiles and rolls. It is rather complicated to install and a protective coat is usually installed over the surface in order to protect it from scratches. Linoleum is durable and easy to maintain. It is fire-resistant and has several properties that make it anti-bacterial and anti-allergenic.

However, if the installation is not well done, bumps and defects will be highly visible. Also, linoleum that is not protected will have a tendency to lose its colouration when washed with certain cleaning products. Be aware that right after the installation has been completed, a strong smell and a yellowish tint may persist for a few hours, this is normal and will dissipate over time.

Linoleum flooring

Linoleum flooring

Vinyl floor covering

Vinyl is sold in the form of sheets, boards or tiles. Often confused with linoleum, vinyl is slightly more expensive than its flooring counterpart.  It can be installed over other flooring materials such as ceramic, concrete or wood. It is easy to clean and very resistant.

It is available in many designs, some of which offer a near perfect imitation of hardwood or marble, at a fraction of the cost. However, it is less durable than other materials such as linoleum or ceramic. Also, certain vinyl tiles are so thin that they can tear easily.

Vinyl flooring

Vinyl flooring

Rug floor covering

Rug is made of synthetic and/or natural fibers. It is relatively easy to install, requiring only nails and glue. You must however make sure that the subfloor is clean and smooth. With that in mind, a rubber sub-layer can be a good option. Endless options in terms of colours, textures and designs are available on the market.

This type of flooring works well for sound and thermal insulation. It also absorbs chocs. One of the main drawbacks with rug flooring is that it stains more easily than others. Also, the fibers tend to retain dust and mites, which can be a problem for people who suffer from allergies or respiratory problems.

Rug flooring

Rug flooring

Overview of the average prices of flooring materials

Type of project or flooring material Average price

Bamboo floor

approximately $3 to $8/square foot

Cork floor (material only)

$2 to $10/square foot

Cork floor (installation)

approximately $2/square foot

Low-end ceramic tiles

starting at 60 cents per square foot

Mid or high-range ceramic tiles

$2 to $7/square foot

Concrete floor: installation and materials

$1 to $12/square foot

Vinyl floor

$1 to $3/square foot

Carpet (material)

approximately $3 to $6/square foot

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