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Fabulous Designs Are Underfoot Exciting options for fashionable flooring

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From the Casual Living Exotics collection by Pergo, this gorgeous laminate floor is called Australian Eucalyptus. Photo courtesy www.pergo.com.

Are you choosing floor décor for a new house or renovating an existing one? As you figure out what you want underfoot, trying to decide among today’s vast array of choices may well floor you! Here’s an overview of just some of the exciting options popular now in hard surfaces, from classic wood to “green” bamboo.

Natural Wood

When it comes to dramatic impact, few things rival a classic solid wood floor. Its timeless appeal practically invites homeowners to “walk all over me.” From the traditional golden oak tones to rich cherry reds to the fresh appeal of exotic woods like Brazilian cherry, natural woods bring a warm beauty to any room in the house. Over the years the subtle natural changes in color will develop a patina that adds character to the floor. A solid wood floor is truly renewable in the sense that it can be refinished again and again and keep its luster literally for generations.

One gorgeous option for adding unique visual appeal to a new or existing wood floor is a medallion. The medallions generally are composed of multiple species of wood, or even mixed media such as stone, metal or leather. These attention-getting design elements are typically situated in prominent areas of the home such as an entry foyer or staircase landing and provide a fabulous focal point.

Laminates

Never before has “fake” had such genuine appeal. Sometimes even the experts can’t tell these natural wood look-alikes from the real thing; you can get on your hands and knees and still not be able to confirm their authenticity. Laminates are formed of multiple layers of plywood or particle board. The top layer is a plastic coating applied over a high-resolution photograph of the “real” material. Thus laminates offer the ultra-realistic look of real wood, natural stone, tile and more, plus they are durable and stain-resistant. Unlike real wood, however, laminates cannot be refinished.

When it comes to design options, there is an enormous variety of patterns, colors and styles. Recently popular are laminates inspired by exotic woods, which make a bold statement in any room. Keeping their “like new” appearance longer without fading or scuffing, exotic decors like Pergo’s Australian Eucalyptus or Mediter­ranean Kempas provide consumers with glamorous looks that are easier to maintain than real wood — a damp mop does the trick — and more easily afforded. Compared to spending $4 to $6 and up per square foot for solid wood, top-grade laminates usually run $3 to $4 per square foot.

Vinyl

Who’d have thought “exciting” and “vinyl” could be used in the same sentence? Everything old is new again, as today’s extraordinarily good-looking choices certainly are not what you found in your grandmother’s kitchen! Long gone are the shiny, plastic-looking floors that easily dented and ripped. Vinyl is referred to as resilient flooring because it has “give” or elasticity and feels comfortable underfoot, making it especially ideal for standing time in the kitchen.

Today’s vinyl flooring offers a nearly infinite spectrum of styles, colors, textures and patterns. Like laminates, vinyl is also a great mimic, replicating high-end looks such as exotic hardwoods or weathered stone and tile. Not to mention that vinyl is the most common low-cost kitchen flooring option and easy to clean. Vinyl comes in two basic types — sheet rolls and tiles, in a variety of widths and thicknesses. One pointer to keep in mind is that the thicker the vinyl, the more traffic it can bear. So vinyl is practical, beautiful and budget-friendly. What more can you ask for?

Natural Stone

Some homeowners feel that nothing compares to the incredible beauty of natural stone. Because they are a product of nature, no two stones are ever alike; each has its own coloring palette and texture. Choices include polished granite to textured slate, travertine, limestone, and marble. Natural stone tiles may cost as much as $100 per square foot, but they could well be considered artwork under your feet. Honed and polished stone tile can be slippery when wet, so your kitchen and full-bathroom choices should have a textured, skid-resistant surface. Depending on their hardness, all of the natural stones need to be “sealed” every three to five years.

Bamboo

If you want an eco-friendly choice for your floors, bamboo offers a beautiful blend of technology and ecology. This increasingly popular material is often thought of as wood but it is actually a lightweight, woody grass that has the tensile strength of steel. It is also rapidly renewable, as it is one of the fastest-growing plants. Moso bamboo is the primary species used for the manufacture of flooring, and it can grow up to 47 inches in 24 hours. Bamboo can be harvested without the need to replant because the root system is left intact when it is sustainably harvested. It takes about five years for bamboo to reach full maturity and highest density, compared to the 2-120 years it can take traditional hardwoods to mature.

Bamboo has a tight grain and uniform color for wood flooring. And just like wood or laminate options, bamboo flooring comes in strips or planks that fit together. Teragren offers numerous lines of bamboo flooring. Green-minded consumers can breathe easier with Teragren’s new Portfolio collection, as the line qualifies as a product certified by the Scientific Certification Systems. SCS measures more than 78 volatile organic compounds emitted from building materials and guarantees that certified products contribute to a healthier and safer indoor environment.

Porcelain Tile

Want some style with tile? Versatile and elegant, porcelain floor tiles are created from superfine porcelain clay and fired at a higher temperature than other ceramic tile. This means they are denser and tougher for standing up to heavy foot traffic, are easy to maintain and moisture-resistant. Available in either glazed or unglazed, porcelain tiles may be high-gloss or rough-textured, resembling natural stone. Porcelain tile combines the beauty and hardness of stone but costs considerably less. Glazed porcelain tiles are much harder and more damage-resistant than non-porcelain ceramic tiles, which also makes them a practical choice for exterior applications. Any design look is possible from rich, earthy texture to polished elegance. These tiles are available in a wide range of finishes, and combining tiles of various sizes, colors and textures easily creates a truly one-of-a-kind floor.

By now are you inspired and intrigued? So head out to a flooring store and see what’s underfoot.

A fine foyer features 120 square feet of solid, satin-finished American walnut and ash in a custom circular pattern. The floor is job-site finished using an oil-based surface finish. Photo courtesy of National Wood Flooring Association.

High style in a home office: This real wood floor features hand scraped hickory with hickory plugs and leather inserts with a faux alligator finish. Photo courtesy National Wood Flooring Association.

From the Elegant Expressions collection from Pergo, this beautiful laminate floor is named Reclaimed Oak. Photo courtesy www.pergo.com.


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