Flooring Buyer's Guide

Given the wide array of flooring options available, you're bound to find one that fits your lifestyle and budget. Learn about 10 popular flooring types to find your match.

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Cork Kitchen Floor With White Cabinets Cork flooring. Design by Linda Maglia


Cork

Cork comes from the bark of a tree. The bark is harvested every eight to 10 years and is a sustainable material, meaning the tree is not destroyed but is allowed to regenerate new bark that can be harvested repeatedly. Typically, cork-producing countries regulate production to ensure future harvests, so the impact on the environment is low.

Cork has a warm, natural appearance and is comfortable underfoot. It has unusual grain patterns featuring whirls and speckles. It comes in tiles or planks with a laminate construction — a top wear layer glued to a stable core material. Cork flooring is either glued down or installed as a floating floor. Cork flooring costs $2 to $6 per square foot; add $3 to $5 per square foot for installation.

Most cork flooring products are prefinished; however, they should be resealed every few years to renew the wear layer, guard against stains and seal out moisture. Polyurethane and wax are both good sealers for cork. Buy water-based polyurethane that’s nontoxic or has low volatile organic compound content.

Ceramic Tile
The many shapes, sizes, colors and textures of ceramic tile make it easy to create custom, one-of-a-kind patterns. Cost varies widely, and you’ll find tile priced anywhere from $1 to $100 per square foot. Complementary decorative trim pieces and mosaic inlays quickly raise the total price of a tile installation. Expect to pay experienced tile-setters $4 to $12 per square foot.

Ceramic tile is made from a mixture of clay and shale that is baked and hardened in a kiln. Dry pigments added to the mixture gives the tiles earthy tones that range from ocher to deep red. Be sure to purchase only tile that is rated for use on floors.

Ceramic flooring tile comes as one of four basic types:

  • Glazed ceramic has a glasslike coating that is applied prior to firing. The coating gives the tile an unlimited variety of colors and textures and makes the material virtually maintenance-free.
  • Quarry tile is unglazed ceramic tile. Colors come from pigments added to the clay mixture. Quarry tile has a slightly rough texture that provides better slip-resistance than glazed tile.
  • Porcelain tile is fired at extremely high temperatures. The result is a tile that’s especially hard and durable. Porcelain tile is resistant to staining and is a good choice for exterior applications. It's available either glazed or unglazed.
  • Terracotta is an unglazed tile with earthy colors and rustic appearance. It is not as durable as other tiles and must be sealed periodically to prevent staining.


Some ceramic floor tiles come with an anti-slip finish that provides excellent traction even when wet. Choose tiles that meet the slip-resistance standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

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