In a room that gets as much activity as a child’s does, you need to choose flooring that will stand up to constant use and abuse — and look good doing it. But there are other considerations, as well. As you choose flooring for your room or decide whether to replace the flooring you have, consider these health tips from Healthy Building and Indoor Environment Consultant Mary Cordaro.
Don't use wall-to-wall carpeting — ever. But if you have carpeting already in place, it's safer to deep-clean it than to replace it, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. Cleaning the already existing hard flooring is preferable, health-wise, to replacing it.
If you do need to update your floors, choose products made from renewable materials, such as wood, linoleum or cork. Vinyl may seem like a good idea in a child's room because it's resilient and often affordable, but the nonprofit Center for Health, Environment & Justice recommends against using vinyl in a home with children because of the material's phthalate and lead risks.
Finally, use only non-toxic, formaldehyde-free adhesives, and choose non-toxic sealers and cleaning products. For area rugs, look for products made of organic natural fibers and do not use a foam pad.
Once you know what type of material you'll be using on the floor, it's time to decide what look you want. Wood floors with a dark finish can lend a sophisticated effect that's easy to transition to a more grown-up atmosphere a few years from now. Pale wood finishes have a soft, Scandinavian style that may lighten and brighten a small space; they work particularly well with white-finished furniture.
Layering area rugs over wall-to-wall carpeting or hard flooring not only provides a soft spot to play, but also creates a pulled-together look. You can position an area rug to define a zone — the sleeping area, for example — or even use more than one.
Don't limit yourself to the children's department when shopping for rugs. You’ll find many affordable "grown-up" options in bright colors and punchy patterns. Also, think vintage. "I rarely use 'kids' rugs in children's rooms," says Susanna Salk, designer and author of Room for Children. “An old Oriental carpet can look really great. It’s durable and adds a rich appeal.”