Flooring options are myriad and depend on personal taste as well as budget. It’s an important consideration, as the material and colour plays a major part in any interior design and is a starting point for colours used in soft furnishings and walls. It can also have a major role in the atmosphere of a room. Concrete is modern and contributes to an 'industrial' feel - very on trend, whereas carpet is warm and makes the room quiet. Both personal taste and desired ambience will play a role in your decision.
While it may seem utilitarian, there’s a lot to be said for it. Fireproof, and tough to the point of being almost bullet-proof, it can take all the hard knocks of family life, and needs little maintenance.
Chances are many homeowners already have a concrete floor in place anyway, and once any overlay has been removed the substrate may require nothing more than finishing.
There are plenty of finishes to choose from, now that concrete can be polished, stained, painted, carved, etched, and so forth. Concrete does have limited acoustic properties and can be hard and unforgiving underfoot. It is, however modern and versatile, and is relatively cost effective.
This is an old favourite, and for good reason, and modern products are beautiful. Natural, warm, soft, noise-absorbent, it’s cool in summer and warm in winter.
Surprisingly durable, it will give many years of use and can be resurfaced. Cork is not one of the cheaper options for ﬂoor coverings, but it is well worth considering for its lifelong value, and, if looked after, will reward the cost of installation.
It is now preﬁnished and coloured, and tiles are available in four modern sizes and a wide range of colours.
The modern version of 'lino', vinyl comes in a range of formats.
Modern sheet vinyls from Europe, which are finished today with slip-resistant and easy-clean properties, replicate many looks and styles, from ‘wood’ planks through to leather, slate and more.
Sheet vinyl in two-metre widths is still the most common measure in New Zealand, but there are also three-metre and even some four-metre products, which can help avoid joins.
Usually have what is called a cushion back, which provides softness and comfort underfoot.
It is generally more costly than carpet to install, but less than vinyl woodplank or tile – or, for that matter, engineered timbers or corks of a similar quality.
Vinyl wood planks and tiles
They are just as they sound: sections in a plank or tile format, installed as individual pieces, looking like real timber or ceramic but offering easy maintenance and economy.
These products come in domestic and commercial grades and a variety of sizes.
The price point for this option is generally above carpet and vinyl on a like-for-like basis.
Carpet is still traditionally one of the most economical forms of floorcovering on a square metre basis because it's a product that primarily is installed directly over underlay and the sub-floor surface, where most other forms of floorcoverings have labour and product requirements to prepare the sub-floor. Carpets are a classic example of getting what you pay for – as a guide domestic carpets are graded heavy duty (5-7 year product) and extra heavy duty (10-12 years plus product) and generally weighted with the amount of yarn within the product – the higher the weight, the more yarn is incorporated into your product (and the better). A cheaper carpet may look just the same as a more expensive option from the samples but after a few years of wear there is definitely a difference in appearance.
Carpet is produced either as a cut-pile where the top of the carpet fibre is cut to create a look of luxuriousness and softness. As a cut pile relaxes and blooms the fibres also soften and so if you have a big area with a join this assists with the join becoming less obvious over time. The other construction method is a loop or textured loop-pile style where the fibre “loop” is not cut – giving you a stronger yarn and better appearance retention in the years ahead. Again the popularity of both styles varies in the marketplace and depends on the other elements of your home you are bringing together.
New Zealanders have historically been drawn to wool carpets but the array of other options is fast changing, with new synthetic products from around the world now available here.
There is no right or wrong option, as a good quality wool carpet and an equally graded synthetic one both provide great comfort underfoot, but there are some differences.
The selection of colours is about the same, although wools have more loop-pile options. Pricing is about the same for comparable products but some of the features and benefits are where they start to stand apart.
The two main strengths of a good synthetic – a solution dyed nylon or equal – are its fade resistant properties and serviceability (being stain-proof and easy maintenance). Some can be cleaned with a bleach mix.
Most of the new synthetics also have a man-made backing – an attractive anti-rot feature for homes where concrete subfloors may have moisture issues.
Wool, on the other hand, can absorb and release up to a third of its weight in airborne moisture without becoming wet to touch – making your home a drier and healthier place. It is fire resist and naturally hypoallergenic and, being a natural product, has the ability to age gracefully.
If you are concerned about the environment check product claims. For example an overseas product may have environmental advantages but will also have accrued carbon miles getting to NZ.
New Zealand wool carpets are supporting our own economy and wool farmers and can also be returned to the earth for weed matting, worm farms or compost.
Most manufacturers have a range of wools and synthetics products and again the importance of putting your trust in a reputable company and carpet manufacturer is recommended.
A good carpet will give you years and years of service. A good underlay and installation using correct methods are important aspects to this too – just because you can’t see the underlay don’t overlook this important part of your carpeting – bonded foam is currently the most common underlay used and again like carpet the weight of its bulk density dictates its quality – the lower the weight, the lower the quality. An entry level bonded foam underlay can start as low as 75kg and a good one comes in at 130kg. There are other specialist underlays for installations with glue for commercial or wheelchair needs and premium underlays such as urethane for those wanting the very best.
When looking at the price of carpets, these are usually detailed as a lineal metre price. A lineal metre is 3.66m wide (12 ft old school) or some of the newer nylons are produced on a 4.0m wide loom. You should only use these prices as a guide only - what is the most important is the "on the floor" cost including a good underlay and installation. Your carpet specialist should go over your layout and plan with you indicating where joins are placed throughout your home.
Timber is likely to be one of the most expensive options, but for some people nothing beats a ‘real’ floor. There’s a large range of products and options.
Engineered prefinished timber has a real timber surface but a manmade backing – these usually click or lock together and can be installed over special underlay or stuck directly to your subfloor. Products on the market start at 8mm thick and move through to 14mm and 21mm. The finishes are either a plank style (which is relatively costly) or a two-strip or three-strip style (which are a little cheaper because the manufacturers are able to use more of the timber). Thicker products are more likely to be able to be sanded back, either to resurface or stain. You may need to add an additional coating of urethane or similar, to seal against water.
Solid tongue-and-groove (T&G) timbers are, again, available in a variety of thickness and widths – 19mm solid T&G is commonly used in New Zealand, and often if you don’t want a 19mm you are paying for it anyway to be milled down. Native species are more expensive but you can also source recycled timber.
Finishes include stains and lime-washing along with traditional polyurethane or the newer, more environmentally friendly water-based coatings; but be aware that these newer finishes need more regular maintenance (typically involving resurfacing).
Remember that with any timber, you can go for the consistency of one particular species, but because every tree is different, you can expect to see variations in colour, texture and grain even through the same box of product.
On new concrete subfloors the relative humidity must be at a certain level before installation can take place – timber is a natural product and if your subfloor is too wet it will absorb this moisture and then release it, leaving you with a multitude of problems.
If you do not wish to wait for your subfloor to reach the percentage required, there are moisture barrier systems available that can be installed before the timber goes down.
And remember to delay adding skirting boards or kitchen toe-kick panels until after the installation of your floorboards.
Flooring Design and Custom Options - Final Suggestions
Anything goes here really. New Zealand has carpet producers who are able to replicate your every wish for carpet colour, design and style – you do of course pay for this privilege but it is available.
Natural Fibre products such as Sisals and Jutes look beautiful in a full wall to wall installation as well as the popular option of having a fabric or leather bound custom made mat.
Wallcoverings are a product originally from the educational and commercial sector that is also taking hold in the domestic market for home offices, theatre rooms and child friendly spaces and bedrooms. Bright colourful options in a 12mm thick product means there is no noise transference between rooms and a surface for pinning and attaching to.
When building or renovating your home – don’t feel confined to the tried and traditional – check out commercial fitouts, showhomes and design shows to gather your ideas and information. The web is also a fabulous source of product options and possibilities.
Be sure to mention your builder or specifier details to your floorcoverings retailer as you may also be able to obtain special pricing or additional services.
If using an interior designer or specialist, be sure to provide the features and benefits that are important to you and give feedback on any queries you may have but remember they can also see the big picture of all your elements together and on a bigger scale.
Let your floorcoverings be the perfect palette for the rest of your home, space or fitout and invest in the best you possibly can – you will enjoy the many years of service in return.
Juken New Zealand (JNL) has been involved with the NZ forestry, and wood-processing industries for the past 20 years – manufacturing advanced and innovative wood products. In that time, we have become important economic and cultural contributors to the local communities within which we operate from selectively planted, managed and harvested Radiata Pine for local and export markets. At JNL, Read more…