Choosing your floor covering
You can cover floors with paint, wood blocks, matting, carpets or plastic sheets. The traditional linoleum is still widely used, though its place is being taken over by the more modern and hardwearing vinyl.
Paint has more value than you might imagine. There are varnish stains for plank or other wood floors; the so-called ‘liquid lino’ that is mainly of use as a quick, cheap renovator for wearing linoleum; polyurethane-based paints in many colours, used often in modern bedrooms and nurseries (perhaps after sheeting with hardboard).
For concrete floors that are smooth and dust-free, choose epoxy-resin paint. This is often supplied in two parts, to be mixed just before application. It will take a good deal of wear and is one of the few paints that can resist the chemical action of concrete.
Naturally, floors to be painted must not be damp.
The advantage of linoleum is that it is still the cheapest of the sheet flooring materials, at least in its lower quality. Better quality grades may approach the price of vinyl, while first class cork linoleum, which is an excellent product, may cost even more. The big disadvantage of cheap linoleum is its tendancy to crack and expose the backing canvas. It is practically impossible to repair the damage, other than by cutting away the damaged section and replacing it with a new piece. Linoleum is frequently laid free, not attached to the floor.
Vinyl, on the other hand, is a very tough, hardwearing material which is frequently made solid. That is, it is not applied to canvas backing but is solid plastic all the way through. This gives great wear resistance. Some sorts are coloured right through too, so that any wear that takes place does not change the pattern by exposing differently coloured backing. Because this plastic is so resistant to abrasion, wear is slow indeed. (An exception is where it has been laid on an irregular floor with humps and ridges. In this case wear can be surprisingly rapid and may result in holes.) Vinyl is repaired in most cases by cutting away the damaged section and gluing in another piece. These repairs may be done almost invisibly.
- In nearly all cases vinyl is glued to the floor. A modern development has been the provision of a foam back for certain types of vinyl. Nairn-Williamson ‘Cushionflor’ is an example. The surface of floors covered in this material feel warm to the touch.
- It is ideal for bathrooms. One can walk barefoot on a concrete floor covered with this foam backed vinyl without any discomfort whatsoever.
- A much more expensive floor covering, but still increasing in popularity, is the woodblock floor, sometimes called ‘parquet’.
- There are two main varieties of this. Those in which the blocks are glued permanently to the under-floor and those in which the blocks slot together and are not permanently fastened down.
In appearance there is little to choose between these types. There are more varieties of shape and colour obtainable in glued blocks and the finish may also be slightly better. Slot-together parquet however has an immense advantage in that, although it may be installed quickly and securely, it is also possible to move it later. The fitting of glued parquet certainly increases the value of a house but it may well prove more economic to take the parquet along when moving house, rather than to leave it behind. This of course is even more important where the house is rented. A slot-together parquet floor can be lifted and taken away without damaging the property in any way. Then it is reinstalled at the new house even in rooms of different shape and size.
Because of this our main series deals with this type of parquet.
Finally, carpet. Practically universal, with ‘fitted carpets’ becoming more and more desired. But we do not really advise a newcomer to tackle carpet fitting. They are so expensive these days that it is usual for the supplier to fit them, often without charge. A mistake made in cutting this material may be almost irreparable. However there is nothing particularly difficult about the work provided great care is taken with shaping.
- In principle the method is very similar to that of laying vinyl sheet. If the carpet is of a foam- backed or tufted kind and does not fray then it may be simply trimmed to shape with scissors and knife. Woven carpet tiles come in squares, which fit closely together. They are easy to lay or change, and their edges do not fray or warp. Carpets will require binding at the edges.
- The floor must be well prepared and dead smooth because even slight irregularities cause rapid wear. Any concrete floor should be sealed to prevent dust arising underneath. (Remember that on such hard surfaces as this you should certainly have an extra-thick underlay of foam or felt.)
- No carpet should be laid directly upon the floor. Even a few layers of newspaper are better than nothing. This is particularly important on plank flooring, for dust will certainly find its way up between the joints and even eventually up into the carpet itself.
- The pieces of carpet must be joined side by side and probably the simplest way is to use a fabric strip and special adhesive. Work with the carpet face down and lay the adhesive coated strip over the closely butted pieces. Press them together and leave till firm. As well as the tape you should also glue the extreme edges of the carpet itself.
- Carpet fitting round projections or difficult shapes is best done with a pre-shaped paper pattern as a guide. The cut edges of woven backed carpet can then be bound and blanket stitched. It pays to use adhesive strips on all these edges after the stitching is done.
- The main difficulty in carpet laying arises because of its great weight. As you try to lay it, the underlay will probably ruckle.
- A better plan is to spread the carpet on the bare floor to make sure it is accurately fitted at every edge. Then roll it back half way and fit your underlay in position on that half. Refit the carpet on top and turn back the other half of it so that the rest of the underlay can be rolled beneath it. Stretch the carpet well on fitting and hold the edges down with temporary tacks for a few days until it has taken its final ‘set’. After about a week the edges can be turned under and fitted down permanently.
In summary then, the pros and cons of the main floor covering types are as follows:
- Advantages: cheap and quick; easily repaired or renewed; many colours.
- Disadvantages: varnishes frequently flake, and may trap dust. Difficult to get high polish. Will not withstand constant wear from heavy shoes. shows up floor defects.
- Advantages: cheap, easy to lay; simple to remove; and not requiring any adhesive or other fastenings.
- Disadvantages: low wear strength as a rule; tendency to crack and the surface may flake away. Also tends to expand rather badly and create difficulties in fitting.
- Advantages: Strong, hardwearing, very pleasing in appearance and can be fitted very accurately indeed. Soft underfoot. Does not usually change pattern when worn.
- Disadvantages: fairly high cost; in comparison to vinyl possibly slightly less wear-resistance.
Sheet vinyl (or vinyl tiles)
- Advantages: extremely hardwearing; moderately priced varieties available; simple to apply and capable of covering many defects in older floors.
- Disadvantages: very few.
- Advantages: as for vinyl with the addition of excellent heat transfer resistance, resulting in a warm surface; slightly soft under foot.
- Disadvantages: this softness may result in tears if the surface is accidentally struck with a sharp object.
Glued parquet flooring
- Advantages: excellent appearance; hard-wearing; one of the most luxurious of all floor coverings; good insulation properties. Resilient underfoot and takes a high polish.
- Disadvantages: high cost; requires regular maintenance by polishing; cannot be removed once it has been installed.
Slotted parquet flooring
- Advantages: as for parquet above and also substantially cheaper in some cases; can be easily removed and replaced in another room or another house even where the second room is a different shape from the first.
- Disadvantages: a tendency to flex and, as with the solid parquet, requiring a certain amount of maintenance. We have found that in certain conditions the pieces may slide very slightly on each other but do not consider this to be a major defect.
- Advantages: Luxurious in appearance, warm, reduces draughts, excellent colour range. Good insulation value.
- Disadvantages: high cost usually. Requires regular cleaning and may trap dirt and dust. Some cheaper kinds fade and wear rather quickly, and their edges may curl.