Your carpet has seen better days, you think, and needs replacing. This could be the ideal time for you to make a big difference to the look of your living space by replacing it with something else. Your choice will depend on your tastes, what you use the room for, and your family set-up.
For example, a couple’s busy kitchen might be best served with tiles, a chic loft apartment with oak floorboards, or young families may want to keep the softness of carpet for their little ones.
If you like the wood look but are on a tight budget, a cheaper alternative is laminate flooring. It’s low maintenance and comes in an enormous variety of styles and patterns. It’s similar to engineered wood in that a top wear layer is backed by layers of plywood or compressed fibre backing that is extremely stable.
The big difference is that the top layer is not real wood but a plastic coating applied over a photograph. This produces look-alike finishes for real wood and other materials such as stone, ceramic tile, even stained concrete.
Laminate is a popular DIY flooring, but it’s wise not to overestimate your skills — it can take patience and ingenuity to fit, especially around corners.
The cost starts at around £3 per sqm but these cheaper ones can look unrealistic and some potential house buyers may be put off if it looks cheap. For a more natural appearance, the price can rise to £30 per sqm or more.
The traditionalist will enjoy a wood floor. It’s got natural beauty and durability and its classic good looks will complement any home.
It can, however, be quite expensive. Prices vary, depending on the type of wood and whether you want new or recycled, but you can pay anything from £15 per sqm upwards into the hundreds.
If you’ve got existing floorboards, you can have these sanded and sealed, which works well in older properties.Engineered wood is a practical option. It features a top veneer of real wood backed by layers of cheaper plywood, which makes it more stable and much less susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity, so it can be used with underfloor heating and is a good choice for kitchens and basements. It can be nailed, glued or installed as a floating floor over a cushioned pad. Prices begin at around £19 per sqm; top-of-the- range options can exceed £150.
Anyone who is concerned about the environment should consider bamboo. It’s an increasingly popular flooring material, often thought of as wood but actually a grass.
Bamboo is a renewable resource as the plants grow so quickly. It has been used as a construction material for thousands of years because of its strength and durability. Expect to pay from around £20 per sqm for it.
‘Think practically when it comes to flooring. A carpet in a dining room is likely to get grubby quickly. Equally, a stone floor in a kitchen is unforgiving for small children falling over and dropping things. Beware of hard floors in bedrooms, as they can be cold.’
Another environmentally friendly option that comes from the bark of a tree, which can be harvested from the same tree for some 200 years. It is considered the perfect environmentally friendly, renewable and sustainable material.
A natural sound and thermal insulator, cork is beautifully quiet and comfortable underfoot as well as warm and pleasant to the touch.
Forget the 70s’ orange tiles; modern cork flooring comes in subtle neutral shades. Prices start from £12 per sqm.
A popular ‘green’ option for the environmentalist is linoleum – made with renewable, biodegradable materials including linseed oil and cork.
Invented by the Victorians, it’s regained some popularity recently as it’s a natural product manufactured from largely renewable materials, provides a smooth, easy-to-clean finish, feels soft and warm underfoot, and is extremely hardwearing. Marmoleum is perhaps the best-known brand of lino, with 97% recycled materials, and costs from £20 per sqm and upwards. Its main plus points are its durability and range of available colours.
A better-known alternative to linoleum is vinyl flooring – basically a resin-coated photographic image fixed to a vinyl sheet. This doesn’t have the eco credentials of lino, but is certainly cheaper: budget ranges start at as little as £5 per sqm.
The many shapes, sizes, colours and textures of tiles make it easy to create a smooth, hardwearing floor, and can be custom-made and laid in a one-of-a-kind pattern.
Flooring tiles come in different types: glazed ceramics, with a glass-like coating making them virtually maintenance-free; quarry tiles, unglazed rustic-looking tiles with a slightly rough texture giving better slip-resistance; porcelain, hard and durable, resistant to staining and a good choice for outside, and terracotta, an unglazed tile with earthy colours and rustic appearance. Prices usually start at around £20 per sqm.
Another option is stone flooring. Natural stone is rightly prized for its beauty, but there are many practical benefits, too. Stone is durable, often lasting for decades with very little maintenance. It can be used inside and outside, for floors and walls.
The cost varies widely depending on whether you choose softer stones, like sandstone and limestone, or harder ones, like granite and marble. Prices start at around £35 per sqm, but fitting can double the cost.
And back where we started to one of the most versatile of all flooring options: carpet, which is seeing a recent resurgence in popularity.
There is a whole world of choice, from pure wools to entirely synthetic. Your choice will be based on budget and where you need the carpet – a stair carpet will need to be much more hardwearing than, say, a bedroom one.
When it comes to carpet fibres, wool has long been recognised as the best. It feels springy and warm underfoot, is flame retardant and looks better for longer. It is often blended in an 80/20 or 50/50 mix with ‘man-made’ fibres to make it more stain resistant.
Synthetic fibres tend to be cheaper than wool and are hardwearing, although the cheaper ones may not provide the softness or luxurious look of more expensive blends.
Polypropylene has the added benefit of being very stain resistant and easy to clean (some varieties of it can even be bleached, which may prove invaluable after spills).
You can also get natural fibres, including seagrass, coir, sisal and jute. These come in a variety of muted shades, offering a modern hardwearing flooring choice. These don’t react well to water though, and can stain easily.
Expect to pay from £7.99 per sqm for synthetic, from £18 per sqm for a wool blend and from £28 for natural fibres.