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In our special section Decode, we delve into the most permanent fixture in your home- the floor. Here’s everything you need to know before you get your flooring redone

It’s the first thing you notice as you step into a home interior. The flooring sets the tone for the interiors of any space ground up. It is also one of the more permanent features of a space. You can change the look of the walls with paint, cladding, decorative paper, etc., but it would be hard to do the same with flooring. Except perhaps by using area rugs. So the floor is the most exposed part of the interiors and it says a lot about the décor theme.

If you are on the verge of deciding the flooring of a new home or planning on replacing the existing one, it is important to understand all aspects of the process. Especially since there are numerous materials -- from the natural to the synthetic and the engineered – available, each with its own pros and cons. And they come in an exhaustive range of designs and prices.

It’s mainly about how much money you can spend and what kind of look you want for your home. But flooring is also something that undergoes maximum wear and tear, hence it’s significant to know the durability and maintenance part of it.

Flooring Options: When There’s No Such Thing As Too Much Choice
Traditionally in India, marble, granite, Kota stone, cement and ceramic tiles have been popular. “But wooden flooring (laminates, hardwood and engineered), vinyl, in situ cement and carpet have grown in demand over time,’’ says Chaitali Parikh-Mehta, owner and Principal Interior designer, Inscape Designers. 

Slate, limestone, wood and bamboo are the other options available. Most of the stones are generally durable, though marble, being porous, tends to scratch and stain easily and needs regular maintenance.

Cement tiles, once very common in India, had fallen out of favour after a whole new range of materials started coming in. But with innovations in style and make, they have got a fresh lease of life. “Cement flooring is not restricted to the mosaic tiles or paver blocks anymore. Acid staining floors, micro cement floors, cast in situ Terrazzo, IPS and stamped concrete are the new flooring options,’’ says Firdaus Variava, Vice-Chairman, Bharat Floorings and Tiles.

Cement flooring is almost unbreakable and long lasting. And, “It can be re-buffed to restore shine every five years,” he says. They also come in many modern patterns and colours.

Ceramic tiles are easy to clean and are stain-resistant and come in a myriad colours and designs, but are mostly used in bathrooms and kitchens in India.

Hardwood flooring, though expensive, scores with its resale value and refinishing option, thus making them long-lasting.

 “Wood flooring has long been a favourite choice for discerning home owners and the trend is set to continue for 2016. Herringbone and chevron patterns are a big hit. They tend to be expensive, but have a striking effect. Natural oiled matt wide plank floors are also popular with those looking for a simple, modern look,” says Ranjit S S Dhody, Director, Beautex.

Wood flooring comes in many elegant finishes and plank sizes. “Last year, we saw many favour deep dark satin floors to contrast the white walls and mouldings,” says Ranjit.

However, wooden floors can absorb water and other liquids and stain easily, so need immediate mopping up of spillages.

The synthetic version, laminate wood, looks exactly like the real one, but comes with a much lower price tag and lesser maintenance. However, being synthetic, it can’t be retouched.

“Wooden flooring is preferred in one area of the house to break the monotony or to give a warmer and cozy ambience. It is also much faster and cheaper to install than marble or tile,” says Chaitali.

A less expensive alternative to natural wood, vinyl mostly has foam cushioning, and is ideal for floors that receive high foot fall.

Flooring: Getting Started
With such variety in terms of material and design, it can be daunting to decide which flooring is good for you. “Research the look you want to create and the style of the house. You should choose a style which suits you now and in 20 years,” advises Ranjit. 

According to Chaitali, budget is the main factor that nails the toss-up. Then come the aesthetic and maintenance part.

“Determine the budget first as it is a large civil cost. Material and installation costs vary greatly per square feet. For example, laying marble is more costly than tile flooring and has an additional cost of polishing it. Wooden flooring needs a perfectly leveled base and may need an additional cost of achieving it,” she says.

Of course, the flooring has to go with the over all décor. “Choose a design and colour of the flooring that harmonises with the concept and style of your room,’’ says Firdaus.

Budget-Friendly Floors
They may only mimic the natural products, but laminates and cement tiles do not lack in style and are often easier to install and maintain for floors“There are some European brands like Parador who have mastered the art of making a laminate floor so fine that it looks as natural as the real one,” says Ranjit.

Good design does not have to cost a lot, insists Firdaus: “For those with a limited budget, we suggest either our plain Unitinta tiles or patterned tiles in limited quantities laid as carpets along with stone.”

Going Natural? Be Ready To Splurge
The natural materials that bring a certain richness and class with them come at a price. “Marble flooring seems to be the favourite among these consumers as it looks seamless, elegant and unique as no two pieces are exactly the same,” says Chaitali.

According to Ranjit, a wide-plank engineered floor will always be a favourite. Special surface textures and aged effects, carvings only add more value to these authentic floors.

“Those who can spend more can add more of our Heritage patterns or perhaps get the in-situ terrazzo floor,” says Firdaus.

Flooring: Things To Keep In Mind
How much traffic will the floor receive and how long do you expect your new floor to last are some questions to ask before deciding on the kind of flooring says, Ranjit. The presence of children and pets can also influence your decision.

Also, people don’t look at tiles individually, they see the finished floor.  “So the installation process and craftsmanship are crucial for a perfectly finished floor. The floor’s durability depends on the skill of the artisans and the use of appropriate materials like sealants, joint fillers, etc.,” says Firdaus.

Flooring Maintenance
Regular upkeep makes flooring resilient and long lasting, so know your floor to care for it accordingly. “Different floors, surfaces require different types of maintenance. An oiled natural wood floor would require special cleaning liquids as against those with a UV-treated lacquer. Laminates are the easiest to maintain and outer deck wood may be best maintained by professionals,” Ranjit.

“Every-day tips would include cleaning with water, not using strong chemicals, not dragging or dropping anything heavy on it,” says Firdaus. Periodical polishing keeps marble’s shine consistent and retouching makes hardwood flooring look new.

“You need to be wary of spills on marble and mop it immediately,” says Chaitali.

“Over the long run, re-polishing the cement flooring, ensuring joints between tiles remain filled, and replacing broken tiles or those that may have come loose are good ideas,” adds Firdaus.

Things To Consider During Remodeling
When redoing your interiors ground up, you keep all the above factors in mind and some more. “While refurbishing, you always do the flooring first if it’s marble or tiles, since they involve messy procedures of installation and can spoil your walls. But, if it is wooden flooring you are going for, you do it last since all you need is a leveled base and the process of laying it is simple,” says Chaitali. Also, you won’t have to worry about paint spilling on it!

Also, if you plan on doing wooden or laminate flooring, you don’t necessarily remove the old flooring, since it doesn’t add much weight or height to the flooring. “But if you are going for stone or tile flooring, you do have to remove the old flooring, or it can add weight and weaken the structure and will also add thickness to the floor making the space appear compact,” explains Chaitali.

“Many older properties have moisture issues so prepare your sub-floor with care. Find a skilled company who have worked with period properties before and offer a guarantee,” advises Ranjit.

Keep these points in mind when opting to get your flooring redone, or when you’re in the market for a remodeling project. All the best.

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