Choosing the right flooring for your home

The flooring you choose for your home can make a huge difference to the look and feel of a room. If you are undecided as to what to buy and where to use it, here are a few tips to help you make the right decision.

Guide to choosing the right flooring
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In order to make sure you get the best flooring for a particular area it is important to consider whether it is suitable. For example, for high traffic areas durability is paramount and those rooms used by children and pets will need to be similarly hard-wearing.

In kitchens and bathrooms, a waterproof floor covering is advisable while carpet can fade over time if regularly exposed to bright sunlight.

Of course, it's not just practicality you need to bear in mind. Colour and style should be taken into account - a light coloured carpet or floor can make a small room appear more spacious and the reverse is true for a large room that you would like to seem cosier.

It is also worth looking at the flooring in adjacent rooms as the right blend will ensure a good flow throughout the house.

Types of flooring

Though it can be expensive, real solid wood flooring is a long-lasting and distinctive choice. The texture and appearance can add a unique yet traditional look to your home and, because it can be stained or otherwise finished, the opportunities to alter that look provide even greater life length.

If solid wood is out of your price range, consider engineered wood - also long-lasting, it features a wood core with solid veneer and is available in a variety of colours and wood types. Glueless boards also make laying the floor easy.

Either is a good choice for dining and living areas.

A cheaper alternative to real wood is laminate and these days there is a wide choice available. From oak and walnut to maple ash, a good laminate flooring manages to combine the look (and in some cases, texture) of wood with the resilience of laminate that will not fade in strong sunlight.

Laminate flooring also has a high degree of scratch resistance thanks to the production process, and is stain, warp, and buckle proof.

Again, glueless construction makes it easy to install but be aware that you will almost certainly need to buy underlay separately. It is ideal for high traffic areas but be sure to buy water-resistant laminate if installing in a kitchen or bathroom.

Be aware that if you are adding underfloor heating, you may need expert advice where wood and laminate flooring are concerned. Some big DIY stores offer DVDs that take you through the process of intsalling underfloor heating step-by-step.

While wood and laminate flooring has increased in popularity recently, carpet still offers a more cosy, luxurious feel underfoot. Particularly useful for cold rooms, carpet can insulate, provide extra warmth and muffle sound.

A hardwearing carpet is essential for high traffic areas but a deeper "pile" will add a little luxury to others. It may not be as easy to keep clean as wood or laminate flooring but, if spillages are likely, carpet tiles may provide the answer. Stripes are a great choice on high traffic areas, such as stairs, and patterns are less likely to show up stains and dirt.

When it comes to the wet areas of the house, such as the kitchen and bathroom, vinyl provides a relatively low-cost and easy-to-clean surface. From patterned and coloured to wood, stone or marble lookalikes, you can achieve a great look with this waterproof, hardwearing alternative.

The cushioned variety offers extra comfort and a self-adhesive backing means it is easy to lay.