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Flooring Ideas For Your Home

Durable cork, stone that comes in rolls, and vinyl tiles that are nothing like your grandma’s kitchen floor: if you’re thinking of installing a new floor, the options may surprise you.

For instance, consider the idea of onyx sheets that are thin enough to be backlit. “It can be used as flooring, it can be used as a feature,” suggests Michael Stachowiak, owner of Eco Creations, based in London, Ontario.

The company also carries thinly-sliced travertine and marble affixed to a polymer backing that makes it so strong and light that it can be installed in sheets as big as five by eight feet, eliminating most of the grout lines. Prices for the onyx vary widely; the travertine and marble cost about $25 to $29 per sq. ft. plus installation.

Do you prefer slate? You could choose a slate floor backed with fibreglass epoxy that’s sliced finely enough to be translucent. “With a red LED light it looks like a lava floor,” says Stachowiak. At about $14 to $15 installed, it’s sold in a roll. So is a similar sandstone product that “you can actually mold into almost any shape,” for about $17 to $20.

HARDWOOD EVOLUTION

Even simple hardwood has changed. For instance, there’s a line of thermal-treated ash wood called Thermory that can be glued directly to radiant heating, says Francis James of Weston Premium Woods Inc.

“When I say this to architects and designers, their eyes open,” he says. Ash, the perennial favourite material for baseball bats, is extremely stable and does not expand or contract when it’s heated. Grown close to many Canadian consumers in Ontario and the U.S., James says Thermory ash is a “rich, luxurious dark brown colour with a cathedral grain,” which is arch-shaped rather than swirly. It costs about $15 per sq. ft., installed.

For homeowners who are interested in sourcing the most environmentally-friendly materials, sustainable and reclaimed woods are good options, says Kay Valley, founder of the Toronto-based green building centre The Zero Point. She cautions that with many people requesting FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)-certified lumber, some unethical suppliers are fraudulently claiming that their products are certified.

“You have to deal with a company where you can trust the chain of authority from harvest to dealer,” says Valley.

NORTH AMERICAN WOOD

Whereas exotic woods were in vogue a little while ago, Valley says North American hardwoods like oak and maple have become much more popular lately: a good thing, since these “are produced here in North America under stringent guidelines” that ban clear-cutting and ensure replanting.

Reclaimed woods, such as weathered barn boards, are another ethical option – albeit a costly one. “When you take a look at them first, they look quite messy, and you can’t believe that anything good can come from that. But when you begin to sand them down, they reveal their beauty.” Solid reclaimed wood generally needs to be refinished onsite, so the lumber itself may start about $9 per sq. ft., but the cost can double when installation is factored in.

“It does give you an incredible look,” Valley says. A less costly choice is engineered reclaimed wood: a veneer of reclaimed wood over less expensive boards, which would cost from $9 to $15 per sq.-ft., with installation at an extra $5 per sq. ft.

INTERESTING OPTIONS

Another intriguing option is cork, made from the outer layer of bark, which can be harvested without killing the tree.

“Cork is probably one of the most interesting floors,” Valley says. “One of the great things about cork is it’s a warm flooring. It’s beautiful and it’s sustainable. It can look modern; it can look classical, and it can look absolutely stunning.”

Tongue-and-groove boards in a range of patterns are available for DIY installers, who simply glue them into place. Cork costs about $5 or $6 per sq. ft. before installation.

A completely different look can be achieved with the very popular LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile), says Ross M. Keltie, vice-president of Toronto-based Centura Tile. “It actually looks identical to wood, and it’s a much more appealing product than laminate,” he says. Requiring much less floor preparation than ceramic tiles and lasting at least 10 years, it’s an attractive option at just $1.50 to $5 per sq. ft.

Centura also carries two lines of fibre-back vinyl tiles: Habitex and Centura FiberFloor, which are extremely flexible and easy to install. These come with guarantees of 10 to 20 years at just over $1 to $3 per sq. ft.

Even compared to a decade ago, the range of flooring materials available to Canadian homeowners has broadened remarkably – to the point that the hardest part about installing new flooring may be choosing which one you like best.