Fairest for Your Feet: The Best Flooring Choices for Condos
You’ve decided to install new flooring in your condominium, or update the flooring before you move in. But what to buy?
With condos you have to take a lot more into consideration than simply how the floor will look. First and foremost, there are the neighbours, and it’s not just how much they might hear you, but how much you might hear them.
Before you start shopping for flooring, says Ashley Kitchen, interior designer at reVISION Renovations, check into your condominium bylaws.
“With older condominiums, many strata councils will absolutely say no to hardwood floors,” she says. “You really need to speak to the strata members before you do anything else.”
The next consideration is noise control. No one likes listening to their neighbours pace across a room in high heels or listen to their pounding music. The type of floor and underlay you choose can greatly reduce the sound that travels through the floor.
“The key to soundproofing is in the underlay,” says Kitchen. “Talk to your installer to get their recommendations.”
If you are in the market to buy a new condo, ask the sales team or your realtor to inquire about how soundproof the flooring is and, more importantly, “don’t be afraid to ask for the specifics of the underlay.”
Kitchen went on to speak about a product her installers are raving about.
“I haven’t worked with Flexilastic yet, but it is a peel-and-stick sheet coating that reduces impact and airborne sound transmissions. It works great with ceramic, porcelain and natural stone tile where sound absorption is really needed.”
In addition, the way to ensure maximum soundproofing is combining the best underlay with carpet.
“The prices [for underlay] really depend on the model and square feet you need to cover, so the best thing to do is call your installer to suit your specific needs.”
Although carpeting will provide your condo with the best soundproofing, Kitchen admits she hasn’t had any clients in recent memory who have asked for it. As much as baby boomers have become accustomed to carpet for its warmth and soft feel underfoot, many are turned off by its staining and the crushed, matted traffic areas.
“Millennials do not want carpeting anywhere, period,” she says. “However, when customers request carpeting, they are going for a tightly woven wool carpet.”
Although on the pricier side of carpeting, wool actually retains its shape much better, is durable, naturally soil resistant, non-allergenic, and eco-friendly.
Manufacturers are also creating synthetic carpeting that is more environmentally friendly and a few are actually producing fibre combinations that take softness to a whole new level.
The seasoned designer says there’s no question that carpeting is quiet. And, when a high-density pad is used, a beautiful wool carpet can look stunning and feel comfortable to walk on.
As far as carpet colour is concerned, condo owners are sticking to the organic neutrals – greys and whites but no beige, which “is passé.”
Laminates vs. Hardwood
The biggest craze in condo flooring, hands down, says Kitchen, is laminate. Today’s laminate looks so much like hardwood, many people would be hard-pressed to know the difference.
“There are faux-wood laminates, produced in Europe and in China, that you can’t even tell they aren’t hardwood,” she adds. “They look amazing. Most clients are going for the long, wide planks.”
The faux hardwood laminates come in a huge selection of colours and options.
The great advantage of laminate flooring is that not only does it have the look and feel of hardwood but it costs a fraction of the price.
“In newer condos, engineered hardwood is not the driving force anymore,” says Kitchen, adding hardwood will always require a lot more maintenance. “I’ve had clients who say their first and only choice is hardwood but, when I show them the laminates, they can be swayed.”
However, some homeowners will never be convinced away from hardwood. Kitchen concedes that, for some clients, the beauty and feel of hardwood is hard to beat.
Tiles that look like concrete are super-hot right now in Europe and gaining momentum here in BC.
“Again, these tiles look great and they feature minimal grout joints, so they are easy to clean and almost seamless,” Kitchen adds.
She goes on to say that there are tiles coming out of Spain and Italy that look like hardwood as well.
“We’re also seeing lots of tile that looks like fabric,” she says.
Another hot trend is decorative tiles for accents with a nod to the old hydraulic tiles.
“They look stunning in larger bathrooms and kitchens... the factories are producing them differently now but with similar patterns,” says Kitchen.
As far as tile size goes, small is definitely not better. What is vogue right now is moving toward “modular” sizes – rectangular tiles or 12-by-24-inch sizes.
“Twelve-by-12 tiles are out, we are following the European trend of bigger is better, going as big as 24 by 24,” she adds.
As a condo owner you are probably thinking that is way too big for small spaces. Not true. If you avoid dark colours, large tiles can actually make a room look bigger.
“A side benefit is that with bigger tiles there are less grout joints, so less cleaning,” she adds.
Vinyl… the word alone conjures up 1950s cheap flooring. Well, not anymore. Today’s vinyl is gorgeous and can be pretty pricey.
Although some vinyl flooring choices are quite affordable and look great, Kitchen says others can cost from $18 to $22 per square foot or more.
“It’s a tough sell – because it's expensive but it is a really good quality product,” says Kitchen. “It comes in a variety of options… it can have the look of stone, slate and even hardwood.”
Vinyl is easy to install and maintain and Kitchen recommends it for recreation rooms, offices, gyms or play rooms.
Cork: Yes or No?
In an eco-conscious province like BC, there’s been a lot of buzz about cork flooring. Made from tree bark, it’s a natural and renewable resource, so it’s environmentally friendly. But is it trendy?
When asked, Kitchen says: “It's not durable at all, and the style is a little outdated.”