Hard Flooring Options

Hard flooring is the more durable flooring. It consists of ceramic tile, wood and concrete.

Ceramic Tile Flooring. Ceramic tile is very hard flooring, durable, versatile material that is available in a wide range of colors, patterns, shapes and sizes. This is an excellent choice for high traffic and damp areas. A few examples are:

  • outside patios;
  • sidewalks;
  • pool areas;
  • bathrooms; and
  • kitchens.

Glazed and unglazed are the two basic choices. Never use smooth glazed tiles in wet areas as they can become very slippery when wet. Ceramic tile is very unforgiving of anything that may be accidentally dropped.

Grout lines must be sealed to prevent stains. Ceramic tile feels cold and is hard to stand on for long periods of time. There are several other options for you to consider: slate, granite, and marble just to name a few.

Floor preparation is critical to the success of installing ceramic tile or any rigid breakable material. If the sub flooring moves at all, the tiles will crack and break.

Wood Flooring. Wood is a hard flooring and is gaining in popularity because it brings warmth, durability and classic good looks into all rooms of your home. It holds up well in high traffic areas like the kitchen. You are faced with many choices and types of wood flooring:

Let’s determine what you are looking for and then finalize on the type. Are you looking for a floor used in a damp area? Forget wood. I would not recommend wood flooring in a bathroom as the high levels of moisture will cause the wood to warp.

Kitchens are OK as you are not constantly dripping water on the floor.


A synthetic material such as Pergo is a good choice. The planks interlock to help seal them together. The surface material is a plastic laminate that should stand up to being scratch resistant and provide a long life. I have heard that laminate flooring can get slippery when wet.

This hard flooring comes in various widths and widths. A very good thing is that the flooring is typically 1/3 inch thick. This means you can floor the kitchen area without removing the cabinets.

I like to floor under the dishwasher and the stove. Since this floor is not thick there are usually no problems making everything fit. A regular wood floor is usually ¾ inch thick. This makes the cabinets lower then the range and the dishwasher normally will not fit under the counter.

There are two types of wood flooring:

  • Unfinished wood floor. When you look at the floor, the boards will appear to blend together without clearly being defined (they were sanded smooth while in place on the floor).
  • Pre-finished wood floor. It will have clear divisions or groves between the boards normally 1/16 inch deep. It will have a factory coat of polyurethane baked on to help endure the durability. This floor can be sanded should it ever become damaged to make it look brand new again.

The chief difference between the two hard floorings listed above is the environment the two will be installed in.

We had an pre-finished oak floor installed a few years back in our living room and kitchen and had everything finished by that evening with little mess. Using unfinished wood would have resulted in several days’ worth of sanding and finishing.

Below are a couple of pictures of the pre-finished rosewood floor we put in my wife’s craft room. You can see, we got creative with this room.

For a long lasting floor make sure to have two coats and preferably three coats of polyurethane. Lightly sand between coats 1 and 2 and again between coats 2 and 3. Do not sand the last coat. DO NOT put on one really heavy coat. It is not the same as two light coats.

I know some rehabbers that use this tactic and it does look bad to the experienced eye. You can tell by the lumps and bumps it was not finished correctly. Particles of dust are also plainly visible.

If you do decide to use unfinished, move out for several days and put up dust barriers to keep the sanding dust to a minimum in the rest of the house. Dust will be everywhere.

Allow the finish to dry thoroughly and the fumes to subside before you move back in. The final product will look great.

Just make sure you use polyurethane for floors. Of course there are choices even with polyurethane: flat; semi gloss; and high gloss. In my opinion, flat looks dull, high gloss gives the appearance of being wet and semi gives the best appearance. Then again use what fits your plan.

Here are a few last tips on hardwood floors.

Install the new wood so that it spans the floor joist at a 90 degree angle. This way any sagging of the sub floor does not transfer to the new floor giving a scalloped looking wavy floor.

Always place a piece of plastic floor cushion between the sub floor and the new floor. My floor installer likes to use 30 lb. roofing felt (or tar paper) as an insulating material between the sub floor and the new hard flooring. This closes any air passages (reduces drafts), keeps any bugs out as they do not like the tar paper and keeps the wood from rubbing and squeaking as you walk across it.

Concrete Flooring. Concrete is a very low maintenance hard flooring product that can be finished in varying degrees of texture (stamped, scored or inlaid with anything you desire), smoothness or color.

It is a very hard product that must be sealed periodically to maintain it’s resistance to stains. Concrete can also be made into countertops.

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I hope this answers some questions you may have about the types of hard flooring available. My wife and I like to go to home shows too see what the industry is doing. We usually come home with a wealth of ideas and a lot of pictures to review what we saw.

Plan ALL the details before doing any actual work. The project will be more to your liking than “just winging it”.

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Dave Altman

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