Soft Flooring Options
Soft flooring is much more than just a floor to walk on. Can you imagine a piece of plywood or worse yet, bare unfinished concrete? The floor determines the style of the room by adding texture, color and personality.
Basically there are two soft flooring types, resilient and non-resilient.
Resilient retains the ability to recover its shape or bounce and non-resilient are hard floors. Hard floors are difficult to stand on for extended periods of time and almost always lead to items breaking if by chance something is dropped.
Almost any material can be used as flooring in your home today. In days of yesteryear, the favorite material was linoleum. It was very durable.
The products popularity dropped off in the 1970s when vinyl gained in reputation. However, linoleum is making a comeback due in part to being a green product.
The primary materials used in the manufacturer of linoleum are linseed oil, fabric backing, and cork or wood dust. This old favorite is being produced in an ever expanding array of colors and patterns.
It may cost slightly more than vinyl, but does not tear as easily and produces little out gassing or evaporation.
As a side benefit as the linseed oil evaporates, it is oxidizing and releasing a bacterial growth retardant. As the linseed oil is released the flooring gets harder with age. This is what led to the popularity of vinyl. After many years of durable service, the linoleum floor would turn hard and crack. Linoleum has a much longer life expectancy than vinyl, but does require maintenance.
Vinyl flooring: Vinyl is known as resilient flooring, as it has a soft flexible surface. It is delivered in sheets (rolls) usually 12 ft wide. However I have found 6 ft, 14 ft and 15 ft 6 inches wide.
Check with your local distributor for available widths and lengths. If you find something you like, ask if this is a popular choice.
I once planned to use a particular flooring on a rehab house. However when I went back to the big box to get it, we found it was out of stock and the reorder would not arrive for several weeks. That problem did not fair well for my completion schedule.
Always be prepared for changes! (By the way, we changed the floor pattern to meet the deadline.)
Vinyl is also available in 12 x 12 tiles with and without self-adhesive backing. Sheet vinyl with felt backing is glued to the entire floor surface. PVC backed sheeting is glued around the edges, stapled around the edges OR free floating.
Without a doubt, the free floating vinyl is the soft flooring we like the best and is the easiest to install. Remove the shoe molding, lay the flooring within ¼ inch of the walls, put the shoe molding back on.
We installed this type of flooring in one of the rental houses and have had no problems for over three years since. I actually like it because if it does get damaged, it will be easy to replace, no scraping. The damaged piece can be used as a pattern for the new floor.
Cork flooring: Cork is available in a variety of brown colors, gives slightly, has noise reducing properties. It is available in sheets, tiles or planks with a variety of installation methods.
Make sure you purchase the product with a pre applied urethane finish for durability. This product can last for decades when maintained properly. The floor should be sanded every few years and new urethane applied.
Bamboo flooring: Bamboo is a member of the grass family and is more durable than oak or maple. It does not accept any stain, so all the products you see will be yellow brown or caramel brown.
It is made by laminating three layers or more of grass under high pressure to create planks. Three layers of acrylic urethane make the surface durable and resistant to water, mildew and insect damage. It is a very durable product.
Soft flooring has a life expectancy of 6 to 50 years
If you are interested in more durable flooring, then look at our section on hard flooring. Hard flooring usually has a life expectancy of 100 years or more if maintained.
If you are interested in a more soft flooring The Many Uses of Indoor Outdoor Carpeting is interesting to read.