Tile: Everything there is to know about tile.

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Hardwood vs. Tile

Flooring completes the final look of a home. It is the final piece in a home decorating or remodeling project and helps unify the whole design concept.

Choosing flooring material and coverings is a meticulous process because of the variety of options: carpet, hardwood, parquet, bamboo, cork and tiles. Each has different textures, patterns and color schemes that must be carefully coordinated with every piece of furniture in the room. The right one will easily enhance the appearance of the room. The wrong choice will not only ruin it, but will be a costly error in terms of wasted time and effort.

A cursory survey of flooring considerations should include: expected foot traffic, potential for wear and tear, waterproofing, and imagining whether a neutral or extravagant design is warranted.

The most popular flooring choices have traditionally been tiles and hardwood. Tile technology has elevated this centuries old material into durable, maintenance-free and classy flooring. Ceramic tiles are many: limestone, granite, travertine, marble, slate, terracotta and even glass mosaic. Ceramic tiles are forged under tremendous heat from stones, clay and minerals created thousands of years ago. These trace minerals have added unique color tones, specks and streaks that only add to its attractiveness. Their natural toughness and density has made them extremely common wall and floor material for centuries.

Tiles are also resistant to moisture, heat, bacteria, molds and mildew. They are suitable for any room and are, for all intents and purposes, self-maintaining.

Ceramic tiles are the most cost-effective floor surface product for homes. Unlike wood, carpet, and laminated floors, ceramic tiles do not have to be replaced after a few years in the event of staining, wearing, delaminating, or discoloration from water damage. It is inherently easy to clean and maintain with nothing more than a damp cloth, sponge, or mop to erase dirt, grime and stains.

Another flooring option is hardwood.

Wood ages well and adds character to the home with the passage of time. It gives an aura of permanence, polished class and structural integrity to a home. Wood is also naturally warm because of its heat-retention capacity.

Wood is durable and provides good insulation. Hardwoods come from nut-bearing deciduous trees. There are over a hundred hardwood species, representing 40% of trees in the United States.

Given the proper care, hardwood floors can last for centuries. It is not uncommon for wooden furniture to be handed from one generation to next, testifying to both its durability and sentimental value.

Hardwood floors exude an organic elegance and natural charm that no mass-produced, synthetic material can equal. They are supported by centuries of tradition and are easily integrated into any interior design.

Besides being warm to the feet, hardwood floors do not retain mold, mildew, fungus, pollen, dust mites, and animal dander. Wood is also easier to clean relative to carpets.

Maple, oak, and American Cherry are some of the most abundant hardwood species in the U.S. They have been a favorite staple of furniture makers and craftsmen since the American Colonial Era. Hard maple is straight, bird’s eye or burl grained. It is a heavy, hardy and close-grained wood with a uniform texture. Its resistance to markings, indentation and scratching has made it the wood of choice for cutting boards, flooring and even women’s high heels.

White oak is the prized American oak found throughout the eastern United States. Red oak matures in 20 years and is prevalent in the north. Oak grains are radial or wavy which reflects light better when polished or stained properly. Oak is heavy, strong and very stiff. Its durability to the elements and ability to hold nails qualifies it as a building material for ships, cabinets, furniture and floors.

American Cherry is not as hard as red or white oak, making it easier to carve and shape. It is also a light sensitive wood that enriches its natural color over time. Brazilian Cherry has a similar aging quality, transforming from reddish brown to an exotic burgundy. It is also comparable to mahogany in toughness and hardness.

Hardwoods have diverse finishes, surfaces, and species. Pre-finished hardwood floor is convenient because no sanding is required. Unfinished hardwood flooring guarantees a more uniform seal. Moisture is hardwood’s kryptonite. Ensuring that the microscopic gaps are sealed before a finish is applied to the entire floor area is vital to a successful hardwood installation.

And just as ceramic tiles have an assortment of textures, surface variations of hardwood give them added depth and character. Smooth, planed hardwood that is polished is the image most people carry of hardwood floors. But for a growing number of discerning homeowners, hand-scraped or distressed hardwood floors represent a throwback to the old world classical flooring sensibility. Hand distressed floors represent a rugged beauty and rustic individualism compared to the uniform look of modern sanded floors. They are meant to look used and aged, each carrying a distinct mineral mark, grain and color. Brazilian Cherry, chestnut, walnut, red oak, hickory and hard maple are popular hand scraped hardwood choices.

Hardwood floors are treated with either a surface finish or a penetrating finish to increase their protection and aid in their preservation. A surface finish is a protective film over the floor. The most common finishes used today are urethane and polyurethane. A penetrating finish permeates and is absorbed by wood before a wax coating is applied. This helps wood retain its tactile graininess.

Of course, like anything of beauty, wood must be nurtured and preserved. Wood requires more routine maintenance than ceramic tiles. Cleaning, waxing, sanding, buffing and polishing are required to keep its distinctive beauty. Regular sweeping with fine-ended brooms, vacuuming and the immediate mopping of spilled liquids are the basic rules.

Sealed and waxed floors need several cleaning strategies, depending on the type of stain or scratch. Surface scratches need a reapplication of wax or oil then buffed to a shine. Heel and scuffmarks, cigarette burns molds and mildew can be removed by rubbing the floor with fine steel wool and then polished. Stains and dark spots can also be erased with very fine steel wool or grit sandpaper. Vinegar or wood floor cleaner is then applied and wiped dry.

When it comes to selecting flooring material, comparing tiles and hardwood is like comparing apples and oranges. Both have their distinct advantages and unique appeal. Wood has traditionally been a more stately flooring material—tough, dense, solid and just like a fine wine, ages gracefully and actually improves in appearance. More effort and time must be allotted for the care of wood. But that is also the point. Wood floors reflect a cultural refinement of the homeowner who doesn’t mind investing in what is considered an American heritage.

Tiles have practicality, variety and customization on their side. They are versatile, and both easy to install and maintain. They can be used to coordinate the appearance of wall, floor and countertop. They are the most prevalent home and commercial materials around.

The bottom line is to use what best fits your preferences, budget and time schedule. Floor installation must be perfect the first time so study each material carefully and don’t hesitate to seek the advice of professionals.

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