When building or renovating a home, choosing the right type of floor is one of the most complex decisions. The variety of flooring materials available in the market makes the process extremely confusing but being aware of the multiple options as well as the pros and cons of each material can make things easier.
Today, we present a list of commonly used flooring options in Indian homes along with the benefits and drawbacks of each of them. Additionally, we look at the cost of each of these materials to help with choosing the flooring that fits specific requirements as well as a budget.
Hardwood is one of the most versatile flooring types as it comes in a variety of shades and finishes to suit diverse design styles. The advantage of wood floors is that they are durable and can be sanded and polished several times during their lifetime to keep them looking as good as new. They bring beauty, warmth and luxury into any home. Wood floors are also easy to clean.
The disadvantages of wood flooring are that its installation is highly labour intensive; it doesn’t retain heat, can get scratched easily, is affected by moisture, and expands and contracts according to the season and the temperature. One of the main drawbacks of wood as a flooring material is that is costlier than most other flooring options.
While it resembles wood, laminate flooring is made from wood composite that is compressed at high temperatures and then imprinted on the surface with an image of natural wood. The pros of using laminate for the floor are that they are cheaper, easier to install than hardwood, durable, scratch-resistant, moisture-proof and less susceptible to wear and tear.
Although laminate flooring is cheaper than natural wood, the low-quality versions can look tacky. Unlike wood, repairing a laminate floor in case of damage can prove challenging as it is often not easy to source boards in the same colour and finish as the original flooring.
In India, stone floors, especially those made of marble, have a luxury label. They have a lovely sheen, when polished. Like wood, natural stone flooring is versatile, due to the diverse types of stones that are available, including granite, sandstone, slate and limestone. They are extremely durable and can last a lifetime with regular maintenance.
One of the main demerits of natural stone is its high maintenance. Since it is porous, it can absorb stains easily and needs regular polishing and sealing to prevent stains from seeping through the surface. It can pose a safety risk as it is slippery, especially when the surface is wet. Hence, it is not recommended for kitchens, bathrooms and outdoor areas. This type of flooring is also cold to touch.
Hard glazed tiles made of ceramic or porcelain have been used as flooring materials for centuries. They are extremely decorative as they come is an array of colours and patterns. The advantages of porcelain and ceramic tiles are that they are hygienic, easy to clean, stain-resistant and easy to replace.
However, the grout between the tiles attracts dirt and is difficult to clean. Besides being cold, these tiles can crack or chip relatively easily, especially if something heavy drops on them, but they can be replaced in sections. The hardness of the surface causes brittle items such as glass or crockery to break easily if it drops on the floor. Like with natural stone floors, installing these tiles is a labour-intensive process.
The raw, unfinished look of concrete makes it a popular choice for certain design styles. The benefits of using cement or concrete for the flooring are that it is economical, easy to install and repair, durable and resistant to almost anything. Nowadays, concrete can also be stained and finished with textures and colours to look decorative, unlike the dull grey that was earlier associated with this material.
One of the disadvantages of concrete is that it is hard, which can result in breakages when things are accidentally dropped on the floor. Additionally, after a few years, concrete develops cracks on the surface due to moisture, temperature or settling. While it is considered a sustainable material as it does not require frequent replacement, the process of manufacturing concrete is not environment-friendly as it utilizes a significant amount of energy and releases carbon di oxide into the air. Like stone and ceramic tiles, concrete is cold.
Get a detailed overview about the advantages and disadvantages of concrete floors .
Made from synthetic polymer, vinyl comes in flexible sheets that are easy to install by gluing or nailing it to the sub-floor. Vinyl also comes in peel-and-stick sheets, making it a convenient D-I-Y solution for flooring. It is one of the cheapest options for coating floors, and once installed, it is easy to clean, water-resistant and durable.
However, the flexible property of vinyl makes it susceptible to tears, when sharp objects come into contact with the surface. Once it tears, repairing is not easy, and usually, the entire sheet will need to be replaced. Another major drawback is that due to the chemical processes involved in manufacturing the material, it can continue to emit Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) into the air for a period after it is installed.
Although they share several similar characteristics, vinyl and linoleum are two different types of flooring materials. While the former is manufactured using chemicals, linoleum is made from naturally-occurring substances such as linseed oil, cork, wood dust and resin. It comes in sheets and tiles, but the sheets are not as easy to install as vinyl. Linoleum tiles are more suited to D-I-Y installation. This material is easy to clean and is water-resistant.
However, even water-resistant linoleum can get damaged due to moisture and needs to be sealed from time to time. Linoleum is slightly more expensive than vinyl, but it is more durable. Unlike vinyl, which looks the same for years, linoleum weathers over time and gradually loses its surface sheen.
In recent years, bamboo flooring has become popular in modern homes because it is an eco-friendly and sustainable option. The tiles or boards are made of bamboo reeds, which are installed over a sub-flooring, as is the case with wood. The natural colour of bamboo makes it resemble beech wood. Its advantages include being easy to install, durable, hypoallergenic and easy to clean.
Although it is made from a natural material, the adhesive that is used to manufacture the flooring can release VOCs into the air over a period of time after installation. The tiles are vulnerable to sunlight, causing them to fade over time. Additionally, they are not water resistant.
This type of flooring is made from the bark of the cork oak tree. It is ground and pressed into sheets and then baked at high temperatures to produce flooring tiles. Besides having the advantage of being an eco-friendly material, cork is also durable and highly resistant to wear and tear even in high traffic areas. In addition, it is resistant to stains and mildew.
Cork flooring can be affected by moisture, and therefore, its durability is dependent upon the quality and strength of its finish. It is also more expensive than some of the other flooring materials.
How much do the various flooring types cost?
Before choosing the most suitable material for the floors, it is essential to know the flooring costs for each of them. While some materials are cheaper than others, installing them can be more labour intensive, requiring the expertise of professional floorers, thereby adding to the costs.
In general, vinyl is the cheapest option for flooring. Its cost can range from INR 20 to INR 175 per square foot, depending upon the quality. Linoleum is slightly more expensive – between INR 50 to INR 250 per square foot. Laminate floors are also affordable, costing between INR 50 per sq. ft. for the lowest quality to INR 325 per sq. ft. for the premium quality. Concrete is another economical flooring material as the cost per square foot of installing it can vary from INR 55 for the basic version to INR 250 for decorative tiles with micro-topping.
Among the natural and eco-friendly alternatives, bamboo flooring is the least expensive. Bamboo tiles can range from INR 120 to INR 550 per sq. ft., depending upon the quality and thickness. Wood flooring is available in a wide range of prices, depending upon the type of wood. The costs can vary between INR 250 to INR 500 per square foot. Cork is the most expensive among flooring types, ranging from INR 300 to INR 750 per sq. ft.
Natural stone is a popular flooring option in modern Indian homes. Marble, which is considered the most luxurious among them, costs between INR 200 and INR 700 per square foot. Granite is slighter cheaper (INR 100 to INR 500 per sq. ft.), while sandstone and limestone are the most budget-friendly among natural stones as they cost between INR 50 and INR 200 per square foot.
Finally, we come to ceramic and porcelain tiles, which are the most common type of flooring in India. Depending upon the quality, the pattern and the colours, the prices of these tiles can vary between INR 50 to INR 450 per square foot.
It's always advisable to consult interior architects or designers to help with the right decision on flooring.