You can't beat wooden floors. They are clean, durable and warm and look good in any style of home. They are timeless and never seem to go out of fashion, in fact they mature beautifully. And they will add value to your home.
Wooden floors even have health benefits. Any dust settles on the floor and can easily be hoovered up or swept away. On carpets, dust nestles into the fibres and is much more difficult to clean. This can encourage a stale atmosphere in your home and is no good for allergy sufferers.
If you are going to go for a wooden floor there are several types to choose from.
The first, and cheapest, option is to sand and polish the existing floor boards if your home has them and they are undamaged. If you have a few cracked floorboards it may be possible to replace them. Just make sure you get floorboards of the same width and depth as they can vary enormously.
Sanding is a noisy process so warn your neighbours and restrict the sanding to the daytime. It should only take a day to sand a room and varnishing or painting won't spoil their peace.
Once sanded the floor can be polished, stained, varnished or even painted with special floor paint. It is also worth considering filling the gaps in between planks. This is especially recommended if they are wide or in a child's bedroom, where small toys could find their way down the gaps. Just a word of warning, sanding floorboards creates a lot of dust - get your floor specialist to keep the door shut and roll a damp towel at the bottom to minimise dust spreading. Also as far as possible empty the room of furniture and even pictures and shelves on the walls. The room will need a good wipe down afterwards.
Alternatively, have a solid wood floor laid, but avoid this in a moist environment. If you are having underfloor heating laid at the same time get good advice on the suitability of the floor, as heat and lack of moisture encourage wood to expand and contract. The last thing you want is a warped or cracked floor. Generally, narrower boards expand and contract less than wide boards and so are more successful with underfloor heating. Solid wood floors, unlike laminates, need to be nailed into an existing wooden floor of some sort so they aren't suitable if you have concrete floors.
One great advantage of a solid wood floor is that it is solid wood from top to bottom. This means you can sand it several times so that it can be renovated time and again and will look good for decades. That's one reason why it is one of the best investments for your home.
Wood laminate is a good solution - allowing you to have the appearance of a wooden floor at much lower cost. It is scratch resistant and easy to maintain. Certain laminates can be used successfully over underfloor heating. Some can also be used in more moist environments such as the kitchen or bathroom. Laminates need to be laid on a flat, dry surface so deal with any problems on the existing floor first such as wobbly floorboards, damp or woodworm. You will need underlay under laminate flooring, so make sure you get a suitable type for the laminate you are using.
The disadvantage of laminate flooring is that it can't be sanded. So it will not last forever, but then it's relatively cheap compared with solid wood so if you have to swallow the cost of replacing it after ten years, you'll still be quids in!
Engineered wood is another choice. The top layer is solid wood and underneath is usually plywood. Each layer of ply runs perpendicular to the layer below, giving it great strength. Its construction minimises the expansion and contraction you get in solid wood floors, and makes it suitable for areas such as bathrooms and basements where you may have more moisture. Again, some types can be used with underfloor heating. The disadvantage of engineered wood is the thin top layer which can only be sanded once or twice, unlike solid wood.
Whatever type of wood flooring you choose for your home, it will give your space a new lease of life. And with a natural colour on the floor you can go ahead and decorate the rest of the room any colour you like!