[Choosing the right flooring is one of the many kinds of detailed decisions that go into building a custom home. For that reason, we asked Reagan Echols of IQ Floors (a flooring supplier we work with often with great success) to answer some basic flooring questions. Today, he explains some of the differences between flooring types as well as certain things you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to buying and maintaining your flooring. We hope you find his insight helpful! -Ron Stauffer]
Q: What are some popular choices for flooring that do well in Colorado? Are there any that don’t work well in our environment and elevation?
A: Carpet is a really strong choice for just about every part of the home for two major reasons: 1) it comes at a good price, and 2) it is a warm flooring product. (It’s the warmest floor you can get outside of putting in a radiant floor heat system.) However, a lot of families in Colorado have a very active lifestyle: they have dogs, they’re constantly walking in and out, their back door opens up to their lawn where they’re tracking in sandy soil, etc. So you want to get a good combination of floors, generally having hard surfaces in the high-traffic areas, and the warmer floors where traffic is minimal (bedrooms, etc).
Cork is a nice flooring choice: it’s not for everybody but it’s a great renewable product. There are a lot of advantages to cork flooring: it’s inexpensive, soft, warm, and quiet. It’s like having a pair of Birkenstocks for a floor. It it’s done very carefully, it can be a good choice.
The easy answer about flooring to stay away from in Colorado is bamboo. Bamboo just doesn’t do well here. Even though you can find it for sale here for cheap, that doesn’t mean anything. It’s just not going to perform well in Colorado Springs. After it’s shipped here, when it gets to our climate, it just tends to shrink phenomenally which means, you get big gaps, and the boards can split right down the middle. So we stay away from it.
Q: What are some new flooring options or trends in the industry that you like but people might not know about yet?
A: Porcelain tile is a few years old, but it’s now becoming more popular. It’s a great choice because you can get a “wood look” with porcelain tile and put it in places you wouldn’t normally, like in your bathroom (where wood wouldn’t normally be recommended due to the presence of water causing swelling). There are many options for color, size, and textures, and it gives you this great look but it requires zero maintenance. Porcelain tile is becoming very trendy these days.
Something else that’s becoming very popular is LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile). It’s like sheet vinyl, but it’s thicker. It’s more cost effective than tile, plus, it’s softer, it’s warmer, and it’s more ergonomic. So, for example, if you cook a lot, it’s nice to put LVT in the kitchen because it’s easier on your feet than tile. Installation for LVT is a breeze: it’s easy enough to be a DIY (do-it-yourself) project, since you just score it with a knife and snap it. A big benefit is that it’s extremely durable and can take a beating: you can put it in the highest traffic areas of your home, moisture won’t hurt it, kids won’t hurt it, and pets won’t hurt it, so it’s a great option and both the product itself and the installation are inexpensive. LVT is a cool new product that we put in a lot of homes, especially in the laundry room, and secondary bathrooms.
For carpet, the big trend these days is softness. There are new carpets are made out of corn, (the biggest one is called “SmartStrand” by DuPont). SmartStrand is derived from corn oil instead of petroleum and it is super soft. It’s great: it feels like cotton or silk, and it holds up to stains like bleach, mustard, and red wine. So we really like the corn oil carpet, but even the older carpets like nylon and polyester carpets are trending towards being softer.
Q: When I’m shopping for a good carpet, how can I tell the difference between cheap and high-quality carpet?
A: Your hand will tell you. People come in to our showroom all the time and they have this habit of turning over a carpet sample and reading what’s on the back to gauge the quality, but that’s not a good idea. All the back of the carpet shows you is what the manufacturer is telling you about their own carpet, so of course it’s always going to show a good grade or rating. Instead, you want to be able to walk around and touch all the carpet. We’ll spend a few minutes with customers telling them “this is what a good carpet feels like; this is what a bad carpet feels like.” But even without our help, they can just walk around and touch a carpet sample and know that it’s built right. It’s really all about density—density trumps everything else. Most people’s hands can feel the quality of a nice, soft, dense carpet.
Q: What is the best way for me to take care of and maintain my flooring? What products should I use on it, and how often should I clean it?
A: Maintaining your flooring is absolutely a daily thing. On hard surfaces, I recommend people use a dry mop every couple days and a wet mop once or twice a week. Using a broom is good because it can clean inside grooves, or around beveled edges, so sweeping, then using a dry mop is good, and then occasionally using a wet mop helps, but you’ve got to use a wet mop very lightly. You can know which products to use by seeing what the manufacturer suggests. Each flooring manufacturer lists a specific cleaner to use, so go by their recommendation, just remember to use it in moderation. You don’t want to get your floor too wet. It is important to be aware that some of the cheaper floor cleaning products have fillers in them that can leave a residue. This is what happens when people call us and say “my floor is losing it’s luster,” or “my floor is covered in footprints.” Usually that’s because they’re using a cheap cleaner like Mr. Clean, Orange-Glo, or a Swiffer Wet-Jet. These can sometimes do more harm than good on your floors.
Also, you DON’T want to put oil on your floors. It may make your wood floor look great, but then you’re going to walk from your wood floor to the carpet and track oil into your carpet. This causes your carpet to get dirty faster. Just use a mild, neutral cleaner that isn’t going to leave any residue behind.
For your carpets, vacuuming should be done every few days to keep the dust off, and you should have a plan in place for spills. You have to know how you’re going to clean things up. For example, if you spill Kool-Aid on your carpet, how are you going to address that? Have a cloth ready to clean it up, and the right cleaner to remove the stain. There are apps for that: you can download smartphone apps that tell you what to use if you have an oil-based stain, what to use if it’s a water-based stain, etc. Each stain is different: a salsa stain is different than a red wine stain, and each one has its own approach to clean it up. Sometimes people use Resolve on their carpets and they think if they just keep spraying more and more of it on a stain, somehow that stain is going to disappear. But it doesn’t work, and then they over-saturate the carpet, which is a mistake. You wanna use the smallest amount possible.
Q: How often should I get my carpets cleaned, and what is the best cleaning method for doing that?
A: This is easy: just use steam to clean your carpets. No shampoo, no chemicals… just water. And you’ve got to have a professional do it. Don’t use those little rental cleaners you see at the grocery store: those may have worked fine in college when you didn’t really care what was going to happen to your flooring down the road, but again, people tend to oversaturate their carpets and those machines don’t have enough extraction to dry the carpet.
You want to hire someone with a truck-mounted system; a good professional company with a good name that’s not going to try to push chemicals or detergents on you. If you have a good carpet, all you need is steam. It’s that simple: they come in and “put water on/take water off.” If you have stains, they can spot-treat your carpet using what the manufacturer recommends.
Locally, some good companies are: ServiceMaster, COIT, and Dry-Steam. But people can always just call us and we’ll give them a recommendation based on what kind of flooring they have. Just watch out: people in that profession sometimes try to sell products, or cleaners or topical treatments. So they might clean your floor and then say “Would you like us to put Teflon or Scotch-Gard on it?” That’s not what you want—don’t do that. Tell them you JUST want a steam clean, that’s it. In terms of frequency, you should probably have your carpets cleaned every 20-24 months, so check to see what your manufacturer recommends.
Q: What’s the deal with flooring warranties? Some flooring products say “lifetime warranty.” What does that mean, exactly?
A: Recently, manufacturers (carpet manufacturers, especially) have gone towards offering “lifetime warranties.” But this is… misleading, for a few reasons. First of all, who wants carpet that’s going to be in their house for, say, 30 years? At some point, it’s simply going to be time for a new carpet. This is where we try to educate our customers on a buying good carpet versus buying a carpet with a good warranty. You do want a warranty, yes, and it can play an important role. There are times where you may need to fall back on a warranty, but when you’re buying carpet, buy it because it’s good carpet, not because it has a long warranty. Don’t make that your final determining factor.
The other reason it’s misleading is that it makes it seem like a warranty is a magic wand that makes all your troubles go away, and that’s not true. Warranties are there for when a product fails, usually due to a manufacturing process. So let’s say a carpet de-laminates within a year (where the backing has separated from the carpet tufts), and it’s totally separated. If it’s due to a materials defect, then that’s where a warranty will really save the day. But that’s a pretty extreme example—it doesn’t happen very often. Sometimes it’s a manufacturing problem, but other times, it’s the home owner’s problem. If you’re routinely spilling things on your carpet and not taking care of it, you’re the one who needs to address that problem, and falling back on a warranty is likely not going to help.
Thanks for reading this week’s guest blog post. We hope you’ve found this information helpful. There’s so much more than can be said about choosing the right flooring, so if you’re in the market, just contact IQ Floors and schedule a time to come by their showroom and view the myriad flooring options they have available. Reagan, Jodi, and the rest of the team will treat you well and take the time to get to know you and find the right flooring for you. Good luck!