With their sleek good looks, vinyl, linoleum, and cork floor coverings have much to recommend them. Attractive, easy to clean, hardwearing, and long-lasting, they are also a competitively priced option.
As a significant surface area in a room, a floor has a great bearing on its overall appearance. Smooth floor coverings are a versatile option – the range of vinyl and cork available today is so vast that you should have little difficulty in finding something to suit your taste as well as your budget. Indeed, there is a pattern and texture of smooth floor covering to suit every room in the home, from a classical parquet appearance for a living room to marbled effects for kitchens or bathrooms.
On the practical side, smooth floor coverings cope well with the wear and tear of everyday family life. They are ideally suited to heavy traffic areas such as the kitchen and hall, where other floor coverings quickly become worn. In bathrooms and kitchens where the floors are liable to get wet and have messy things spilt on them, a floor covering that's waterproof and easy to clean is a must.
In a bedroom or a living room, you'll find smooth floor coverings surprisingly warm and comfortable underfoot. They can also add interesting color, texture, and pattern that can either complement other furnishings or become a focal point in their own right. Alternatively, you can choose a plain, restrained shade to create a mellow, neutral background for attractive rugs.
Vinyl flooring is generally available in different grades to suit various rooms. It comes in sheet form on the roll in 79, 118, and 157in (2, 3, and 4m) widths, so you can buy a single piece to fit most rooms. Unlike natural wood, it has no tendency to warp in extremes of damp or heat.
Most types of vinyl also come in tile form – a convenient way of buying it. Packs of standard grades of vinyl are readily available and come in plain colors and patterned with marble and tile effects. The least expensive types have a faint flecking, but as the complexity of the designs increases, so does the price. Many are self-adhesive – you just strip off the backing paper and stick them in place.
When buying vinyl tiles, always check that the code number on each pack is the same, or you may find that the colors do not quite match.
Standard vinyl flooring is flexible and fairly thin. It can be cold to walk on and hard underfoot. However, it is inexpensive and easy to clean.
Cushioned vinyl flooring is attractive and capable of withstanding the rough and tumble under a family's feet. Soft and thick, it's made with a layer of padding sandwiched between a wipe-clean surface and a flexible backing. A 1 / 16in (1.5mm) thickness is suitable for light domestic use, while a 1 / 8in (3mm) thickness is ideal for a kitchen or busy hallway. Its padded filling provides a high degree of comfort that is ideal in a kitchen or utility area where you stand for long periods of time. Cushioned vinyl also feels warm underfoot, so it's a good choice of floor covering in bedrooms and bathrooms.
Look for a lay-flat vinyl, which molds itself to the contours of the floor, so there is no need to stick it down at all, not even at the edges.
Rigid vinyl flooring is the most expensive form of vinyl flooring, but it is very hardwearing. It is made to imitate natural surfaces such as marble, terrazzo, stone, ceramic tiles, and wood. Unlike many of the materials it mimics, it is easy to clean and warm to walk on. Rigid vinyl should always be laid by a professional flooring installer because the surface must be absolutely level.
Rigid vinyl is available in sheet or tile form, in a wide range of elaborate designs, including matching borders, corner pieces, and narrow insert strips. Tiles also come in different shapes for a realistic tiled-floor finish.