Friday, July 23, 2010

In Depth Look At Tile

Tile flooring is one of the most versatile forms of floor covering with styles catering for every taste and a durable, easy-care surface suitable for every kind of lifestyle. It is not surprising, therefore, that it is one of the most popular choices of flooring and is used in a variety of
domestic and even commercial situations.


Why is Tile so Popular?
For those wishing to install hard surface flooring, tile offers one of the most durable options. It is especially suitable for high traffic areas, such as entrances and in kitchens and other high activity rooms. It is also one of the easiest to clean, especially where heavy soiling is involved so again, it is popular in doorways and other entrances where outdoor dirt and moisture is likely to enter the house. Similarly for kitchens and bathrooms, its stain-resistant, waterproof surface means easy care, cleaning and maintenance.

Furthermore, tile is inherently attractive with a natural, hand-crafted look that suits a variety of decor themes and offers the possibility of limitless design patterns with differing combination of size, texture and color.


What to Look for When Selecting Tile Flooring
Most floor tiles come manufactured to standard sizes, from 4"x4" up to 24"x 24" and are usually 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick. Although usually square in shape, they can come in a variety of other shapes, such as octagonal and hexagonal.

People usually base their choices on personal preference of colour and style but it is important to take a few other things into consideration as well. For example, it is important to make sure that the tile is rated for the type of exposure and wear it will receive. This basically depends on where you plan to install it; bathrooms, for instance, will need a water-proof, non-slip surface whereas doorways and entrances require an extremely durable and hard, abrasion-resistant type of tile. Ideally, they should also be water-resistant and non-slip (especially in countries with frequent wet weather, such as the UK); this means treating the surface of the tile so that it becomes 'rougher' and therefore provides more traction or grip. Tiles that are intended for outdoor use need to be of a material for outdoor use only (and some tiles can be used for both outdoors and indoors).

Tiles are rated using a series of standardized tests which evaluate their relative hardness and durability under wear and tear. This is dependent partly on the firing process: usually the longer and hotter the firing, the harder the resulting tile. When tiles are 'double-fired' this means that they are baked a second time after color or other decoration has been added following the first firing and such tiles are usually thicker.

The tests also measure the amount of water absorbed by the tile. This is termed the porosity and can be a very important value, especially when you are considering tiles for bathroom and kitchen floors. Tiles are usually categorized into Impervious (least absorbent), Vitreous, Semi-vitreous and Non-vitreous (most absorbent). In addition, porous tiles should be avoided outdoors in areas of extreme cold weather and the likelihood of freezing and thawing.


Types of Tile

Porcelain
This type of tile is probably considered the 'luxury' end of the tile market; porcelain is fired at extremely high temperatures, making it very dense and therefore incredibly hard, resistant to wear and tear (especially foot traffic) and most importantly, resistant to moisture. In fact, it is often used as an alternative to stone tiles and is frequently chosen as an ornate option for kitchens and bathrooms. Porcelain comes in a range of colors and finishes and can be installed glazed or unglazed. Its premium look means that it has gained popularity in both domestic and commercial settings, with its combination of sophistication and practicality.

Ceramic
Probably the most common type of tile, ceramic is made from clay and/or other minerals using the traditional kiln firing method; one of the most efficient methods of production. The extruded material is usually shaped and then fired in the kiln, before being further treated with glazing. This means that color is added and a glass-like surface bonded to the tile. It also means that brighter colors can be used and the tile is made more stain-resistant. Tiles can also be left unglazed (see quarry tiles); if so, such tiles need to be sealed in order to provide stain resistance. Ceramic tiles come in a huge range of colors and styles and are popular for their simple beauty and their easy maintenance.

Brick
Brick tiles are usually used in outdoor settings and come in a range of earth tone colors. As they are porous, they need to be treated with a stain-resistant sealer. They can also be used indoors and tend to be favored as part of a rustic decor or an informal interior scheme.

Cement
Made by pouring cement into molds which are then fired or left to dry naturally, cement tiles can come as natural or have color added. It also requires sealing to prevent staining and moisture seepage. Again, it is more commonly used in outdoor settings.

Quarry
Another name for unglazed tile, quarry is often used in commercial settings as it is relatively cheap but still very durable. It is clay-based and usually comes in earth shades of red and orange.

Saltillo
A particular type of tile which has a very rustic appearance, these tiles are the complete opposite to the highly refined urban look of porcelain tiles and may be ideal for certain decor themes.

Mosaic
These can be porcelain or ceramic but their defining feature is that they are two inches square or smaller. They are often mounted on mesh or paper sheets, although they can also be installed individually. They also come in glazed or unglazed form.

Terracotta
Similar to the material used in clay garden pots, terracotta is known for its distinctive earthy color, however, remember that they are porous and very absorbent and therefore need to be treated with sealer for outdoor use.

Pavers
Similar to bricks and quarry tiles, these are largely used for outdoors, although some are installed as interior flooring. Again, they need to be sealed for moisture and stain-proofing and they tend to be thinner than brick.

Cold Feet?
The one problem with tile flooring is cold feet, particularly in chilly weather and it is also not very comfortable or cosy to sit on tile flooring in such climate conditions. However, the strategic use of soft rugs, preferably thick and plush, will solve this problem and provide not only comfort underfoot but also an inviting surface for children and adults to sit and play on.

This article was taken directly from Floor Ideas (www.floorideas.co.uk). Also, visit my websites at www.americarpetfloors.com and www.stylishrugs.com for all your flooring needs. We sell all the flooring you read about on the article.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What Is the Most Expensive Flooring?

All floors are not created equal – in fact some can be a lot more expensive than others! For those who are lucky enough not to have to stick to a budget, there is a wealth of choice from luxury carpets to pristine marble, glorious hardwood to natural stone.

What types of Flooring are High Cost?
As we all know, natural hardwood is one of the most expensive options for hard flooring. However, it will last the lifetime of the building if it is properly maintained and it is the only type of flooring that can be refinished. Other well-known expensive options are natural stones like marble, slate, limestone, granite and flagstone. One way to reduce the cost of natural stone is to choose stone tiles instead, as this is made of stone aggregate that is suspended in polymer binder. Tiles can be an expensive option depending on their quality, materials and manufacture. Even carpet – usually thought of as the affordable choice – can be expensive depending on the type of fibers used.

So what Bumps the Cost up?
Like many other things in life, flooring will be more expensive if the material is hard to source or rare on the market and involves high cost and intensive labour to manufacture and process. Thus “hand-made” will cost significantly more than factory manufactured. Another factor in price is any artistic input, just as designer clothes will always bear a significant price tag. Installation also plays a large role in cost. Finally, flooring that is “fragile”, requiring special maintenance and after-care, will often cost more as well.

Installation
A substantial proportion of flooring cost is actually the installation so if you are a bit of a DIY whiz, you can save a lot of money by installing the flooring yourself. This means that you can afford more expensive materials – for example, natural hardwood as opposed to engineered or even laminate flooring. Another thing to consider is how much you are deviating from the norm. For example, wood strips are usually laid in a straight pattern so if you decide on any other kind of pattern, this will increase the cost as more wood will be needed and installation will take longer.

Quality
It really goes without saying that better quality will be more expensive. For example, timber is usually classified into grades, according to appearance; the most expensive – and the highest quality – is the “clear grade” which means wood that has a uniform surface (color and texture) with no knots.

Exotic
Rare and unusual always commands a premium price. Thus “exotic” woods will cost more than the popular types of timber. These include woods like bamboo (although this is technically a grass), cherry and walnut. However, some of these, such as bamboo, are rapidly gaining in popularity which means that they may be more affordable than traditional hardwoods.

Sourcing and Manufacturing Process
Ceramic tiles, in particular, show a significant difference if they are handmade versus mass-manufactured. This is reflected in the quality of the tile and ultimately the price. Glass tiles fall into this category as they are usually made by hand. However, it does have a transparent beauty that enhances in a way many other tiles can’t achieve. Tiles will also be expensive if they are custom-made, especially by an artisan. If you have your heart set on this look but have a limited budget, one compromise is to just use a small amount of the expensive tiles to accent in a way that achieves maximum decorative impact.

Marble is the most expensive type of stone flooring with an elegant, ornamental, premium look that is desired by many and hard to achieve by alternatives. It is expensive partly because it is hard-wearing but also because of the sourcing process and the fact that it tends to be rather porous which means that it can be affected by acid and therefore needs professional refinishing. Granite is another expensive stone which gives a beautiful sophisticated look but its extreme hardness makes it very difficult to cut, therefore contributing to its high price.

This article was taken directly from Floor Ideas (www.floorideas.co.uk). Also, visit my websites at www.americarpetfloors.com and www.stylishrugs.com for all your flooring needs. We sell all the flooring you read about on the article.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Which Natural Carpet Should I Choose

Natural carpets look wonderful but there are now so many to choose from. Have a go at this quiz to help you make your mind up about the best one for your home.

1. Which space are you considering carpeting?

A - We are considering carpeting a living area. This might be a sitting room or dining room, or perhaps an open plan space that is flexible but is well used throughout the day.

B - The carpet is for a bedroom. This might be for an adult or an older child.

C - We are thinking about a natural carpet for our hall or landing.

2. What is your interior design like?

A - It is very modern. We have gone for a contemporary look that is minimal. We do not have many pieces of furniture and our room is very light. We have opted for blinds on windows.

B - Our house has a very relaxed interior style. We have friendly, comfortable pieces of furniture and warm, inviting colors. At the windows we have curtains in good, heavy textures.

C - We have gone for a straight-forward, no nonsense style. Some of the pieces in our home are traditional but our interior design is certainly not fussy.

3. What are the color schemes in your home like?

A - We have gone for carefully matched neutral shades with the odd block of strong color. Our scheme has a very clean, modern look to it. The strong colors we have chosen are clear and defined.

B - Each room has a different color scheme. These tend to be soft, inviting shades. Some of them are pastel. None of them are bold. We have used wallpaper in some places.

C - There is no real 'color scheme' as such in our home. We have largely painted walls in a simple magnolia.

4. Who lives in the house?

A - A single person or young couple in their 20s or 30s. There are no children and no older people living here.

B - There are young children, including babies or toddlers in the house. Older adults might live here too, or visit frequently.

C - This is a house with older children and adults living in it.

Which natural carpet should you chose?

Mostly A - How about trying a jute in a beautiful sandy shade? This will really set off a modern living area and will bring texture into what might otherwise be a slightly cold environment. Jute has a fine texture and can work well in a home where there is not heavy wear and tear.

Mostly B - Why not opt for a lovely pure wool carpet? This can bring a natural look to a room but adds a touch of luxury and warmth too. It is durable and is warm underfoot. It lends an air of cosiness to a space. You will find a good range of natural colours, from light sandy shades through to rich chocolates, allowing it to team up well with almost any colour scheme.

Mostly C - You could look at seagrass or coir. These are both hard wearing and durable. Seagrass comes in a variety of natural shades and you could pick one with a slightly greeny hue if you want to bring a little color to a bland area. The heavy texture of coir will serve the same purpose, to add something extra to an otherwise uninteresting space. If you are carpeting a hall or landing try a lighter shade.

Note - If you are thinking of carpeting stairs remember to check the product is suitable.

This article was taken directly from Floor Ideas (www.floorideas.co.uk). Also, visit my websites at www.americarpetfloors.com and www.stylishrugs.com for all your flooring needs. We sell all the flooring you read about on the article.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Oak Flooring

Oak is a dense wood (around 0.75 g/cm³) and is extremely strong and hard. Its high tanning content makes it resistant to fungal and insect attack - not so much a problem today but it was a distinct benefit in the middle ages when it was used extensively for the interior paneling in exquisite building, including the debating chamber of the House of Commons in London.

History
Very wide, quarter sawn oak boards have been prized since the Middle Ages and used in the construction of fine furniture and for the construction of ships and timber framed buildings. You can rest assured that if you choose to lay an oak floor that you will be in great company. Whilst today's speedily grown Oak is nowhere near as dense as that used by our ancestors, it still retains much of the beauty and other properties.

Oak is Durable
Oak makes for great flooring due to its hardness. Whilst other hardwood floors like Walnut may arguably be more beautiful, they are not as strong as oak having a lower density. Whilst this might not at first appear to be a problem, a few sets of stiletto heels marching over a floor will soon highlight the difference that the hardness of Oak floor can make. Oak will withstand heavy duty traffic and whilst it will not remain perfect it will comfortably withstand it.

Sourcing an Oak Floor
Oak is available in English Oak, French Oak, American Oak and many other varieties - even from China. Most of the English and European Oak is grown sustainably and to us that matters a lot. English and European Oak offers a great colour, grain, ambience and style which to us is what a floor is about. The cheap imported Chinese flooring available from many discount stores lacks any definition and has poor colouration. It will need staining before use and it's probably not grown sustainably.

Engineered Boards
Oak boards are available in an engineered form where the board is essentially a cross ply constructed board. There will be three layers with the top layer typically being a 5mm oak veneer.

This type of board is identical in appearance but much less prone to movement due to moisture. In a new build environment this is a great choice as the varying moisture content will not cause the boards to expand or contract significantly.

Laying an Oak Floor
As with any floor the wood needs to acclimatise to the environment in which it is being laid. If you have purchased kiln dried Oak from a reputable supplier then there should be no real problem here but oak will 'move' as it takes in (or gives out moisture). You should look for a book on laying a floor for detailed instructions on fixing as there are many ways to do so: from nailing through the board for a traditional look, to secret fixing and even gluing.

Finishing Oak
If you have not purchased a pre-finished oak floor, or you have sanded an existing floor back to bare wood, then you will need to finish it. Firstly if you want to change the colour then you can use a stain. Using a fast water based stain will mean that you can apply the finish quickly. Beware using an oil based stain from a DIY shop - the colours look great but an oil based varnish will not dry soon after it is applied.

When you have the required colour, the oak can be finished in a number of ways or even left unfinished. If you want oak to yellow then oil or varnish will bring on the process. Oak left naturally in the open air will not yellow significantly. The typical means of finishing oak are:

  • Varnish - makes for a durable finish that is long lasting. Make sure if you are using a water based varnish that you test it on a small area first to check if it lifts the grain. The water content of this type of varnish when placed on top of a low density board may mean significant sanding is required. When you have sanded, adding more water based varnish just lifts the grain again as the wood has been re-exposed. If this is the case use an oil based varnish and save yourself a load of work.
  • Oil - Danish oil or similar will give a very natural finish and will need reapplying infrequently.
  • Wax - Wax gives a lovely finish especially if you use a coloured wax. Biwax have a wide range of colours available. Osmo have a 'wax' that is extremely hard wearing.

Special Oak 'Cuts'
Today there are a number of types of oak available. These are:

  • Pippy Oak - contains pips from the burr of the wood. More expensive but very beautiful.
  • Quarter Sawn - has 'waves' in it as the wood has been sawn at an angle (45 degrees) to the grain of the wood
Whatever type of oak you choose and whatever finish you apply, you can rest assured that an oak floor will last a good few generations and should look better and better with age.

This article was taken directly from Floor Ideas (www.floorideas.co.uk). Also, visit my websites at www.americarpetfloors.com and www.stylishrugs.com for all your flooring needs. We sell all the flooring you read about on the article.