Flooring options rival hardwood's pizzazz

| Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, 7:36 p.m.

Interior designer Marc Scurci knows there are many aspects that come into play when choosing a floor, but he says the best part in the selection is that price is not as big a matter as it once was.

Joyce Salerno from the Wilkins Home Depot agrees flooring has become less demanding, less costly and less difficult to install.

“We've come a long way,” she says.

While flooring experts agree hardwood is the most popular material, some joke about it as having a “bit of a snob appeal,” in the words of Patrick Molyneaux, head of the like-named flooring chain with eight stores in the area. It is rivaled at the upper end by cork and bamboo.

But Molyneaux, Salerno and Scurci all mention such alternates as laminates and what is known as luxury vinyl tile as options that are good-looking and less costly.

“You really have to see it installed,” says Molyneaux, adding five of the eight stores have done so in their show areas.

The options provide “a great value story,” says Mara L. Villaneuva-Heras, vice president of marketing in residential flooring of Lancaster County-based Armstrong Floor products. She says laminate products cost about $4 to $5 a square foot as opposed to upper-end hardwood, which can go to $14.

Those laminates also have striking design, she says, far from the laminates of past. For instance, she says, the “Ore” line has a look like a “reclaimed metal from the ocean floor pitted with age for a rich patina.”

It also is made in a floating, no-nail design that can be installed by a “solid do-it-yourselfer.”

Molyneaux and Salerno see luxury vinyl tiles as durable, reasonable in price and rather easy to install.

Armstrong's Villaneuva-Heras calls the tile “engineered stone” and says it is “stylish, unique, family-friendly and durable.”

Those seem to be large factors in some choices in this area.

Strength and installation were two crucial elements when Eric Schuman of South Fayette used a luxury vinyl tile product to replace an older tile surface in his home about two months ago.

Schuman says Molyneaux representatives urged the floating tile system they said was stronger than wood, a benefit when a dog and cat is present in the house.

The dog is a shih-tzu, a small dog, “but they take 50 steps before they go anywhere.” As a result, scratching is possible, but he has not seen any, even though the floor has been down for two months.

He also says the no-nail installation was a big benefit.

“They were able to come in and get it done in one day instead of having your whole room torn up for a week,” he says.

That type of tile also was the choice of Leslie and Kurt Olson, who used it on their kitchen between two rooms with hardwood floors.

“Putting down more hardwood that wouldn't match didn't seem right,” she says. “Besides, this is an older house and nothing is quite even, so this went down well and has been really good. It doesn't mark, and I clean it up maybe twice a week.”

Basic forms of vinyl tile can go as little as $1.99 a square foot and then move up to $3.50 or $5. Villanueva-Heras says the higher-end line is “softer and warmer than traditional ceramic tile and natural stone, but looks just as great.”

She and Salerno also mention those types can be grouted or not, providing another design aspect at little cost.

Hardwood lives with the constant compliment of imitation.

There are laminates that can be laid down to provide a hardwood look for $3 to $5 a square foot, flooring representatives say, as well as engineered hardwood that can be “put down by a good do-it-yourselfer,” says Home Depot's Salerno.

Engineered hardwood is made up of a thin layer of wood on top of a composite core. It generally is tongue-and-grooved, so it can be put down without nails.

Some engineered hardwood can sell for $3 a square foot, Salerno says. Villanueva-Heras says Armstrong has a new product called American Scrape in solid and engineered hardwood. It has the fashionable scraped look for $4 to $5 a square foot.

Molyneaux says resale value can emerge as a reason for a flooring decision, but warns that installation is a bigger matter than flooring type in that regard.

A luxury vinyl tile or laminate floor can provide a tempting look in a home, he says, but can play a negative role if it is badly installed.

“If you try to save some money with the installation, a potential buyer is going to see it as a problem,” he says. “They might walk away because of that.”

Laminates have gained some popularity in their increased strength and reasonable price, Salerno says. Some can be had for as little as 99 cents a square foot or move to a reasonable $3.45, she says.

Villanueva-Heras says Armstrong's Ore line costs $4 to $5 a square foot, but she is willing to put it up against high-end surfaces that can sell for $14 a square foot.

Scurci says the best part of the reasonable prices is that flooring becomes “really not such a huge investment.”

Villanueva-Heras agrees and says the variety “provides choices the consumer seeks and offers real value.”

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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