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Flooring Types: The Pros and Cons of 7 Commercial Flooring Choices

Posted on Nov 14, 2017, by Mike Brown

Choosing commercial flooring can be difficult, with such a wide range of flooring types available. Each type of commercial flooring creates a different aesthetic and has a huge impact on the indoor environment.

Today we're comparing the pros and cons of seven common commercial flooring types, to help you select the option that's the best fit for your organization.

Featured image: SABMiller, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia. Design firm: Grupo Dossarq Architects.

1) Laminate Wood Flooring

Laminate flooring.jpg

Pros

  • Aesthetics - Laminate flooring is a popular flooring choice thanks to its close resemblance to solid wood flooring.
  • Price - While laminate wood flooring can create a similar aesthetic to solid wood flooring, it does so at a much lower price point. This means it's a much more accessible flooring option for organizations wanting the slick look of wood flooring.

Cons

  • Acoustics - One major drawback of laminate flooring is its poor acoustic profile - even compared with other types of hard surface flooring. This is a particular concern in open plan office spaces, where elevated noise levels can negatively impact productivity and employee happiness.
  • Susceptible to Moisture - Laminate flooring has a powdered wood core, which makes it prone to warp and buckle if exposed to moisture - either through cleaning or from the subfloor. You will need to take extra care when cleaning laminate flooring, to minimize the risk of moisture damage.

2) Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Engineered Hardwood Floors - 6 Pros and Cons.jpg

Pros

  • Better Moisture Resistance - Some types of wood flooring are very susceptible to moisture damage. Unlike laminate flooring or solid wood flooring, engineered hardwood flooring doesn't expand or contract as much when it comes into contact with moisture, meaning it's less likely to warp, crack or buckle.
  • Aesthetics - The top layer of engineered hardwood flooring is real hardwood, so you can create an aesthetic that's identical to solid wood flooring.

Cons

  • Easily Damaged - The wood layer of engineered hardwood is easily damaged, because there's nothing to protect the surface from wear and tear. Moving furniture, dropping items, or simply walking in high heels can lead to the surface becoming scratched, scuffed or indented.
  • Price - Compared with other alternatives to solid wood flooring, engineered hardwood is one of the most expensive options. Not only is the purchase price higher, it will also be more expensive to clean and maintain over its lifetime, as the wood layer will require the same careful cleaning and maintenance as solid wood flooring.

3) Solid Wood Flooring

wood flooring.jpg

Pros

  • Aesthetics - Solid wood flooring is a popular choice for design-conscious organizations, as it creates a real 'wow' factor in a space.
  • 'High-end' Product - Real wood flooring is a high-end flooring product, and can bring a sense of prestige to an organization. For that reason it's a popular choice for entrances and lobbies, to create a striking first impression for visitors.

Cons

  • Price - The biggest problem with solid wood flooring is the price. It's significantly more expensive than other flooring types, and this compounds over its lifetime as it is also more expensive to clean, maintain and repair.
  • Difficult to Maintain - Solid wood flooring is easily damaged by foot and rolling traffic, and requires careful maintenance to keep up its 'wow' factor. It needs specialist know-how, products and equipment - all of which comes at a price.

4) Vinyl Composite Tile (VCT)

Office flooring types - VCT.jpg

Pros

  • Long-lasting - With proper care and maintenance, VCT is extremely durable: it can out-last other commercial flooring types by several years.
  • Affordable - VCT is one of the most affordable commercial flooring options, with a relatively low purchase price and a long lifespan.

Cons

  • Labor-intensive to Maintain - VCT requires regular waxing and polishing to create a protective coating on the surface of the tiles. This is a labor-intensive process that will push up the maintenance cost over the lifetime of your flooring.
  • Aesthetics - Thanks to its durability, VCT has long been a popular choice for hospital corridors and waiting rooms, meaning it can often be associated with a cold, clinical aesthetic - which may not be the look you want for your organization.

5) Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT)

Office flooring types - LVT.jpg

Featured product: Freelay – Heritage Wood - LVT

Pros

  • Aesthetics - LVT is available in a range of designs, including natural wood and stone. This means you can create a similar aesthetic to solid wood flooring, but without the inherent weaknesses of real wood.
  • Durability - The surface of LVT is protected by a clear wear layer. This protects the designed layer against wear and tear, meaning it maintains its as-new appearance for a long time, without the need for extensive, labor-intensive maintenance.

Cons

  • Comfort - Like other types of hard surface flooring, LVT leaves much to be desired in terms of underfoot comfort. For organizations with lots of standing workers, carpet may be the smarter flooring choice.
  • Consistency - Not all LVT is created equal. One of the biggest inconsistencies is around wear layer thickness. The wear layer protects the design layer against wear and tear, so selecting LVT with the right thickness wear layer is crucial. Thinner wear layers are suitable for residential use, so shouldn't be used in commercial environments. However, you can also encounter problems with very thick wear layers, as the thickest ones impact design clarity.

6) Broadloom Carpet

Office flooring types - Broadloom carpet.jpg

Featured product: Heritage – Circuit - Broadloom

Pros

  • Acoustics - Carpet offers better noise absorption than hard surface flooring, making it the best choice for open office environments.
  • Luxury - Broadloom carpet is perceived as a more luxurious carpet option than modular tiles, thanks to its prevalence in residential installations. It's perceived as being softer and plusher than carpet tiles - though this will vary depending on the carpet construction.

Cons

  • Can be Wasteful - Broadloom carpet comes in rolls which are cut to fit the rooms being carpeted. This can generate a surprising amount of waste compared with carpet tiles, which come in smaller sizes and so are more easily fitted to the space.
  • Design Limitations - Broadloom carpet excels at creating a cohesive, elegant space. However, if you want to use flooring for patterning, wayfinding or dividing spaces in an open working environment, broadloom may not be your best option.

7) Modular Carpet Tiles

Commercial carpet design considerations - accent tiles-1.jpg

Featured project: SABMiller

Pros

  • Design Flexibility - Modular carpet tiles are available in an extensive range of colors, patterns and designs, and offer the ultimate in design flexibility. You can change tile orientations to create subtle patterning, add accent tiles, or use a different design altogether for space definition or wayfinding.
  • Indoor Environment - Modular carpet tiles offer a range of benefits to the indoor environment. They offer the best acoustic profile of all flooring types, thanks to their multi-layered construction. Additionally, some carpet tiles have cushion backing, meaning they're extremely comfortable underfoot - and have superior appearance retention compared to carpet types.

Cons

  • Not All Carpet Tiles are Created Equal - There are several different types of carpet tile, all of which have different properties, including durability, expected lifetime and underfoot comfort. It can be difficult to identify top-quality carpet tiles in amongst tiles that won't perform as well.
  • Seam Visibility - Some organizations who are particularly design-conscious may not like the fact that seams can be visible on carpet tiles. However, as carpet tiles offer extensive design flexibility, it's possible to turn tile seams into a design feature and choose a pattern that embraces, rather than shuns, visible seams.

Choosing Commercial Flooring

With so many types of commercial flooring to choose from, it's essential that you understand the top priorities for your organization. If you want to embrace open office working, then acoustics should be a priority. Similarly, if you have lots of standing workers, you should consider underfoot comfort.

Many organizations make the mistake of solely focusing on how their redesigned commercial space will look - forgetting to consider how their design choices will impact the day-to-day experience of the people using the space.

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Mike Brown

Written by Mike Brown