Flooring Guide

Flooring is the collective term for a permanent covering laid over a floor. Floor covering is a term that broadly describes any finish material applied over a subfloor to provide a walking surface. Flooring and floor covering are used interchangeably, but floor covering refers more to loose-laid materials.

Different Types of Flooring
Flooring materials are almost always classified to include carpet, wood, laminate, tile, and vinyl. Cost, endurance, noise insulation, comfort, and cleanability affect the materials selected for floor covering. Some flooring types must not be installed below grade, including laminate and solid hardwood, due to potential moisture damage.

Wood Flooring

Since each piece of wood is different, hardwood's unique aesthetic makes it attractive as flooring. It can also be very tough and durable, although wood flooring is susceptible to scratches. Since wood is hygroscopic (sponge-like), it can be unsuitable for rooms exposed to humidity or moisture. However, treatment of the wood can make it resistant to moisture.

The two main types of wood flooring are:

Solid Wood:
Each board is manufactured from a single piece of wood, typically 18-20mm thick, usually fitted using tongue-and-groove.

Engineered Wood Flooring:
Engineered hardwood has a thin solid wood veneer on top with a composite core. Each board consists of three or four laminated wood layers, held together at right angles by glue to create a plank typically around 14mm. Engineered hardwood can be a less expensive option than buying solid hardwood, but it cannot be sanded and refinished. Installation of this flooring is generally with a click-lock method.
There are several options for finishing wood, such as wax, oil, or lacquer.

Many different wood species are fabricated into wood flooring in two primary forms: plank and parquet flooring. Softwoods are typically much less durable than hardwoods. Reclaimed lumber has a unique appearance used in green (environmentally responsible) building.

Bamboo Flooring
Bamboo flooring is technically not wood. Instead, it is a grass compressed and manufactured into a floor. Bamboo is durable, water-resistant, and environmentally friendly - a renewable resource. It is available in many diverse patterns, textures, and colors. There are three leading types of bamboo flooring construction: vertical, horizontal, and strand woven bamboo. And there are three main profiles or installation types of bamboo flooring: tongue and groove bamboo, click fitting bamboo, and parquet block bamboo.

Cork Flooring
Cork is a water-resistant, renewable flooring material manufactured from cork trees and considered eco-friendly. The cork tree isn't harmed when the bark is stripped every eight to ten years. Cork flooring is manufactured in tiles and planks and can be installed glued or glue-less. Cork is suitable for a range of areas, including basement and bathroom installations.

Cork floors are warm, flexible, and exceptional for its soundproofing and heat retention properties. However, sharp objects can easily damage cork flooring.

A ranking system called the Janka scale determines the durability and hardness of hardwood. The more PSI it takes to embed a steel ball into the wood, the harder the wood. Cork is a naturally soft material. Its Janka hardness is around 200, one-fortieth as hard as strand woven bamboo.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is a compressed fiberboard plank covered with an image and given a transparent protective coating. It is affordable and looks like hardwood, ceramic tile, or stone, without the cost, maintenance, wear and tear. Laminates are suitable for rooms that want the aesthetics of a "natural" floor but at a lower price, easier installation, and without the risk of being damaged by scratching.

Superior quality laminate flooring is durable and may have a 20-year warranty. They require minimal maintenance and may be installed with under-floor heating.

Laminate flooring may be more durable than wood but cannot be refinished like hardwood. Laminate is available in many different patterns and usually taps or locks together. A thin foam pad is required under laminate flooring to provide moisture and noise control.

The standard installation method for laminate flooring is a floating installation - meaning it's free to "float" over various sub-floors. The floor connects to form an interlocked flooring system not attached to the sub-floor. It is a versatile installation technique because it can be installed over any flat and level substrate.

Hard Surface Flooring

Hard surface flooring (not to be confused with "hardwood") is a flooring family that includes ceramic tile, glass tiles, natural stone, and concrete or cement.

Types of Floor Tiles

Tile (porcelain or ceramic)
Ceramic tiles are clay products formed into thin tiles and fired. Ceramic tiles are set in a bed of mortar or mastic, with the joints between tiles grouted. There are many options in terms of color, texture, shape, and finishes of tiles. Varieties of ceramic tiles include porcelain, glass, mosaic, terracotta, and quarry tile. Because of ceramic's hardness, the tiles are suited to wet environments and are difficult to scratch or dent. However, installation can be complicated and can break if there is a lack of support underneath the tiles.

Porcelain tile is a ceramic material like a tile. It can be used in high traffic applications instead of natural stone. It is typically 0.79 inches thick and often comes in squares of 24 inches.

Tile (natural stone)
Natural stone is generally more expensive than porcelain or ceramic options but can be more aesthetically pleasing. Varieties of stone tiles include travertine, limestone, and granite tile. They need to be suitably sealed when installed. This process will occasionally need repeating to keep the tiles protected.

Modular Tile Flooring
Modular tile flooring includes a range of porcelain and ceramic tile products installed without mortar or adhesive. Generally, the tile is produced to precise dimensions and fused to an interlocking base. Some products require the use of an integrated grout strip, and others have a flexible grout. The advantages include the speed of installation, ease of use, reusability, and low cost relative to traditional tile installation methods.

Many different natural stones are cut into various shapes, sizes, and thicknesses for use as tile flooring. Modular stone flooring uses a comparable installation method to ceramic tile. Marble and slate are popular types of natural stone flooring that requires polishing and sealing. Stone aggregates can also be used instead of raw cut stone. Stone aggregates, like terrazzo, are available as either preformed tiles or constructed in-place using a cement binder.

Concrete or cement flooring is finished and treated for different aesthetics and durability, such as polished concrete. Epoxy is used to resurface, update, or upgrade concrete floors in commercial and residential applications.


Carpet is a soft floor covering made of an upper layer of bound carpet fibers attached to a backing. Carpeting refers to a wall-to-wall installation, whereas a rug covers a particular area. Carpet is typically used indoors in both high and low traffic areas. It typically needs to be replaced after fifteen years. Face weight or how many fibers per square inch typically measures a carpet's quality. The higher a carpet's face weight, the plusher it will feel underfoot.

Carpet pile comes in various materials, including wool, nylon, olefin, and polyester that are heat-treated after being twisted together into tufts or woven. Carpet has many textures, styles, and colors available and is generally both durable and easy to maintain. Carpeting also has insulating properties in terms of both heat and sound. However, water and dampness can damage carpets, and they can stain quite easily.

There are different types of carpet: Berber, shags, frieze, and even marine. Berber carpet is highly durable and often found in offices, schools, and other high traffic areas. Loop pile carpeting is another type of carpeting. The loops create a firm, low, tightly woven carpet. One advantage of a loop pile carpet is that it is very durable and can stand up to heavy foot traffic, which is an excellent choice for hallways and stairs.

There are four standard widths for carpeting goods: 6' wide, 12' wide, 13'6" wide, and 15' wide.

Carpet Tile
Carpet tiles, also known as carpet squares, are another alternative to the more common rolled broadloom carpet. Carpet tiles are produced in various sizes, materials, fibers, patterns, and colors. Public and commercial buildings and airports, libraries, schools, and offices often use carpet tiles.

Carpet Installation Methods
There are two primary forms of carpet installation: tackless installation and direct glue down. Tackless installation occurs when the tack strip is installed around the perimeter of a room. The carpet is then stretched over underlay onto those tack strips to hold it in place. Direct glue down occurs when you spread carpet adhesive over the subfloor and then roll the carpet onto the glue to secure it in place.

Carpet Underlay
Padding is placed underneath the carpet to add comfort and provide some noise insulation. The type of material used, including memory foam and rebonded rubber, determines the level of comfort.

Carpet padding density is rated in pounds. A carpet pad with an 8-pound density rating would be softer than a carpet pad with a 10-pound density. Soft carpet underlayment feels better to walk on but sacrifices the carpet's durability. The denser the carpet padding, the longer the carpet lasts is a good rule of thumb.

Resilient Flooring

Unlike ceramic and stone tiles made of rigid minerals, resilient flooring is made of materials with some elasticity. This gives the flooring a degree of flexibility called resilience. Often, performance surfaces like weight-rooms, aerobic workout areas, and indoor running tracks use resilient flooring.

Resilient flooring includes many different manufactured products, including rubber, linoleum, sheet vinyl, vinyl composition tile (VCT), and cork (sheet or tile).

Rubber Flooring
Rubber flooring is manufactured from natural or synthetic materials, including recycled rubber tires. It is categorized as a type of resilient flooring since it exhibits elasticity or "bounce." This also makes rubber tiles suitable for restaurant kitchens or other high traffic areas where foot fatigue and slippage can occur.

Rubber flooring is also becoming a popular option for domestic installations that tend to require moisture and stain resistance, sound absorption, durability, elasticity, and temperature stability. Rubber mat flooring is used for kid's rooms, bathrooms, garages, home gyms, and other applications. Outdoor rubber tiles can be used for playgrounds, patios, and more.

Linoleum Flooring
Linoleum is a traditional, smooth, seamless flooring. The name's etymology combines two Latin words: Linum (flax) and Oleum (oil). Linoleum's core ingredients are linseed oil, pine flour, pine rosin, pigments, and other components. During manufacturing, the oil is oxidized, a process that is aided by heating and which makes the oil solidify into a tough, resilient sheet.

Vinyl Flooring
Vinyl flooring looks almost identical to the more expensive options like hardwood, ceramic, marble, or stone, with an extensive range of colors and profiles. Affordable, durable, water, and scratch-resistant, vinyl floors are an excellent option for just about every interior living space. Vinyl flooring is supplied in rolls or tiles and is generally fixed by gluing.

Vinyl flooring is available in tiles or large sheets. The two main categories of vinyl floor tiles are vinyl composition (VCT) and solid vinyl. Some vinyl tiles come with a pre-applied adhesive for peel-and-stick installation.

The three main categories of vinyl sheet flooring are homogeneous, inlaid, and layered composite. Usually, sheet vinyl flooring requires adhesive to be spread onto the substrate.

Vinyl Plank Flooring
The foam core in most types of vinyl plank flooring delivers rigidity and strength. Plus, vinyl planks offer stress-free installation. Click-lock vinyl plank flooring is easily installed over existing surfaces including, wood, tile, vinyl, and concrete, with a simple tongue and groove click-together method.

Outdoor Flooring Options

Vinyl flooring can be used in an outdoor, temperature-controlled environment. You can install vinyl flooring in a sunroom, enclosed porch, or any other "outdoor" space where you can control the heat and cold. While vinyl is 100% waterproof, you still have to be careful of the temperature changes. If your outdoor vinyl flooring is subjected to extreme temperatures, it can crack or swell, just like laminate flooring. However, unlike laminate flooring, vinyl flooring is 100% waterproof. It can handle liquid spills like a pro, making it a perfect choice for outdoor-type applications.

Seamless Polymer Flooring

Many seamless flooring materials vary from reactive thermoset resins such as waterborne solvents, or air drying latex emulsion polymers, or solvent-free urethanes and epoxy flooring. When allowed to dry or cure, they are applied in liquid form to provide an entirely seamless floor covering.

They find use in applications ranging from garage floors to the restoration and preservation of commercial and industrial flooring. Seamless flooring is also used to solve a vast array of industry problems. It is used in food processing plants where spillages of oils and fats are easily absorbed and difficult to clean or wet areas in laboratories. Other reasons for using synthetic resin flooring to cover concrete are improved resistance to chemicals, enhanced resistance to impact and wear, and aesthetic appearance purposes.

Seamless floors
Seamless floors are poured as liquids and spread out across surfaces to harden and cure. A poured floor creates a finish without seams. While polymer flooring options are not standard in domestic applications, they have advantages in commercial and industrial settings where water protection and durability are high priorities.

Seamless floors typically have rubberized or granular particles added for better traction and slip-resistance on walkways, steps, and traffic aisles, especially in areas subject to frequent washing where better traction and skid resistance is essential.

Sustainable flooring

Sustainable flooring is produced from more sustainable materials and more sustainable processes that reduce ecosystems' demands during its life-cycle. Wool carpet is durable, healthy, and naturally-sourced. Bamboo flooring is safe, durable, and eco-friendly. Engineered or solid hardwood floors are sustainably harvested. Cork flooring is moisture-resistant and made from renewable sources. Natural linoleum is bio-based, highly durable, anti-microbial, and easy to maintain.


Top 14 Types of Flooring

Laminate Flooring

Laminate Flooring - 148

Laminate Flooring

Laminate is a floor covering that appears similar to hardwood but is made with a plywood or medium density fiberboard core with a plastic laminate top layer. Laminate may be more durable than hardwood, but cannot be refinished like hardwood.

See our collection laminate flooring brands like Shaw Laminate Flooring, Mannington Laminate Flooring, Armstrong Laminate Flooring, Quick Step Laminate Flooring, Bruce Laminate Flooring, and more... Click below to see our whole selection of laminate flooring brands!

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Wood Flooring

Wood Flooring - 373

Wood Flooring

Many different species of wood are fabricated into wood flooring in two primary forms: plank and parquet. Hardwoods are typically much more durable than softwoods. Wood is a common choice as a flooring material and can come in various styles, colors, cuts

See our collection wood flooring brands like Shaw Hardwoods Flooring, Bruce Hardwood Flooring, Mannington Hardwood Flooring, Armstrong Hardwood Flooring, Anderson Tuftex Hardwood Floors, and more... Click below to see our whole selection of wood flooring brands!

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Carpeting - 76


Whether you choose a room-size loose-laid or wall to wall permanently installed over a cushion, this soft floor covering, offers many practical advantages.

See our collection carpeting brands like Mohawk Carpet, Shaw Carpet, Anderson Tuftex Carpet, Aladdin Commercial Hard Surface, Beaulieu Carpet, and more... Click below to see our whole selection of carpeting brands!

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Resilient/Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl/Resilient - 173

Resilient/Vinyl Flooring

Unlike tiles which are made of minerals, resilient flooring is made of materials that have some elasticity, giving the flooring a degree of flexibility called resilience. The flooring is available in large sheets or pre-cut tiles.

See our collection resilient/vinyl flooring brands like Armstrong Sheet Vinyl Floors, Mannington Vinyl Flooring, Tarkett Resilient Flooring, Johnsonite® Commerical Flooring, Azrock VCT Tile, and more... Click below to see our whole selection of resilient/vinyl flooring brands!

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Area Rugs

Area Rugs - 204

Area Rugs

For spreading personality around a room, the area rug has few rivals. What could be more elegant than an heirloom quality Oriental area rug atop a gleaming hardwood floor, or more charming than a handcrafted braided area rug on timeworn pine planks.

See our collection area rugs brands like Kathy Ireland™ Rugs, Nourison Area Rugs, Masland Rugs, Milliken Rugs, Couristan Rugs, and more... Click below to see our whole selection of area rugs brands!

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Specialty Floors

Specialty Floors - 222

Specialty Floors

Whether it’s flooring for an exercise facility, a new athletic surfaces for a school, a slip resistant, anti-fatigue floor for a manufacturing facility, or an industrial seamless fluid applied floor, there is a speciality floor for every environment.

See our collection specialty floors brands like Johnsonite® Commerical Flooring, Forbo Flooring, Flexco® Resilient Floors, Endura Rubber Flooring, Altro Floors, and more... Click below to see our whole selection of specialty floors brands!

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Hard Surface Flooring

Ceramic/Porcelain - 785

Hard Surface Flooring

Hard flooring (not to be confused with "hardwood") is a family of flooring materials that includes concrete or cement, ceramic tile, glass tiles, and natural stone products.

See our collection hard surface flooring brands like Shaw Tile Flooring, and more... Click below to see our whole selection of hard surface flooring brands!

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Mats/Runners - 455


Entrance mats and runners are an essential additions to any facility because they help reduce slips and falls and will keep your floors clean from the outside elements. Mats are available in a range of materials including carpet, vinyl link, and rubber.

See our collection mats/runners brands like Akro Floor Mats, Humane Manufacturing Rubber Flooring, van Gelder Mats, Musson Rubber Mats , Uline, and more... Click below to see our whole selection of mats/runners brands!

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Upofloor offers a wide range of flooring materials suitable for many public and commercial areas, including those with especially high safety requirements. Learn More

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Overview of Flooring Options - This Old House
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