Sunday, May 30, 2010

Another month, another flooring option

Last month I was sure. Well not sure, but convinced. May brought another option and "Yes to laminate" became "Maybe not".

After reading about vinyl (specifically Karndean on the homeone forum), I was curious but not so much that I thought I should go check it out. After all, my last vinyl experience involved a curling-at-the-edges-streaky-brown-on-checked-cream-and-blue eye sore that we had to put up with as renters. That was a Bunnings $24m tragedy that I wanted none of in our home.

When I spotted the Karndean stall at the Home Ideas exhibition, I made a beeline for it to check out why other people were so rapt by it. Then stood back amazed at how close it looked to the real thing. We spoke to the salesguy, got some pricing and some interesting comparison tips that I hadn't thought of. I was expecting it to be more expensive than the Quick-step range since it has to be installed by a tradie, it wasn't.

Anyway, if you're struggling and obsessing like me, here's a quick list of why we've now discounted laminate as an option.

1] laminate is aqua phobic
Like me, laminate doesn't like to sit in water. It reacts the same way that I do when I can't touch the ground in a pool, it swells up (me with fear) and warps (uncontrollable panic seizes me). I've found small pools of liquid on the floor so many times that our young boys like to deposit from the bottles and other toys, so unless we permanently attach a mop to their back, we would be replacing boards almost every month.

2] expansion and contraction
Laminate contains fiberboard so with humidity, there will be movement. The vinyl salesguy mentioned something that woke me up to this more. Have you noticed when there's an air-con or heater running, and you walk on laminate you hear that crackling sound underfoot? It's caused by the quick change of climate that heating/cooling brings.

3] price
Both are on par (if you get laminate professionally installed). Around the $70 mark for professional installation of the high quality laminates and vinyl products (although you can get much cheaper options).

4] warranty
15 years on Karndean's Van Gogh range
25 years on Quick-step's Largo range

5] sound
Vinyl is directly stuck onto the concrete slab so it sounds solid like a hardwood floor. Laminate doesn't absorb sound well and will sound hollow but you can get an acoustic underlay to improve this ($5+ per square meter)

6] wear
Both products are very hardy. Vinyl is almost impossible to scratch though (I tried with a fork). A lot of stores use Karndean's woodplank vinyl including Woolies and Coles in their fruit&vege sections particularly because of its fantastic durability.

7] the Look
Laminate lacks the warmth of real timber floors. It suits an ultra modern home because its very clean looking with hardly any character of natural hardwoods. A very kind installer took a photo of Quick-step Largo as there is hardly any displayed at flooring stores to get a real feel for the product. Here's what it looks like in a residential environment (fantastic for minimalist Zen-like spaces):

I've gone for white walls, ceiling and trims so I'm relying on the flooring to lift the home with the gorgeous knots and lines of natural timber.

Vinyl wood planks have all the character I'm looking for without the expense and maintenance issues of hardwood. I have to say though we borrowed a 1m sample board of the vinyl we like for a few days. Two of the visitors we had didn't guess it was vinyl (but physically recoiled when we told them.. afterall vinyl has had a bad image for years). And they both had assumed it was the real thing.

8] installation
Laminate can be DIY but vinyl has to be installed by a pro (approx 4 days for 200 sq meters). One important thing to note is that vinyl can simply be stuck right up next to the skirting boards (because it doesn't expand and contract). Whereas laminate needs to be under the skirting boards with a suitable gap for movement. If you already have skirtings installed, you'll have to get them taken off and possibly touched up (the paint) after reinstallation. More $$ and time to factor in. Yet another thing to think about is the difference in thickness of the product you choose with other flooring that it meets, impact under doorways, kitchen kickboards, etc. AAAARGH! It never ends.

June is about to hit. Here's hoping another flooring option doesn't. I'm over researching and would love to move on to another obsession. Like rangehoods.

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