3 Fabulous Floor Options

Bored with same old floor treatments, homeowners? Or love the rich warmth of hard woods, but don't have a budget to match? Maybe you're very eco-friendly and want your home interiors to reflect responsible choices. Personally, I'm all three. As a first-time buyer, I'm excited by the idea of making over my home, but also want (and need, from a monetary standpoint) to do it right. Lucky for all who are like-minded, there are amazing options for floors right now, truly innovative and fun. And the three I've chosen to highlight here meet all the right priorities: 1) They're ecologically responsible; 2) They're relatively affordable; and 3) they're really cool looking!

1. Cork

Cork floors have so many things going for them, aesthetically, economically and ecologically. Cork, a completely renewable resource,  can be harvested as bark from living cork trees without any harm to those trees. In fact, harvested cork tree absorbs more carbon than those who that haven’t been harvested.  But many flooring companies today make cork flooring from 100% post-industrial recycled content—basically re-purposed wine corks.  

Cork floor with desin pattern

Companies like DuroDesign (where the above photo comes from) offer cork in many colors and styles-- they list 54 colors and 6 patterns!). As pictured, you can use these different textiles to create borders and designs.

Cork is naturally a warm, forgiving material. It cushions your feet as you walk on it, and cradles instead of shattering dropped plates and glasses. Cork also absorbs sound and heat, retaining the latter, making a cool space into a cozy and stylish one—without costing a fortune.

Cork floor in kitchen

According to the This Old House blog, (where I found this 2nd photo), “Cork is also a lot easier to install than traditional wood flooring. Manufacturers now offer products in engineered panels that snap together without glue or nails. These floating-floor systems sit well over plywood, concrete, or even existing flooring.” Check out this tutorial on installing a cork floor:  This Old House technical editor Mark Powers does it one afternoon!

2. Bamboo

Bamboo, though it looks, feels, and acts like wood, is actually a grass, and grows accordingly—at least 8 times faster than hardwood. Companies that provide sustainable bamboo don’t kill the plant when they harvest it; instead they take cuttings from mature plants which allows the plant to live, while also providing the strongest and most durable material for floori

Just like cork, bamboo comes in many colors and can be solid strips, corded, or engineered as wide, smooth planks. This last type of wood can be installed as a traditional wood floor would be or as floating floor above an exisiting surface. Bamboo is also drastically less expensive than hard wood, though the effect of a bamboo floor is similarly elegant, as seen in this photo from Home Catalog.Org.

Bamboo floors in kitchen



3. Concrete

Edgy and sleek, concrete is much more versatile than we might have given it credit for in the past. Quickly gaining popularity as a counter-top, wall, and flooring option, concrete is popping up (or rather, pouring over) today's home design industry.

Concrete offers homeowners, basically, a canvas. You can stain, paint, color or personalize it as you wish.As the Concrete Network puts it, “Concrete flooring, sometimes referred to as cement flooring, no longer has to be gray and boring. Now coloring concrete or applying textures, patterns, saw cuts, etc., can bring new life to this traditional substrate. Concrete can be so uniquely designed or so naturally colored that it blends seamlessly with other elements in a room--oftentimes, you don't even realize it's a concrete floor you're standing on."

Design processes can turn concrete into virtual replicas of Spanish tile, Arizona flagstone, or almost any tiled surface you’ve ever loved the look of. Obviously, cement is a forgiving textile, easy to maintain with a broom and mop, a welcome bit of news for those of who live in rainy, snowy, or sandy surroundings. Interestingly, concrete offers a great alternative for those who are allergic to the fibers in many commercial carpets. And finally, from a homeowner’s standpoint, concrete is a great choice down the road, because it is easy to change: whoever buys your home can simply apply whatever floor covering desired on top of that existing surface.

Concrete makes sense readily in a remodeled basement, garage, artist’s studio or office. But today, you’ll find concrete in living rooms and kitchens, often with thick area rugs for added softness, warmth and texture. These two samples come from Concrete Network.org  and Concrete Alternatives.com.

Concrete kitchen floor


concrete floor design

Finally, like the other two options we’ve explore, concrete is eco-friendly. It can be made with waste by-products, limestone (an abundant mineral on Earth) or recycled materials. In turn, you can recycle your own concrete if you decide to change it out. The substance is also excellent at conducting radiant heat and for use with a passive solar system. Concrete Floors.org explains that “Concrete flooring is often a central component of passive solar home designs. The concrete slab absorbs the heat of the sun during the day and releases the stored heat as needed at night.”

These are just three of the new ways of designing a beautiful foundation upon which to live in your home. We’d love to read, or see, your own ideas as well. Post to the comments, upload some pictures… floor us! (And in the meantime, check out our "Just for Fun" category for more great ideas for the home and garden.

Anna Marie Erwert writes from both the renter and new buyer perspective, having (finally) achieved both statuses. She focuses on national real estate trends, specializing in the San Francisco Bay Area and Pacific Northwest. Follow Anna on Twitter: @AnnaMarieErwert.