Monday, December 16, 2013

The Search for Floors that can take a Beating

One of the first things I started thinking about with a remodel for accessibility was the flooring.  This is what our kitchen floor looked like around 9 years ago when the kitchen floor was first installed:

And this is what they look like today.

Nice, huh?  It's pretty sad really.

(Oscar's launch pad to his food bowl)

Abbey's spot when she comes in wet from the rain or snow and lays down (can you see her outline?)

What?  I can't help it if my fur holds a lot of water!

But 2 big dogs and a kid in a wheelchair plus parents who can't seem to remember that wood floors need to be screened and re-polyed every...  how many years is it??  Plus, I'm not entirely sure how reliable the guys were that installed them - sort of cheap, fly by the night with probably-not-legal workers - there's plenty of other low quality things about how they laid the floor.  Anyway, we only put down some more poly about a year ago wtihOUT screening, and by that time, it was definitely too late.

So what kind of floor would be durable enough for us?  I'm in love with the look of hardwoods - and nothing else seems to fit with this little folk Victorian house.  But in a search for durability, I've debated all sorts of floors.

First it was laminate - I found out that you could buy commercial grade laminate, with super high durability - And if that stuff can withstand mall traffic, surely it would be ok.  But then one excited Oscar (and he's always excited) would scratch right through it as he pounced for food putting all his weight into his doggy claw tips.  Or perhaps a little piece of gravel or glass shard gets stuck in the wheelchair wheel.  Then it would be obvious it was laminate and have ugly scratches in it.

Then I thought pre-finished hardwood would be the way to go - with an aluminum oxide UV coating.  That must be strong, right?  And it would be true to the house.  But then I couldn't stop being worried about the scratches on that too.

Then I thought pre-finished and pre-distressed floors would camouflage the crazy scratching.  Ugh - but then the floors would always look kinda worn or "rustic", and I'm not sure I like that.  Plus one of Jim's friends that's in the industry told us the floor companies love that product because they can use up all their crappy wood and sell it at a premium by calling it "distressed"

Then I found out about bamboo strand flooring.  It's a technique where they divide the bamboo into thin fibers and then glue it back together.  But then your floor is really just glue encapsulating the fibers.  And supposedly some of the bamboo floor glues have nasty stuff in them.

Then I thought maybe engineered hardwood would be good because you could just swap out the high traffic floors every few years.

In all this searching, I started coming across wood-look tile.  The first ones in the home centers that I saw were pretty interesting, but still looked pretty fake.  And I said to myself, in 10 years, everyone is going to be saying, what were we thinking with the fake wood?  But I continued looking into it.

While looking for inspiration on how to incorporate the giant farmhouse utility sink in our basement in a new kitchen, I came across this blog with a kitchen renovation.  I pinned it in Pinterest and then learned months later googling wood look tile that the floor was actually tile.  She talks about them here, here, and here.

It was pretty impressive, and I thought it would be the perfect solution - especially if we installed radiant heat in the floors - we have it in our bathroom, and I absolutely love it.  Then I told Jim and he considered it, but wasn't quite sold on the idea.  I told a contractor friend and a few other people, and everyone poo-poo-ed me and said to just get real wood.  OK, I thought.  Fine.  I'll continue searching for something that will be durable enough to withstand a 75 pound hyperactive dog balancing on 8 little claw tips just waiting to be released to eat his food.

Who me?

But I couldn't stop thinking about the tile option.  I brought it up with Jim again a couple of weeks ago - "I can't help thinking that the wood look tile would be the best for us - I want hardwood, but I just don't see how it would be practical"  He agreed and said he had been thinking the same thing.

So last week I stopped into a local tile store to take a look at their options.  They had a huge variety.  I selected a few oak look ones (I just like the lighter wood better) and took them home.

The one I like the best is called "Danae" Arborea - it had a lot of surface texture and variety, came in a 4" plank, which looks a lot more traditional than the 6" wide hardwood planks that seem to be popular right now, AND it was the more reasonably priced option.

Here's a marketing picture from BluStyle, the makers of the tile:

And this guy in Florida (where wood look tiles seem to be popular) blogged about an installation they did with this same tile here.

Jim looked more into the radiant floor heat option, decided he thought it would work, work well, and be relatively easy to install.  He even bought a high efficiency boiler off of Craigslist.  So that was my cue - we were off to return to the tile store, and over the weekend we laid down a deposit for 800 sqft of Danae Arborea tile.  Now we just have to finish the architectural plans and get the work started. Oh, and pay for construction. All of which will likely take quite a bit more time than my obsessive analysis paralysis.

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