Hardwood Flooring or Carpet: What’s Best For You?

Close your eyes and picture walking into your home. Do you envision the glow of shining hardwood flooring reflecting light and beckoning you to walk through or, the cushion of a fresh carpet comforting your every step? And going to the next room, and the next, are you seeing the hardwood flooring or feeling carpet? It’s a decision to be made for most rooms in your home and like any home decorating decision, one that may be factored concerning design, cost, function, durability and possibly home resale value.

ALLERGIES

One of the first questions to ask yourself is, do you have allergies? If so, hardwood flooring may be an important consideration for you. Carpets, whether deep pile or tighter weave, are known to trap dust mite allergens, pet dander and pollen, whereas hardwood flooring can be thoroughly cleaned.

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Like hardwood flooring, other bare surface materials (tile, laminate, etc.) can be washed both with water and a cleaning solution enabling the homeowner to protect themselves and others from the effects of allergens. Carpets themselves may also be the culprit you are reacting to, from the material (wool or otherwise) or the dye, stain protection or other chemicals used in processing.

PETS

Likewise, one of the many concerns of pet owners can be the maintenance of cleaning up after them. This is in many ways a double-edged sword: carpet may potentially mask pet hair or fur, but it can also trap said shedding and impact allergies if not regularly vacuumed and shampooed. On the flip side, shedding of pet hair or fur on hardwood flooring may be more visible and require regular vacuuming and/or sweeping.

MAINTENANCE

Another concern with pets and flooring may be the potential for scratches or other damage. Would the hardwood flooring or carpet be in a room that is highly trafficked and an active play space for you and your pet? Or, are you looking at select rooms such as dining rooms and bedrooms where activities may be more limited? If the pet activity will be limited in a particular room, then the concerns should be less. You may still consider if you have a pet that vomits often, has incontinence, etc., as this can be damaging to hardwood flooring if exposed regularly and for longer periods of time. But if the room may be off limits to your pet, or not often used, this is less of a concern.

ENVIRONMENT

Is your home warm? Cool? Well insulated? How is the sun exposure? These may be additional factors to consider regarding the choice of hardwood flooring versus carpet in your home. For the best preservation of natural hardwood flooring, you wouldn’t want the room to be exposed to direct sun for long periods of time every day, always, without making some adjustments.

It’s generally recommended that rooms with hardwood flooring only receive a moderate level of sun daily. Furniture and rugs should be rotated periodically to allow for even exposure in different areas of the room. Prolonged direct sun exposure could result in fading of stain or natural color, and acceleration of the oxidation of the wood. This is not to say that all woods will have this problem, but this is generally less of a concern for carpeted rooms. Carpeted rooms may still benefit from the occasional furniture rotation so that heavy pieces don’t leave permanent indentations in the pile, or the risk of stains at areas more often exposed to potential spills. But carpet can be beneficial in a room that is drafty, holding the temperature level and potentially contributing to reduced energy costs.

NOISE

Hardwood flooring will often amplify the ambient noise in a room, while carpet, in general, will absorb sound. Noise can, of course, be leveled to some degree by walking in socks, slipper or barefoot, and by adding draperies, furnishings, area rugs and other room accessories.

Depending on the room in your home where you are deciding between hardwood flooring and carpet, this may be a factor of consideration. Perhaps hearing the “click clack” of heels down the main hallway is soothing or provides you with a level of security knowing that someone is coming or going? Consider the layout of your home and in which rooms you may be looking to install hardwood flooring or carpet. Is the room in question next to one where you may want or need more quiet, such as a nursery, home office, or your master suite? This may factor into your decision to install carpet or hardwood flooring into a room.

COST & DURABILITY

Any home renovation project, from a “simple” room refresh to a gut renovation, should have a budget. In theory, you are weighing the attributes of the changes you’ll make to your home, considering the aesthetic value you’re putting into the home, the opportunity for energy saving, property value increase, etc. But what does the actual cost of a project mean to you? How long are you looking to get out of the change? If installing hardwood flooring, you are making an investment that could be considered timeless, as hardwood flooring can often be sanded and re-stained years later. Often chips or scratches can be buffed out and may even be considered part of solidifying the character of the boards.

Conversely, carpeting may have a more limited lifespan depending upon a variety of factors. The pile, the color, the padding, and installation may all impact the longevity of carpet. A quick web search offers a range of life expectancy, anywhere from 3-5 years for a plush carpet in a home with 2-5 residents, to up to 10 years if a more forgiving color, weave and treatment (such as not wearing shoes on carpets, regular vacuuming and cleaning), and consideration for the placement. Carpeting in the main entryway may wear much faster than carpeting in the guest bedroom, for example.

DESIGN

For some, design will be at the top of the list, for others, a factor decided by evaluating each of the above considerations. Design may still win out in your decision-making process for one or all rooms. Hardwood flooring will range in color, texture, type, and size, while carpet can vary by these same factors and more. The price for hardwood flooring versus carpet can also run on par when you consider the grade of material, origin, installation, etc.

The decision to install hardwood flooring or carpet in your home may not be an easy one, with many factors to think about, but through thoughtful consideration, you will decide what’s best for you; hardwood flooring or carpet.