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Originally published Friday, March 8, 2013 at 8:00 PM

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Hardwood floors vs. carpeting

Before you decide which option is right for you, it’s a good idea to make a list of practical considerations to help you determine which kind of flooring best fits your lifestyle.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Q: What are the advantages of hardwood floors compared with wall-to-wall carpet?

A: Financially and aesthetically, flooring is one of the biggest decisions a homeowner makes. For some, nothing is more pleasing than the warmth and softness of carpeting. Others love the clean sleekness of hardwood floors.

Before deciding which option is right for you, it’s a good idea to make a list of practical considerations to help you determine which kind of flooring best fits your lifestyle.

Are you a take-your-shoes-off-at-the-door family? Do you have pets and do they occasionally have accidents in the house? Do any of your family members have allergies or breathing problems? Do you have young children or older family members who might be prone to falling? Do you live in a condo or town home where carpeting may be required to help absorb sound?

Hardwood floors are longer-lasting and can be sanded and refinished multiple times. They’re more resistant to spills and stains than carpeting, and regular sweeping, vacuuming or washing with a mop are enough to clean them.

Hand-scraped wood flooring, with deeper grooves, hides the small dents and wear that can come from active families and pets.

Hardwood floors are usually recommended if indoor air quality is a concern, because carpeting can emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which can bother sensitive people. Hardwood flooring is usually a higher upfront investment, but there are many good, quality woods at affordable prices, and wood is a sustainable, renewable material.

If you choose hardwood, be aware that with our Northwest climate, you need to plan time for the acclimation of the floor to your home and its ambient temperature and humidity. Flooring that doesn’t acclimate properly may expand or shrink after installation, causing gapping and imperfections in the final product.

If you have hardwood flooring underneath old carpeting, you may be able to save money by refurbishing those floors rather than installing new.

Carpeting is typically easier, faster and cheaper to install than wood flooring. It adds warmth and softness to a room and is great at absorbing sound.

Carpeting hides dirt so it needs to be cleaned less often than hardwood flooring, which can show dust and scuff marks in just a day or so.

It’s true, carpet spills never really go away. But new, more stain-resistant synthetic fibers make carpeting less vulnerable, and newer vacuum cleaners tend to be more efficient at getting up the dirt.

If carpeting is your preference and allergies are an issue, select carpet that has been certified as emitting low VOCs. The Green Label Plus Indoor Air Quality Program from the Carpet and Rug Institute (carpet-rug.org) evaluates carpeting, padding and adhesives.

A top-quality carpet can last 10 to 15 years, and with all the color and pattern choices can give you great freedom with decorating. And in case you’re curious, today about 51 percent of all floor coverings in the United States are carpet.

Whether you prefer wood or carpet, in our soggy Northwest climate, you’ll want to think about other flooring options for areas like entryways. Good choices include porcelain and ceramic tile, which are among the strongest flooring available.

As with all home improvements where a professional service is needed, do some research. Talk to more than one company and call references. Ask about their experience with the installers and/or the flooring company. Ask if there were problems and how they were resolved.

If replacing your flooring is part of a remodel, your remodeler can recommend choices that fit your budget and lifestyle.

Joseph Irons of Irons Brothers Construction is a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council and provided the information contained in this article. If you would like more information or have questions about home improvement send them to homework@mbaks.com. Sorry no personal replies. Always consult local contractors and codes.


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