Flooring is the general term for a permanent covering of a floor, or for the work of installing such a floor covering. Floor covering is a term to generically describe any finish material applied over a floor structure to provide a walking surface. Both terms are used interchangeably but floor covering refers more to loose-laid materials.
Materials almost always classified as floor covering include carpet, area rugs, and resilient flooring such as linoleum or vinyl flooring. Materials commonly called flooring include wood flooring, ceramic tile, stone, terrazzo, and various seamless chemical floor coatings.
The floor under the flooring is called the subfloor. This provides the support for the flooring. Special purpose subfloors like floating floors, raised floors or sprung floors may be laid upon another underlying subfloor which provides the structural strength.
The choice of material for floor covering is affected by factors such as cost, endurance, noise insulation, comfort and cleaning effort. Some types of flooring must not be installed below grade (lower than ground level), and laminate or hardwood should be avoided where there may be moisture or condensation.
The sub-floor may be finished in a way that makes it usable without any extra work, see:
Carpet is a floor covering woven or felted from natural or man-made fibers. Fitted carpet is attached to the floor structure, extends wall-to-wall, and cannot be moved from place to place. An underlay will extend carpet life and improve comfort.
Rugs are also woven or felted from fibers, but are smaller than the room in which they are located, have a finished edge, and usually lie over another finished floor such as wood flooring. Rugs may either be temporarily attached to the flooring below by adhesive tape or other methods to prevent creep, or may be loose-laid.
Many different species of wood are fabricated into wood flooring in two primary forms: plank and parquet. Hardwoods are typically much more durable than softwoods. Reclaimed lumber has a unique appearance and is used in green (environmentally responsible) building.
Laminate is a floor covering that appears similar to hardwood but is made with a plywood or medium density fiberboard ("MDF") core with a plastic laminate top layer. HDF laminate consists of high density fiberboard topped by one or more layers of decorative paper and a transparent protective layer. Laminate may be more durable than hardwood, but cannot be refinished like hardwood. Laminate flooring is available in many different patterns which can resemble different woods or even ceramic tile. It usually locks or taps together.
Bamboo flooring is a floor manufactured from the bamboo plant and is a type of hardwood flooring, though technically not a wood. Bamboo is known to be durable and environmentally friendly. It is available in many different patterns, colors, and textures.
Cork Flooring is a flooring material manufactured from the by-product of the cork oak tree. Cork floors are considered to be eco-friendly since the cork oak tree bark is stripped every nine to ten years and doesn't damage the tree. Cork flooring comes in both tiles and planks, and can have glue or glues-less installation.
Hard flooring is a family of flooring materials that includes conrete/cement, ceramic tile, glass tiles, and natural stone products.
Ceramic tile are clay products which are formed into thin tiles and fired. Ceramic tiles are set in beds of mortar or mastic with the joints between tiles grouted. Varieties of ceramic tiles include quarry tile, porcelain, terracotta.
Many different natural stones are cut into a variety of sizes, shapes, and thicknesses for use as flooring. Stone flooring is uses a similar installation method to ceramic tile. Slate and marble are popular types of stone flooring. Stone aggregates, like Terrazzo, can also used instead of raw cut stone and are available as either preformed tiles or to be constructed in-place using a cement binder.
Concrete/cement finished floor is also used for its ability to be treated for different feel and its durability.
Unlike brittle tiles made of minerals, resilient flooring is made of material that has some elasticity, giving the flooring a degree of flexibility called resilience. The flooring is available in large sheets or pre-cut tiles, and either comes with pre-applied adhesive for peel-and-stick installation or requires adhesive to be troweled on to the substrate. Resilient flooring includes many different manufactured products including linoleum, sheet vinyl, vinyl composition tile (VCT), cork (sheet or tile), and rubber. Performance surfaces used for dance or athletics are usually made of wood or resilient flooring.
Seamless chemical flooring
Many different seamless flooring materials are available. These are usually latex, polyester, urethane or epoxy compounds which are applied in liquid form to provide a completely seamless floor covering. These are usually found in wet areas such as laboratories or food processing plants. These may have granular or rubberized particles added to give better traction.
Sustainable flooring is produced from more sustainable materials (and by more sustainable processes) that reduces demands on ecosystems during its life-cycle.`
There are a number of special features that may be used to ornament a floor or perform a useful service:
- Floor medallions decorative centerpieces of a floor design
- Doormats to help keep a floor clean
- Gratings used to drain water or to rub dirt off shoes
- Tactile or rumble strips to warn of for instance a wheelchair ramp, these would normally also be distinctively colored or patterned.
- Light strips to show an escape route out, especially on airplanes.
- Moldings or baseboards to decorate the sides of a floor or to cover the edge of a floating floor.
- Anti-slip mats: The addition of either granular or rubberized particles that will allow wheels, shoes, or feet better traction.