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Carpet vs. Hardwood

The decision between carpet and hardwood flooring is more than an aesthetic choice. Comfort, price and durability should also be considered.

As client preferences and needs change, choosing carpet vs. hardwood can be a big decision for builders, designers, remodelers and property managers. “When selecting flooring for residential and commercial properties — whether it’s carpet or hardwood — it is important to consider design, comfort, price and sustainability,” says Julius Shaw, executive vice president of Shaw Industries in Dalton, Ga.

Use our checklist to help you decide which flooring material best suits your properties’ needs.

The Advantages of Carpet

Carpet in commercial spaces provides an opportunity for businesses to weave their own brand identity into their office space, Shaw says. Additional benefits of carpet include:

  • Carpet delivers underfoot comfort, which is important in industries where occupants are on their feet all day.
  • Carpet cushions slips, falls and noise pollution.
  • Carpet is a natural insulator, providing additional warmth in cold seasons.

The Disadvantages of Carpet

Chris Ramey, a Floor Covering Weekly columnist and faculty member of the Floor Covering Institute, points out the drawbacks for carpets:

  • Patterned carpets usually have loops that can get pulled, resulting in damage to the carpet. Patterns also have to match their surroundings, which could mean you will need the input of a decorator — especially if your carpet is going to be seen by prospective tenants.
  • Olefin carpet soils easily. This synthetic fiber is used in the manufacture of clothing, upholstery, wallpaper, ropes and vehicle and is also referred to as polypropylene, polyethylene or polyolefin. Because it soils easily, it might require additional maintenance costs.

The Advantages of Hardwood

“Wood enhances the beauty of a room and can increase the feel of comfort in public spaces,” says New York-based interior designer Robin Wilson. “Also, many people feel that hardwood can be symbolic of the durability of a business.” Wilson also notes other benefits of hardwood floors:

  • Damaged wood can be sanded and refinished, rather than replaced.
  • Wood does not collect as much dust and allergens.

The Disadvantages of Hardwood

Despite its rich appearance and durability, hardwood floors do have some noteworthy disadvantages:

  • Wood expands during periods of high humidity. If installed incorrectly, hardwood floors can buckle against a wall.
  • Wood floors can fade, splinter, dent or break, and they are highly sensitive to the moisture from water heaters, bathrooms or washer leaks.

“The biggest thing to watch out for with hardwood flooring are some petroleum-based sealants,” Wilson says. “Try to ensure sealants are non-toxic.”

Flooring Installation

No matter what kind of floor you decide to use, you should remember that proper installation is key for a visually appealing and durable floor. Before you install any type of floor, make sure that:

  • The area is free of dust, dirt, oil, grease, paint, wax, moisture or any debris that could affect adhesion of the backings to the floor.
  • The floor is level and smooth, and that depressions and cracks are filled with a liquid latex additive patching compound.

Maintaining Carpeted Floors

To prolong the life of your carpet and reduce maintenance, keep outside areas like sidewalks and garages clean, Shaw says. Additionally you should:

  • Place mats in both exterior entrances and inside transition areas from hard surface to carpet.
  • Develop a maintenance schedule, rather than a random series of infrequent cleanings.
  • Tailor your maintenance schedule to the amount of traffic, type of soiling and season.

Maintaining Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors may seem easy to maintain, but neglecting them can be expensive. You can’t fix major damage to a hardwood floor without a significant investment. To ensure you get the most out of a hardwood floor:

  • Use a damp cloth to blot up spills as soon as they happen.
  • Sweep, dust and vacuum floors regularly with a hard floor attachment to prevent dirt and grit accumulation, which can scratch or dull the floor finish.
  • Periodically use a hardwood floor cleaner specifically formulated for use on pre-finished hardwood floors.
  • Don’t wet mop or wash the floor with soap, water, oil-soap detergent or any other liquid cleaning material. This could cause warping and swelling and void the warranty.
  • Do not use steel wool, abrasive cleaners or strong ammoniated or chlorinated cleaners.
  • Avoid buffing or a polishing machine on prefinished floors.
  • For tough spots on hardwood floors such as oil, paint, markers, lipstick, ink or tar, use acetone or nail polish remover on a clean white cloth, then wipe the area with a damp cloth to remove any remaining residue.
  • For spots such as candle wax or chewing gum, harden the spot with ice and then gently scrape with a plastic scraper, such as a credit card.


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