Before that tumultuous moment that sealed its fate forever, Pompeii registered many remarkable achievements against its name. One of that was a very sophisticated urban planning and architecture. The residences were decorated with mosaic floors and walls boasting of exemplary details. The obsession for mosaic art, created painstakingly by skilfully placing millions of colourful tesserae, was contagious. With the help of the Romans it spread rapidly.
At about the same time in another part of the world, China was busy perfecting its bamboo and woodcraft. The people loved having the gentleness of bamboo and wood floors in their home. In India though, wood was only one of the several materials utilised for buildings the floors. Use of stone, terracotta, clay and adobe brick was rampant.
Ancients opted for those materials that are easily available, suited to the local climate, durable, comfortable to the feet and is organic. When it comes to choosing the appropriate type of flooring, nearly all of these criteria continue to influence our buying decisions even today. I say, “almost,” because some of the raw materials are no longer as difficult to obtain as it once were. With sufficient budget you can construct your floor with any material you wish to.
But would that turn out to be a good decision? That could only be answered when we exactly know the various advantages and disadvantages of each available option. Presented here is our handy guide explaining these factors in detail.
The appeal of hardwood flooring is universal. Though ornate parquet floor is becoming rarer by the day, wood still enjoys a consistent fan following. The warm tone and texture of natural wood are perfectly suited for modern décor as it is for classical, rustic or any other type of interior. It is comfortable, durable, has natural insulating properties and acoustical benefits. Maple, mahogany, hickory, oak etc are most favoured wood types for flooring. The charm of bamboo flooring, used extensively in Asian homes, is also on the rise.
Authentic hardwood floor is pricey, requires periodic maintenance and is not easily available in certain areas mainly due to rapid deforestation, urbanisation etc. Faux wood flooring may look great but is not as durable as actual hardwood floor and is not fit to be installed in places with high moisture content in the air.
Stone floors made of marble, granite, slate and sandstones enjoy a long and glorious history. Extensive use of natural stones in Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Hawa Mahal and Taj Mahal in India sufficiently show the fascination about this material among the royalties. Each type of the stone has its own distinctive beauty. While premium quality granite has incredible strength and is fit both for structural purposes and flooring, marble provides with high gloss effects and dramatic finish.
Slate and sandstone are available in a variety of colours and texture. These are considerably long lasting, easy to maintain and luxurious at the same time. But high quality materials could be expensive. Stone slabs are quite heavy and are not fit for installation in attic, lofts etc that do not have sufficient support. Cultured marble might be very affordable but not exactly durable.
History of decorative ceramic tiles is as ornate as its other illustrious counterparts. Some of the most breathtaking examples of tiled floors can be seen in such places as Alhambra in Granada and the Blue Mosque of Tabriz. Ceramic tiles can be divided into two segments – porcelain and non porcelain. Traditional ceramic tiles fall into the earlier category. Porcelain tiles are mainly made of a mixture of clay and feldspar.
As the examples show, an adept is capable of creating magic with any material. Every region has its own special way of making tiles that are also decorated with unique motifs particular to the region. For this precise reason, it is easy to create unique floors using tiles sourced from different parts of the world and assorting them in ingenuous ways.
Terracotta tiles are also considered a part of non porcelain group of ceramic tiles. Despite its renown as a more humble and affordable variety of tile, there is no dearth of lavish instances of terracotta tiles. Some of the best examples of terracotta tiles can be seen in the medieval sacred sites and residential premises of Bengal. Famous Isthar Gate was also studded with innumerable terracotta tiles steeped in azure blue.
Plain terracotta or adobe brick tiles also look stylish in appropriately rustic surrounding, terraces or sundecks. Modern porcelain tiles are quite cheap and easy to install. However, tiles are brittle and require careful handling. They are also prone to wear and tear so are fit for area that experience low footfall.
Unlike some of the other flooring materials on this list, cork is yet to enjoy a widespread use. It is made of the bark obtained from cork oak tree mostly cultivated in Tunisia, Spain and Portugal. Cork has its own attraction. It creates a kind of cushioned flooring which is very comfortable to your feet. Natural cork is shock absorbent, termite resistant and reasonably durable.
Two types of cork flooring are available—water based and acrylic based. The latter is less abrasive than the earlier. However, cork flooring requires sealing to protect it from damages by water. Sunlight also distresses it. It requires frequent cleaning which is not essentially an easy process.
A host of other flooring options are also available for you to choose from. We began this piece alluding to the beauty of mosaic. Though mosaic no longer enjoys such exalted status, it continues to be one of the favourites. Terrazzo could prove to be another beautiful choice for your floor. A galaxy of stone chips, abalone shells etc is used in an epoxy based compound to create very attractive floorings, kitchen counters and accent walls. It is generally given a lustrous finish. See how terrazzo flooring has been utilised by Arquiteto Aquiles Nícolas Kílaris to beautify this kitchen.
Jute constitutes another unusual organic flooring option though not so durable as some other choices on this list. Synthetic turf, laminate, petroleum based vinyl etc are affordable, easy to care and versatile. However, none of the synthetic options boast of the same durability, environment friendliness and beauty of the original flooring options.