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Are you remodeling or renovating? You have plenty of options when upgrading your home, and multiple inventions and visionaries paved the way for the variety we have now! Let’s take a look at how it all started.

Floor construction and artwork:
In India, elaborate designs were painted into their mud floors with flower petals and powders, Egyptians used stone and brick to make their floors works of art, and as the Greeks’ pebble mosaics turned into larger stone shapes, their flooring techniques were used in ancient Italy, France, Spain and Northern Europe. During the Roman Empire, they actually heated their stone floors by elevating the floor with pillars and burning fire in a furnace under their feet, the only vent was at the opposite end of the floor so the fire’s heat and smoke would circulate underneath and warm the space.

One of the Roman Civilization’s greatest achievements, many historians consider this the first underfloor heating technology in human history. Photo Credit

Inventions are afoot:
Rubber floors appeared around 1200 and remained very popular flooring for over 400 years. In the mid-1800’s, Minton, Hollins & Company in England played a very large part in the tile market, creating durable, decorative finishes for walls and floors. They traveled the world exhibiting their work and their products were used in domestic houses, churches, palaces and buildings. Another Englishman, Frederick Walton, patented linoleum in 1863 after experimenting with oxidized linseed oil as a replacement for rubber. He discovered that the combination of this oil, cork and coloring agents made great floor covering. In the 1870’s, he brought his work to the states, creating the highly successful American Linoleum Company in New York with a carpet manufacturer. In the 1920’s, Dr. Waldo Semon, an American inventor, was trying to bond rubber to metal and created PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or vinyl.

Minton’s encaustic tile floor at the US Capitol, 1856. Photo Credit

This history of America’s floors have come a long way, from simple patches of ground with hay or straw, to early American settlers even using sand, peanut and sunflower seed shells to settle dust and keep homes fresh. Over time, stepping on the seed shells would release oils and create a less dusty surface, and when the floor litter and sand’s odor would become too unpleasant, they’d sweep it all out of the door and replace it with a fresh layer of sand. Wood floors date back to the Middle Ages, and were also the humble standard in colonial America, but they weren’t the smooth and polished hardwood commonly pictured. Our first floors were wide, thick planks taken from very old forests. These trees’ age and diameter created strong, tight-grained flooring, and the process of sawing the logs into planks required several men, a long-blade saw and a lot of muscle.

Early wood flooring still featured at Woodlawn Plantation.

What do we have now?
Hardwood, vinyl, tile, laminate, carpet, even bamboo… I’m sure our ancestors would be equally shocked and proud we aren’t trampling mint into our dirt floors to deodorize homes anymore. 
Choose your flooring based on your lifestyle, room’s location, and budget. recommends these 5 steps as you select your new flooring:

  1. Will your floor be installed in high-moisture areas? 
    Then you need flooring created for medium or high-moisture environments, like concrete, ceramic, porcelain or vinyl tile. If not, select whatever you like best.
  2.  Do you need a pet-friendly door? 
    Go with flooring that’s very resistant to scratches. While scratches can be sanded out, solid hardwood can still easily scuff or scratch under pet’s paws, shoes, or moving furniture. For these areas, go with tile that’s ceramic or porcelain, or even carpet, vinyl, or laminate.
  3. What’s your budget per square foot?
    $2.00 or less can get you wood-like laminate floors, resistant sheet and tile, and some ceramic or porcelain tile.
    $2.00 – $5.00 gets you many more types of flooring, everything from domestic solid hardwood to engineered wood flooring. High quality laminates and vinyl tiles are possible in this price range.
    $5.00 or more allows for very high quality laminate and luxury vinyl, exotic hardwood and engineered wood options like mahogany and brazilian cherry.
  4. Are you installing yourself?
    While you can save on labor costs by DIY, if you’re new to this, choose flooring you won’t mess up as easily, like laminates or vinyl flooring. These have floating floor pieces and connect easily to the other boards. It’s best to avoid ceramic and porcelain tile, carpet,  and hardwood if you’re dead set on self-install. Leave the installation for these products to the professionals.
  5. How low-maintenance do you need?
    Resilient vinyl flooring in tiles, sheets or planks are best. Laminate is the easiest after vinyl, but does require special cleaning considerations, as cleaning with a wet mop can damage the flooring. Solid hardwood is more maintenance, but you can prevent damage and additional cleaning needs by covering high traffic areas with rugs.