Choose the right flooring for every room

Wood wins the prize as America’s favorite hard-surface flooring type, outselling vinyl, porcelain tile and every other option, according to market-research firm Mintel’s 2016 report on residential flooring. But wood can be a loser in the kitchen, where a dropped can of peas can literally leave a lasting impression. Or in the laundry room, where a splash of bleach can blemish its finish.

Consumer Reports analyzed key areas in a typical home and chose the top flooring materials to meet the challenges in each.

Kitchen and Mudroom

Though wood remains a widely used aesthetic choice, it won’t stand up well to that assault: Consumer Reports’ tests show that, in general, wood floors are far more prone to denting than other materials, and, with very few exceptions, foot traffic is tough on the finish.

Top choice: porcelain tile. A natural fit for high-traffic areas of the home, porcelain tile outperformed every other flooring material we tested for resistance to scratching and denting, says Joan Muratore, Consumer Reports’ lead test engineer for flooring. Plus, porcelain tile comes in a range of styles to fit any decor. Tile is also low-maintenance, never requiring more than a vacuuming and mopping, and it’ll last a lifetime, says design-and-build contractor Rob Wennersten of Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

Bathroom and Laundry Room

These floors don’t face the stress of foot traffic or the constant sunlight that can fade solid and engineered wood. Rather, the flooring threats in these rooms come in liquid form. Bathers splash, showerers drip and toilets overflow.

Top choice: porcelain tile. Even purists who refuse anything but real wood should seriously consider porcelain tile for their bathrooms and laundry room. After all, tile is a traditional choice in these rooms because it holds up well in wet places, says architect John Cole of Fryeburg, Maine. Porcelain also allows for design-forward, barrier-free showers, where the bathroom floor extends straight into the shower without any lip. To avoid slippery-when-wet floors, choose a more textured product rather than one with a highly polished surface.

Dining, Living and Family Rooms

Though it’s true that furniture feet, pet claws, stiletto heels and kids’ toys with wheels can damage a wood floor, any other material can feel substandard in these cozy common areas.

Top choice: solid wood. By this, Consumer Reports means prefinished wood flooring, as well as unfinished wood flooring, which gets sanded and finished on site.

There are plenty of reasons to opt for prefinished planks: You won’t have dust from sanding or fumes from finishing to contend with during installation; depending on how it’s installed, you might be able to walk on the floors right away; and prefinished flooring also tends to be less expensive. Perhaps most important, the factory-applied finishes are significantly tougher-wearing than what your contractor would be likely to apply once the floor is installed.

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2017, Consumers Union, Inc.

Distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication for UFS

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