What Design and Architecture Students Need to Know About Flooring

by Jason Brubaker

When it comes to design and architecture, flooring is always a significant consideration. There are factors to take into account ranging from aesthetics to climate to durability. Understanding flooring types requires an in-depth understanding of all flooring types available, not just wood-based flooring.

The following is an extensive and comprehensive guide to which students can refer back at any time.

What Flooring Options Are Available?

The best starting point is educating yourself on the types of flooring available. This includes understanding technicalities as well as the pros and cons of each material.

Hardwood Flooring

Eric parks s S Yh R2y Hq4 unsplash 2

Hardwood flooring, ever the classic choice, has risen even more in popularity over the past few decades. It’s an appealing option and works well in a multitude of different designs. Hardwood flooring can be affordable or expensive, depending on the species. Exotics such as Brazilian cherry will be more costly than mainstay (but still beautiful) species like oak and maple.

Solid hardwood flooring (non-engineered) is just that: Solid boards milled from a single piece of wood. These can come in a variety of lengths and widths, depending on the size of the room or project. Over time, it can develop scrapes and scratches, but unlike engineered hardwood, it can be sanded and refinished numerous times.

Solid hardwood flooring comes in both prefinished (does not need to be sanded and finished onsite) and unfinished (needs to be sanded and finished onsite) planks that are around ¾-inch thick tongue-and-groove. When installing, the planks are nailed to a wood subfloor or glued to concrete, which can be done relatively easily and quickly.

Screen Shot 2020 07 17 at 5 36 55 PM

Maintaining solid hardwood floors is straightforward. Cleaning requires sweeping or mopping with equipment that is hardwood friendly -- be sure to avoid using harsh or abrasive cleaning tools and products. Most hardwood flooring has a warranty ranging from 10 to 30 years.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Graduate Oxford Hotel Thumb

While engineered hardwood flooring is still natural hardwood, it has been engineered to withstand traffic and weather and is more durable than hardwood. It easily lasts decades, and some brands, such as Nydree’s acrylic-infused hardwood flooring, come with lifetime warranties.

Nydree’s flooring is engineered hardwood flooring that is acrylic-infused and is the only one of its kind. It’s made from multiple layers of base compressed wood, then reinforced with resin and polymers. The difference between acrylic-infused and other engineered hardwood brands is that acrylic-infused wood flooring’s top real wood wear layer is completely infused with liquid acrylic and then hardened, giving the floor exponential durability. And because its wear layer is natural hardwood, it still retains that natural grain look that designers want. It’s also available in a variety of colors and species.

LHB 030720 0884 Edit reduced

In terms of installation, acrylic-infused hardwood flooring is the same as it is for standard prefinished hardwood. You won’t need to retrain the installers and that, in and of itself, cuts down on labor time and costs, something all clients will love.

Acrylic-infused hardwood flooring can be water resistant as well as scratch- and dent-resistant, making it a more durable choice for heavy foot traffic and weather elements like sand, rain and snow. It’s particularly ideal for high-traffic areas like lobbies, cafes, restaurant dining areas and office spaces.

One of the greatest benefits to acrylic-infused hardwood flooring is its longevity. Some take issue with it because it can’t be sanded down and refinished as often as solid hardwood. Yet with regular, simple maintenance, acrylic-infused hardwood won’t ever need sanding.

Maintenance is simple. Feel free to clean floors with your product of choice, but be warned -- the higher the shine, the more often cleaning will be required. As for avoiding the need to sand these floors, set a regular schedule for cleaning and keep it. More details on caring for acrylic-infused hardwood here.

Laminate Flooring

Wc gb hq employees openspace

Laminate flooring is a popular option primarily because of its low cost and relative durability. The top coating of laminate flooring is made from polyurethane, which creates a mostly scratch-resistant floor. This makes laminate flooring an attractive choice for busy areas, and is why designers and architects often recommend it.

But out of the three flooring materials reviewed so far, laminate is the least durable and may reduce project value while simultaneously increasing overall cost.

It’s important to note that if laminate flooring does get damaged, it can’t be sanded down and refinished, unlike solid or acrylic-infused hardwood. In order to replace laminate, the space must be entirely vacated while having full rolls or tiles replaced , which can be costly and time-consuming for businesses.

According to Build Direct, the general lifespan of commercial laminate flooring is between 10 to 30 years, depending on quality, traffic and maintenance. Designers and architects can expect warranties to last around that length of time at best.

While laminate flooring may imitate a hardwood look, it's just that — an imitation. The manufacturing process involves using a photo-technology top layer that looks like wood, but may present recurring unnatural patterns and call attention to its faux production. This is especially common in large areas where much of the flooring is visible.

Vinyl or Linoleum Flooring

Vinyl Flooring

Thankfully, vinyl and linoleum flooring has come a long way since its infamous inception in the 1970s. Today, it comes in a wide array of colors and patterns, so it fits a multitude of designs. It is cost-effective and widely available.

Vinyl and linoleum flooring aren’t the same material, although they are used interchangeably. Of the two flooring types, vinyl is typically preferred when budget is the primary concern. Vinyl has a top wear layer, such as urethane, that protects the floor from scratches and is easy to install thanks to peel-and-stick application.

Linoleum flooring, on the other hand, is installed with a cushioned underpad, making it comfortable for long periods of standing. When sustainability is top of the list, linoleum is frequently chosen because it’s made from renewable and biodegradable materials like linseed oil and cork.


Both vinyl and linoleum flooring are sealed with a protective coating, helping to prevent staining and wear. They’re both available in tiles or sheets, which can be individually replaced if they get damaged. This type of flooring is a popular go-to for kitchens, laundry rooms, office lunchrooms and the like.

Maintenance is simple and includes vacuuming, sweeping and mopping with non-abrasive tools and cleaners whenever necessary. Spills and stains can be wiped with a damp cloth. Easy!

One major drawback for this category of flooring is ease of incurring dents. High heels and dropped objects can easily dent or even chip linoleum flooring, as will chairs. However, replacing the tiles is a relatively easy and inexpensive job, provided the pattern is still available (and that the installation was done correctly).

Overall, one can expect vinyl flooring to last between 10 and 20 years, depending on maintenance, traffic and general care. Linoleum flooring, if properly kept and treated with care, can last up to 40 years, with warranties lasting up to 20 or even 25 years, depending on the manufacturer.

Ceramic and Porcelain Tile Flooring

Photo 1569948548998 2f6bc8e0bc2b

Ceramic tile flooring is a high-end luxury item. The look and feel of it makes it an excellent option for many spaces and a wide range of clients. But not all ceramic tiles are the same, and not all are what we’d call “affordable”. Upfront cost is high for ceramic tiling, and it’s prone to cracking if heavy objects are dropped on it, requiring replacement.

Porcelain, though within the ceramic family, is fired at a higher temperature and makes it stronger and less porous than other ceramics. The more porous the material, the less water and stain-resistant it is. Regular household goods, like red wine, can easily stain ceramic tiles if not cleaned immediately.

Porcelain is suitable for lower traffic areas and is a beautiful choice for bathrooms and very low traffic kitchens. It’s also an option for multi-family residences and can add a little extra luxury to any project.

Please note, however, that porcelain tile is tough to keep looking pristine, which is why it is not well-suited for high traffic areas. Clients can expect porcelain flooring to last no more than 20 years before needing replacement. However, with proper maintenance and low traffic, ceramic (including porcelain) tiles can last for decades. Depending on the type and quality of porcelain flooring, warranties range between 10 and 25 years.

1018 TILE KPMG slide1

When discussing ceramic and porcelain tile flooring, terracotta should also be mentioned. Terracotta is a beautiful option for a rustic, Mediterranean feel. In warmer climates, it stays cool to the touch.

Installation of ceramic tile flooring, while tedious, is fairly simple. A gridwork to keep the tiles lined up is the most crucial part. If the tiles are not straight, the entire job must be restarted.

After tilework is laid, it’s a matter of adding mortar and grouting, working in small sections starting from the middle and working outwards. Cutting pieces, however, take finesse as they can crack and break. It’s essential to buy a surplus of tiles thanks to the eventuality of broken tiles.

With all types of ceramic, porcelain and terracotta tiles, color pigments can be customized to the look of the design. Many options are available with a non-slip surface that meets the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Natural Stone Tile Flooring

Content pixie sv Zmp2l6p H8 unsplash

Natural stone tile flooring includes granite, marble, travertine and sandstone. Each has its own properties, and some are more durable than others. Natural stone tile flooring is one of the most expensive flooring options, and like ceramic, can be challenging to install due to chipping and cracking. The installation process can require specialized equipment and professionals, however the process is the same as with ceramic tile flooring.

For high-moisture environments like bathrooms, spas and humid climates, a harder natural stone tile, such as marble or granite, is recommended. Stone can also be a good choice for lobbies and some boardrooms with the addition of a luxurious rug.

However, some polished finishes will also show scratches and scuffs more easily than a tumbled stone. A significant deterrent to using natural stone flooring is its longevity — or lack thereof. The higher the polish, the sooner the flooring will need to be replaced, as soon as just a few years. Maintenance and traffic, of course, also play a role in its life span.

Don’t bank on an extended manufacturer warranty either … many range only from one to five years.

SW0215 Slideshow Eldridge01

Although the challenge of maintaining the shine of a marble floor may deter some, others are drawn to it for the very same reason. When natural stone flooring wears, it loses its sheen and gives an antique feel reminiscent of an Italian art gallery or Grecian museum.

While the cost, installation and care can be quite high, the look of any natural stone tile flooring is exquisite and delivers a high-end luxury aesthetic. It can, however, give a colder feel to the room, and is not recommended for areas where a cozy atmosphere is desired, such as in multi-family residences, common rooms, bedrooms, family rooms or cozy restaurants.


Pawel czerwinski Td Ra XNKUZFU unsplash

Carpeting is perfect for that cozy feel but beware of moisture, dust or dirt. And while it does require a fair amount of upkeep, there are new stain-resistant types available for a higher price. Regardless, we recommend that all carpets are professionally cleaned minimally once a year.

Depending on the quality of carpeting, it can show signs of wear in high traffic areas. If used in a corporate setting, private hallways and individual offices benefit from carpeting as it muffles sound and creates a warm feel. Some high-end restaurants use carpeting in their dining area for that very reason but only install stronger types, such as nylon level loop. Other carpet materials to consider include polyester, olefin or wood fibers.

Carpet 4 800x445 2

Carpet styles have come a long way since the shag pile of decades past. The highest cost associated with this flooring material is the installation. Most manufacturers offer a limited warranty ranging between 5 to 10 years, which doesn’t include soiling or other non-manufacturing damage.

Making the Final Decisions

Cypress bonitz4

Ultimately, determining the right material for each project means becoming an expert on all things flooring, including weighing pros and cons, evaluating manufacturing technology and getting an air-tight grip on pricing.

We hope this guide has been helpful as you work towards your architecture degree(s). Nydree Flooring is here to help you make those client-facing decisions with confidence. To learn more about our acrylic-infused hardwood flooring, contact us today.