The last time we talked about flooring, we dug all the way back through human history to the days when a floor was little more than a simple patch of dirt. Over time, humans developed the technology and know-how to turn these dirt surfaces into something more, going from primitive straw-and-cow-dung cement to wood planks to heated stone floors within a few millennia. Carpets and rugs began to pop up around the known world in Asia and the Middle East, eventually being brought back to Europe and beyond. But where did we go from there?
Interestingly, a lot of the flooring options other than stone and hard wood came to us largely by accident. You likely either have or know someone who has linoleum flooring in their kitchen. This material was developed in England by a man named Frederick Walton in the mid-1800s. At the time, rubber floors had fallen out of favor and had been so for two centuries. Walton was a rubber manufacturer and noticed that linseed oil formed a flexible skin when it solidified, not unlike rubber. Once he perfected the process of manufacturing sheets of this skin, we had our first linoleum flooring.
Along with Walton’s linoleum, materials such as cork and asphalt became popular in tiled floors in the late 1800s and continued to be so until the early 20th century. It was at this time that an American inventor named Waldo Semon accidentally created what we now call PVC, or vinyl. He was attempting to bond metal with rubber in the year 1926 and in the process, invented PVC. At first, his material was used in shock absorbers, synthetic tires, and wire insulation. After the end of World War II, however, it became a popular flooring material that you can still buy and install to this day.
The truly remarkable thing about floors these days is that nobody is limited to a single type of floor, and indeed, I’m willing to bet that you have multiple materials in your own home. What kind(s) of flooring materials are you interested in or do you already own?
If you have a computer, possess an internet connection, and are reading this article right now, chances are very high that you have some type of flooring that isn’t just a bunch of dirt. You may have carpet, hardwood, tile, vinyl, linoleum, cork, or any combination of the above. It’s no surprise that we have an abundance of options that are available for use in our home flooring designs. However, this was not always the case. Where do floors even come from? Who had the idea to actually put floors down in their homes? In this article, we go way back to explore the foundations (pun intended) of flooring throughout world history.
In early human civilization, a floor was usually just the dirt contained within the walls and ceilings of a residence. The most advanced humans got for a good long while was to strew hay, straw, and cow dung across the surface. This would get packed down after use, solidifying into a cement-like material. In early European, some peasants would actually spread mint across these dirt floors to make the room smell more pleasant.
The ancient Egyptians are the first people we can pinpoint that used stone floors. It wasn’t long before they were using the stone not only as a practical flooring surface, but also an artistic medium. This is where we got such artwork as tiles and mosaics. Stone flooring continued into the modern day, with the Greeks using oblong stones and pebbles in their work and the Romans learning how to use stone floors to heat their living spaces by lighting fires under the rooms.
During the middle ages, we saw the rise of wooden flooring. To begin with, the planks were rough and asymmetrical. Over time, the planks were sanded and smoothed. Varnishes and stains were created to add to the floors’ longevity. Carpets and rugs began to spring up across the globe, with rugs being developed by the Romans and perfected by the Persians (modern-day Iran). Carpets can be traced back to the Chinese Sung Dynasty throughout the 10th to 13th centuries. These wonders found their way back to Europe, due in no small part to explorers such as Marco Polo’s adventures eastward.
Stay tuned for our next installment in the history of floors!
Ideally, you have your hardwood floors refinished before you actually move into the home. The reasons are simple: number one, you can’t walk on the floors the entire time they’re being refinished, number two, you need to move all of the furniture out of the space before it gets done, and three, it usually costs less since you can conceivably do it all in one go.
However, not everyone has the luxury of not already living in the home they are trying to refinish. If you must get this project done while you are actually living in the home, here are some things to keep in mind:
- You can sand and refinish at any point during the year as long you keep the indoor temperature between 65 and 75 degrees.
- During the hot summer months, especially August, the drying process for the refinishing can take longer. This is largely due to the humidity that summer brings with it. Of course, if you can vacate the home for a week or two, then it shouldn’t make that much of a difference anyways.
- The biggest mistake that people make when scheduling their floor refinishings is not allowing enough time for it to be done. Refinishing an entire home can take anywhere from 7 to 9 days before you can put furniture back onto the floors. This process takes even longer if you have to have carpet removed or a lot of furniture taken out of the space.
Because of the last reason, make sure you are planning well in advance when to get this whole process done. If you’re moving into a new home, plan on staying in your old home for an additional week or so. If necessary, you can also delay the moving of all of your furniture and crash in the basement until the project is complete.
If you absolutely must be living in the home while scheduling a refinishing, no worries: just be aware that it will likely take more time and cost you a bit more inconvenience. Best of luck!
Knowing how to properly care for a carpet is a great way to increase its lifespan. A properly cleaned and maintained carpet can easily last twice as long as one that is neglected and poorly maintained. You can find any number of carpet cleaning tips online, but here are some of the basic strategies that we recommend you use day-to-day.
- Vacuum carpet as least once a week, and even more if you have an area of heavy traffic. Vacuuming frequently prevents the buildup of particles that cut into your carpet fibers, prolonging the lifespan of your carpet. Once a month or so, take some time to use the specialty tools on your vacuum and get into the nooks, crannies, and corners of the spaces you’re vacuuming.
- Note: making a single pass over the area with the vacuum is rarely enough to get the job done. Yes, you’ll pick up the surface layer of grime and will see your bag start to fill up, but it will take a couple more passes before you get all the way down to the particles that have been worked down into your fibers.
- Take your time when vacuuming and don’t try to go too quickly. Make long, slow passes over the areas you are tackling, especially ones with high traffic. High-traffic areas should be vacuumed over a couple of times from different angles.
If you intend to steam clean your carpet, consider using a pro. They have the experience and training necessary to do a good job and will almost certainly know more than you. If you intend to do it yourself, however, consider the following tips:
- Clean the carpet before you feel like you absolutely have to. It’s better to catch it with a little bit of debris at a time or it becomes more difficult and takes much more time.
- Before and after the steam cleaning, vacuum the whole area.
- If there are stains that you intend to clean up, make sure that you pretreat them before going in with the steam cleaner.
- Don’t over-wet the carpet, and once you are through, make sure you let it dry completely before putting it to use. Wet carpet can easily form mildew, so turn on any fans that you can, crank the AC, and use a dehumidifier if you have one.
The living room is often the focal point of any residential space: it’s where the family gathers to spend time together, it’s where you entertain guests, and it is often one of the largest spaces in the home. Therefore, it’s important that you do your homework when selecting a flooring option for it. You need to take into consideration such things as the style of house, how much money you have to work with, sustainability, and the overall look you are trying to accomplish. Here are four of our favorite flooring ideas and why you may wish to consider them for your own needs:
- Wood. It looks great, adds substantial resale value to the home, and requires very little in terms of care (usually a simple vacuuming is enough to keep it clean for long periods of time). The drawbacks are few, but include cost ($3 to $12 per square foot) and the occasional need for refinishing if installed in a high-traffic area.
- Tile. It is generally quite durable and resistant to scratching, comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and is water resistant. Like wood, it is easy to maintain and shouldn’t often need more than a vacuuming to clean. The cons of tile: it can be cold to your feet and on the off chance that they start to crack or disintegrate, they can be difficult to repair.
- Carpet. Always a great go-to option for old or new homes, it makes any space look soft and cozy. It is easy to walk on and simple to install (even over old floor!). The costs vary depending on quality, ranging from $2 to $5 per square foot. The only problem you’re likely to run into with carpet is that it stains easily and needs more constant maintenance to stay looking good. Carpets need to be vacuumed regularly and occasionally steam-cleaned.
- Cork. It’s environmentally friendly, warm, feels wonderful, and absorbs sound so you don’t have to worry about making too much noise by walking on it. Again, the costs vary depending on quality, but you will most likely be looking at somewhere between $2 and $8 per square foot of space. Be warned: since cork is a natural material, it can be prone to fading in direct sunlight and can swell substantially if it gets too wet.
If you have installed hardwood flooring in your home, you are likely aware that it is a living, breathing type of floor that swells and shrinks according to changes in temperature. Keeping that in mind, here are a few tips that you can use to help maintain your floor during the cold winter season.
- Keep the level of moisture entering your home as minimal as possible. Everyone likes to go out and play in the snow, but your boots capture lots of moisture that can prove destructive to your hardwood. Make sure you clean your boots off outside if you can on a mat, and then on an indoor mat. Once you’ve finished drying them off, knock off all of the snow salt that has accumulated on them to prevent scratches on your floors.
- Keep a mop or rags beside your front door at all times, especially if you regularly leave the house throughout the day. If your front door is continually opened and closed, you increase the chances of snow entering the home and damaging the floor. If snow does get inside, don’t wait for it to melt: mop or soak it up as quickly as possible.
- If you have a fireplace in your home, now is the time you’re probably thinking about using it: it will keep the house warm and comfortable during even the coldest weather. However, be careful that you aren’t using it excessively: keeping a wood fire burning without any humidity in the home will make the air very dry and potentially damaging to your hardwood floors. If you want to maintain atmospheric humidity, you can keep a water kettle boiling above the fire to help.
- Make sure that you know just how old your hardwood floor is. If it is getting up there in years, it may be time to add another layer of protection to it. Clean off the surface, sand it, and paint a coat of epoxy or polyurethane over the whole area.
Don’t let the winter ruin your home’s beautiful hardwood; take action as soon as you can to prevent damage!