Fabulous Floors

In a way, choosing flooring is like choosing a spouse: there are many different types, but you need to make the choice that is right for you. And you will have to live with that choice for a long time.

Flooring is a key element of any home or office, so it is essential to choose a material that works with the space and interior design. There are many factors to consider, such as whether you have young children or pets; the amount of foot traffic; whether comfort or aesthetics is more important; how much time you are prepared to spend on maintenance and cleaning; climate conditions; and, of course, cost.

But, with an extensive range of materials on the market, including carpet, ceramic and porcelain tiles, wood, bamboo, cork, natural stone, concrete, vinyl, linoleum, laminate, and even glass, you are sure to find the right flooring to suit your needs.

Carpet is usually the least durable type of flooring, but it is relatively inexpensive and comfortable.

 “Carpet is fairly easy to replace,” says Jenifer Schulli, interior designer at The Final Touch. “Carpet can be taken out and reinstalled within a day or sometimes even a half day.”

Carpet is available in a wide variety of colours, designs, materials and textures. It helps insulate your home for both temperature and sound.

However, carpet is not the best option in Cayman’s humid climate. It absorbs odours and needs constant cleaning, such as vacuuming and period shampooing.

“It’s not very clean,” Jenifer explains. “Carpet catches a lot of airborne dust and allergens.”

Ceramic and porcelain tiles
Ceramic and porcelain tiles are popular on island because they are cool, are fairly easy to maintain and relatively durable. Ceramic tiles are more porous than porcelain tiles and are easier to chip. Since the colour usually doesn’t go all the way through a ceramic tile, chips can be very noticeable. Grout lines can collect dirt and it is recommended that tile floors be regrouted and resealed once a year, meaning some maintenance is required.

A lot of the drawbacks of ceramic tiles are not present with porcelain, although the latter option is more expensive. 

“Porcelain is more durable because it is fired at a higher temperature,” Jenifer says. “It’s denser and doesn’t chip as easily.”

Natural stone
When it comes to natural stone tiles, the most popular options are limestone, travertine and marble. Marble is the densest and most expensive choice, followed by travertine and limestone.
If used for flooring, limestone and travertine should be sealed, especially in areas where food is prepared or served.

“They are more porous and susceptible to acids in their unsealed form,” says Isaac Edie, managing director of Edie’s Decor. “Vinegar and orange juice can stain an unsealed [limestone or travertine] floor.”

Natural stone is expensive and as the installation requires considerable time and skill, because the tiles are designed to be placed close together, it can be costly to fit.

 “You really should get a professional person to do the job,” Isaac recommends.

On the plus side, natural stone is durable, easy to clean and a good investment. It can add to the air quality of a home because it doesn’t absorb odours, chemicals or grease.

Natural stone is cool, an advantage in a hot climate like Cayman. However, as it is so hard it can be uncomfortable to stand on for long periods of time.

Now, manufacturers are making porcelain tiles that look like natural stone. Isaac says the tiles are so convincing that is can be hard to tell the difference. In addition, these porcelain tiles are about half the price of natural stone with virtually no maintenance required.

Hardwood floors

Hardwood floors are one of the most popular flooring options as they never go out of style and can last for years. Many different woods can be used for flooring, including oak, maple, pine, walnut, birch, cherry and teak.

Jenifer says hardwood floors can work with all types of architectural designs, from traditional to contemporary homes.

“A lot of people go with wood because of the warmth,” she explains. “It gives the feeling of a warm and cosy place.”

Hardwood floors can be refinished to remove stains and scratches, although the process is time consuming.

Despite the classic style of hardwood floors, Jenifer believes it is a risky material to use in Cayman.

“It’s not necessarily the best for this climate,” she says, noting that wood flooring can be damaged by moisture.

Hardwood flooring also tends to be expensive, especially for premium woods, and is more difficult to install than other floorings.

Bamboo and palm
Renewable, environmentally-friendly flooring is now available in bamboo and coconut palm. Both materials have their advantages, says Robert Wood, of Robert Wood Interiors. 

Bamboo, which is actually a tropical grass, grows quickly and is very hard.

“It’s commercially rated and can be used in the toughest retail, restaurant, education and hospitality environments,” Robert explains.  “Some bamboo is actually harder than oak.”

Robert says bamboo is easy to maintain and comes in a range of looks, from rustic to elegant.

Coconut palm is another environmentally-friendly option that is also extremely hard and tough.

 “The top layer is made from the hard outer shell of the coconut,” Robert says, adding the bottom layer comes from the base of the coconut palm tree.

“The durability of the material is unreal.”

Both bamboo and coconut palm floors have the added advantage of being mould and moisture resistant, which is helpful in Cayman’s humid conditions. 

“Bamboo and palm, for this climate, are beautiful products to be used,” Robert says. “They’re on their own turf here.”

Natural cork
Natural cork comes from the bark of trees and is a sustainable material as the tree doesn’t have to be felled to harvest. Good-quality cork flooring is durable and easy to maintain, but also softer to stand on than other materials.

“It’s really the best of both worlds,” Robert explains.

Cork is cheaper than other natural floorings. However, cork flooring can be damaged by heavy furniture, and constant exposure to direct sunlight can cause discolouration with age.

Laminate has become a popular flooring choice in recent years because it is fairly durable and easy to maintain.

“You can even install laminate over a tile floor,” Jenifer says. Laminate is available in a variety of designs. It can look like wood, stone or ceramic tiles but is less expensive than these materials.

Yet, laminate can be fairly noisy to walk on and when a part of the floor wears out, the whole area must be replaced. It is also susceptible to excessive moisture.

Concrete evokes images of a stark, industrial building, but in truth, it is durable, easy to install, water resistant and cheaper than many other floorings. It can be tinted and textured to create a variety of styles. Jenifer does not understand why concrete is not more popular in Cayman.

 “I like a stained concrete floor,” she says. “But I guess it’s too industrial of a feel for most people.”