Ceramic Tile or Hardwood Floor
Ceramic floor tile is made from various clays, is somewhat brittle, and takes a very sturdy sub-floor. The preferred installation is using a cementious mixture over a concrete slab. Although it is also sometimes installed over a double layer, extra thick exterior-grade plywood that has no bounce when walked on. Between the tiles you need a special colored grout mixture that needs to be sealed if sand-based. Ceramic tile has a glazed finish and if scratched may show the tile's underbody color. Tiles come in a variety of geometric sizes and shapes, colors are mainly earthtones, and prices range under $1.00 per square foot to several dollars.
The real key to having a long lasting ceramic tile floor is in the installation (including floor -prep) and regular maintenance. You need a sound sub-floor and the tiles need to be well-adhered to the sub-floor. Although the finish is exremely hard, chair pads and regularly removing any grit and dirt from the floor's surface will help prevent scratching the glazed finish. Ceramic tile is a good choice for wet areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens as well as front foyers. In some areas of the country (especially the warmer climates) ceramic tiles are used throughout the home. Be sure to choose a tile you want to live with for a long time, because it is very costly to replace existing tile.
Hardwood floors come in three comon types, solid and engineered planks. Solid wood floors should only used over a wood type sub-floor and where humidity is not an issue and have to be nailed-down during installation. Engineered floors are somewhat confusing because they come in narrow planks (similar to solid) and in wide planks that look like several planks glued together. Many engineered floors can be installed by gluing down to the sub-floor, stapling to a wood sub-floor, or floated over a variety of existing sub-floors. Engineered floors are more dimensional stable than solid wood floors and can be used in many areas of the home, including over concrete slabs. Also, a engineere wood floor that is going to be installed with the floating installation method will be less costly to install per square foor than installing a ceramic tile floor in the same area.
Today, we are seeing more and more engineered wood floors with a glueless installation and are often confused with laminate floors. No matter what type of glueless floor you intend to install (wood or laminate) you still need a very level subfloor with no dips or high areas. Wood floors are really not recommended for wet areas, especially bathrooms. If a pre-finished engineered floor is used in a kitchen area rugs can help prevent spills from damaging the floor's finish. Chair pads should be used to prevent scratching and regular dust-mopping or sweeping to remove any grit or dirt from the floor. In rooms that get a lot of sunlight you will probably notice some color change. Areas where moisture can get in may discolor the wood planks, such as near patio doors.
Whether you choose ceramic tile or hardwood floor be sure to regularly clean the floor and check the chair pads. Today's premium floors will last for years when properly maintained.