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Choosing between carpet or hardwood flooring may seem like a simple proposition dictated solely by cost, but nothing could be further from the truth. "When selecting flooring for residential and commercial properties – whether it’s carpet or hardwood – it is important to consider design, comfort, price and sustainability," says Julius Shaw, executive vice president of Shaw Industries in Dalton, Ga.

The Advantages of Carpet

Carpet in commercial spaces provides an opportunity for businesses to weave their own brand identity into their office space, says Shaw. Additional benefits of carpet include:

  • Carpet delivers underfoot comfort important in health care, education and retail settings where staff, patients and students are on their feet all day.
  • Carpet cushions slips, falls and noise pollution.
  • Carpet is a natural insulator, providing additional warmth in cold seasons.

The Disadvantages of Carpet

Here are some drawbacks when choosing carpets:

  • Patterned carpets usually have loops that can get pulled, resulting in damage to the carpet. Patterns also have to match their surroundings, which means you may need the input of a decorator, especially if your carpet is going to be seen by prospective tenants.
  • Olefin (also referred to as polypropylene, polyethylene or polyolefin) carpet soils easily. This synthetic fiber is used to make clothing, upholstery, wallpaper and ropes.

The Advantages of Hardwood

"Wood enhances the beauty of a room and can increase the feel of comfort in public spaces," says New York interior designer Robin Wilson. "Also, many people feel that hardwood can be symbolic of the durability of a business." Other benefits of hardwood floors include:

  • Damaged wood can be sanded and refinished, rather than replaced.
  • Wood doesn’t collect as much dust and allergens.

The Disadvantages of Hardwood

Despite their rich appearance and durability, hardwood floors do have some noteworthy disadvantages:

  • Wood expands during periods of high humidity. If installed incorrectly, hardwood floors can buckle against a wall.
  • Wood floors can fade, splinter, dent or break, and they’re highly sensitive to the moisture from hot water heaters, bathrooms or washer leaks.

Wilson also notes, "With hardwood flooring, watch for petroleum-based sealants. Try to ensure sealants are nontoxic."

Installation

No matter what kind of floor you choose, remember that proper installation is key for a visually appealing and durable floor. Before installing any type of floor make sure that:

  • The area is free of dust, dirt, oil, grease, paint, wax, moisture or any debris that could affect adhesion of the backings to the floor
  • The floor is level and smooth, and that depressions and cracks are filled with a liquid latex additive patching compound

You can find qualified installers by contacting the Professional Flooring Installers Association and the Certified Floorcovering Installers.

Maintaining Carpeted Floors

To prolong the life of your carpet and reduce maintenance, keep outside areas like sidewalks and garages clean, says Shaw. Additionally you should:

  • Place mats in both exterior entrances and inside transition areas from hard surface to carpet.
  • Develop a maintenance schedule, rather than a random series of infrequent cleanings.
  • Tailor your maintenance schedule to the amount of traffic, type of soiling and season.

Maintaining Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors may seem easy to maintain, but neglecting them can be expensive. Unlike carpets, you can’t fix major damage to a hardwood floor without a significant investment. To ensure you get the most out of a hardwood floor:

  • Use a damp cloth to blot up spills as soon as they happen.
  • Sweep, dust and vacuum floors regularly with a hard-floor attachment to prevent dirt and grit accumulation, which can scratch or dull the floor finish.
  • Periodically use a hardwood floor cleaner specifically formulated for use on prefinished hardwood floors.
  • Don’t wet mop or wash the floor with soap, water, oil-soap detergent or any other liquid cleaning material. This could cause warping and swelling and void the warranty.
  • Don’t use steel wool, abrasive cleaners or strong ammoniated or chlorinated cleaners.
  • Avoid buffing or a polishing machine on prefinished floors.
  • For tough spots on hardwood floors, such as oil, paint, markers, lipstick, ink or tar, use acetone or nail polish remover on a clean white cloth, then wipe the area with a damp cloth to remove any remaining residue.
  • For spots, such as candle wax or chewing gum, harden the spot with ice and then gently scrape with a plastic scraper.

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