Dreaming about farmhouse-style floors? Have a hand-over-your-heart moment when you see hardwoods sporting rustic finishes, ceramic tiles boasting handmade-looking patterns or porcelain planks resembling barn boards? Selecting flooring that beautifies your home, fits within your budget and stands up to foot traffic can be daunting. But, with a little homework, you’ll be rewarded with floors that enhance your home’s aesthetic, comfort and safety and boost your return on investment. From hardwoods to vinyl to ceramic, there are myriad options to consider.
Solid-wood flooring is synonymous with farmhouse style. During the 19th and early 20th century, farmhouse floorboards were sourced at lumber mills. Pine, poplar and oak logs were sawn into planks and made into tongue-and-groove boards. These rustic wide-plank and random-width floorboards were installed throughout the house. Saw marks, wood grains, dark knots and slight imperfections remain the hallmarks of authentic antique wood flooring.
Several companies throughout the United States specialize in reclaiming floorboards from vintage structures and repurposing them in contemporary houses. “Farmhouse-style homes are characterized by wide, rustic wood boards and natural wood tones and accents. Reclaimed wood floors accentuate this style perfectly,” explains Genna Antes of Sylvan Brandt, a company that salvages old flooring.
Though any reclaimed wide-plank floor can lend authenticity to farmhouse rooms, boards with an original surface or old patina are especially effective. For example, Sylvan Brandt offers two different options that are popular with the farmhouse look—one made from interior barn siding and another made from flooring salvaged from old attics.
Homeowners who favor wood floors can also consider prefinished solid-wood, engineered-wood or laminate flooring sold at national and independent flooring retailers. Prefinished solid-wood floors withstand high traffic and moisture and work well in nearly every setting. Engineered-wood and laminate flooring are less costly alternatives. Engineered wood combines thin layers of wood with plywood and adhesives. Laminate flooring consists of cork and fiberboard topped with a photo of wood and a clear plastic layer. These types of flooring are less resistant to moisture and humidity and should not be installed in kitchens, bathrooms or basements.
Period farmhouses were also distinguished by glazed tiles. Admired for their classic forms and resistance to water infiltration, hexagonal, penny and subway tiles graced the entryways, bathrooms, kitchens and pantries of yesteryear. These flooring tiles remain a staple in modern farmhouses.
Another popular trend features encaustic tiles or cement tiles that are used to create eye-catching floors featuring geometric patterns akin to quilt motifs. Even though these unglazed tiles both feature patterns and distinctive matte finishes, it’s important to understand their differences. Traditional encaustic tiles are ceramic tiles that have patterns made from two or more inlaid colors of clay. The tiles are glazed and fired. Cement tiles are made of concrete, and the color in their patterns comes from mineral pigments that are applied to the top layer of the tile. They are cured at room temperature and are very porous. Cement tiles can be harder to install and often need frequent applications of sealer to prevent staining.
A more durable (and less-expensive) alternative, porcelain tiles imitate wood and natural stone and even come in styles that simulate the look of the trendy encaustic and cement tiles. Porcelain is hardwearing and low maintenance, making it a good option for areas with a lot of foot traffic.
For those who seek a product that will stand up to kids and pets, luxury vinyl is a less-costly but high-quality alternative to real wood. Thanks to technological advances, it is nothing like Grandma’s vinyl floor and emulates wood, as well as natural stone and concrete, with realistic depth and textures. Vinyl flooring is easy to install, waterproof, and resists scratches, dents, stains and UV light damage. An endless variety of colors, patterns, widths, textures and finishes are available in planks, tiles and sheets. Adding to its appeal, luxury vinyl can contribute a rustic feel to areas where hardwood typically can’t be used, such as basements and laundry rooms.
Whatever type of surface you choose to install, flooring can make a big impact on the comfort and style of your home. As Di Anna Borders, vice president of design at Armstrong Flooring, observes, “The aesthetic of farmhouse style combines features of successful interior design—comfort, simplicity, and warmth of natural materials and textures. This trend provides a welcoming harbor from the stressful dynamics of daily life.”