Floors take a lot of abuse, especially when under the domain of your average toddling disaster zone. Whether you’re planning a nursery or redecorating the family home, choosing durable, kid-friendly flooring is always a good idea.
Not sure where to start? Knowledge is power! Before you hand over that credit card, take a minute to consider the benefits and drawbacks of these five popular nursery-flooring options.
Soft, comfortable and forgiving, carpeting can protect your wobbly baby from bumps and bruises, making it seem like the obvious choice for your new nursery. But before you buy, beware. Wall-to-wall carpeting is difficult to clean and can quickly become a haven for dust mites, mold, and mildew—less than ideal for those suffering from allergies or asthma. What’s more, new carpets, especially those made of synthetic fibers like nylon or polyester, often contain VOCs and other toxic chemicals that could make your little one sick.
If you can’t imagine your nursery without cushy, comfy carpeting, you’re not alone. Many people prefer carpeting, and there’s nothing wrong with that. To ensure a healthy start for your baby, look for carpeting made from natural, VOC-free materials such a wool, cotton, sisal or jute, which will prevent your child from exposure to most if not all of the chemicals found in cheaper, synthetic carpeting.
If natural-fiber carpeting is a little out of your reach, opt for other, low-VOC alternatives, such as new low-VOC synthetic carpeting, which costs less than natural fiber alternatives. Whatever you choose, be sure to install your carpet well ahead of your little rug-roller's arrival, giving it plenty of time to air out.
Long lasting and easy to keep clean, hardwood floors have a classic look that never goes out of style. Although fairly durable, all wood floors are subject to wear and tear—a definite drawback given the cost. Depending on the type of wood and selected finish, cost per square foot of flooring can easily reach the double digits. You should also plan on purchasing a large area rug to protect your investment and provide a more comfortable playing surface to soften your baby’s falls.
Popular with the eco-friendly crowd, Bamboo provides a strong, durable and considerably less-expensive alternative to hardwood. In fact, at a cost of around $5 to $7 a square foot, bamboo may be one of the cheapest green flooring options available.
Bamboo is the ideal renewable resource, taking only 5 to 7 years to reach maturity. Naturally pest resistant, it requires no dangerous pesticides, ensuring a completely organic product. It is also remarkably versatile. Bamboo fibers can be spun into the softest of cloth, yet as a flooring material, it is harder, more scratch resistant and less prone to warping than hardwood. In other words, it can take anything your toddler can dish out. What’s more, bamboo flooring can range dramatically in look and color depending on how the material is processed, making it a good fit for any room.
Naturally anti-allergenic and anti-microbial, cork is another excellent choice for kids’ rooms. Warmer and softer than wood flooring, cork provides a comfortable, safe play surface for your little one, cushioning their falls and eventually their footsteps—a feature you’ll appreciate more and more as your little one grows.
Like bamboo, cork is a great choice for parents looking for eco-friendly flooring solutions. Cork comes from the bark of the cork oak tree. The bark, which is harvested without harming the tree, takes only 3 to 4 years to grow back, making the practice highly sustainable. Organic cork does not emit harmful VOCs and is even energy-efficient, providing excellent home insulation.
If you’ve never seen a cork floor before, you may be wondering how this soft, spongy material could ever take on a toddler, but cork is a great deal more durable than you’d think. While cork is more susceptible to scuffing than harder materials like bamboo, it is actually quite resilient, lasting as long as 15 years. Expect to pay in the range of $5 to $8 per square foot.
Laminates offer an inexpensive, easy-to-install alternative to hardwood flooring or tile, ranging from $1 to $3 per square foot. Fairly durable, scratch-resistant and easy to clean, laminates are not a bad choice for a nursery or playroom, provided parents opt for newly available low or zero-emission laminate products.
Made from pressed fiber or wood particles and typically treated with formaldehyde and other chemical toxins, most laminate products produce dangerous fumes and should be avoided. If you can’t find low or zero emission laminate products, you might consider natural linoleum flooring instead. Organic, sustainable and biodegradable, the components of natural linoleum are both eco-friendly and VOC free.
Dressing Your Floor
When it comes to flooring with flair, nothing beats a beautiful new rug! An area rug packs color, a pattern, and texture into one soft and cozy package, making it a must-have accessory for any space, even carpeted rooms. What’s more, a relatively inexpensive rug can go a long way toward protecting the investment you’ve made by replacing your flooring.