Robert and Ruth
Schmidt of the Town of Summit chose a 4-inch hickory wood
with a beveled edge and oak leaf inlay that combines
cherry, maple and walnut
hardwoods for their eating nook. Schmidt Custom Floors
Inc. of Waukesha
installed the floor.
there is elegance in simplicity. The natural route seems to
be finding its way into more and more homes these days, and in
particular the flooring. Homeowners are taking their games up a
notch or two as more upscale options in flooring have become
available. Its no longer a quick decision over which color of
linoleum or carpet to lay down.
At least, that is the opinion of
several local purveyors of flooring materials. When discussing
natural flooring there are basically two routes to consider
some kind of hardwood floor, or going with some kind of
stone/ceramic tile rock-like material. Each can have advantages
over the other, and some materials perform better in certain parts
of a home than in others. It largely becomes, as one owner of a
flooring business said, a question of how much traffic will be in
the area and a matter of mood and comfort.
So why consider stone and
stone-like products? They look better, and they look richer
than most other materials, said Chad Collath, owner of On The
Surface Tile & Stone, and then, of course, theres the
whole longevity issue. Theyre usually easier to clean than
carpet, especially when there could be smokers or pets in the
Collath and his staff have
completed dozens of masonry jobs in the Milwaukee area in new
construction, existing homes and in additions. He said that people
call or come in to his showroom asking about the stone family of
products and he is always more than ready to point out the
It might seem like a greater
cost initially, he said, but in the long run, youll save.
Carpet and some of the other man-made products need to be replaced
every five years or so after wearing out or from picking up odors
from a variety of sources. Stone never has to be replaced. Stone
has what I like to call a forever look to it, Collath
said. Its a material that you tend to see a lot in nature.
Its all around you all the time, and its been there for
quite a long time.
The exciting part about the new
stone products is that they come in colors that one wouldnt
ordinarily associate with rock. There is a rainbow of colors
available including blues, reds, oranges, slates and many others.
Marble is available in a variety of colors and shades, as is
granite, Collath said.
sunroom in Pat and Stuart Levins Wauwatosa home was
renovated with a tumbled marble
to give an ancient look. Adding to that look are custom
made metal tile by Stuart
Levin. On The Surface Tile & Stone, a division of
C.E.C. Inc. of Hartland, assisted
in the design and supplied the material and installation.
Ive seen granite used in a
master bathroom whirlpool area at the foot of the shower and even
going up the shower wall. Polished limestone can also see action
in the bathroom on the floor and on the walls.
Not only are there new materials on
the market, but there are new twists on some of the older
favorites that are making a comeback. When it comes to certain
kinds of stone, whats old is new.
Slate is one of the surfaces
making an impressive comeback, said Collath, and its
enjoying a second life in a highly polished form. This newer form
of slate is aggressively honed and polished rather than having
that rough look to it like the slate from 30 or 40 years ago.
The green, grey and black slate is
an old material, but its new look is winning over many homeowners
who appreciate a classic. It is typically found in foyers and
entryways where there could be heavy traffic.
Another kind of slate called India
slate is incorporated into many commercial jobs as well as into
private residences. In addition to sandstone, quartz and onyx,
there are several varieties of tumbled materials that are finding
their way onto floors in todays more upscale homes.
Tumbled marble including
marble mosaics along with tumbled limestone and honed
limestone are becoming popular choices, Collath said. Marble
is being used in counter tops a lot such that you dont need to
use a cutting board over it. Its that hard, its that
Marble and granite are slowly
making their way into homes in the Midwest, he said, but these
materials have long been a standard in places such as Florida and
California where dust mites can be a problem.
You might see marble or granite
in a living room around here, but it might have a throw rug over
it. Its rarely used in a bedroom here, but in the warmer parts
of the country it keeps the floor cooler and therefore more
comfortable. Its also easier to keep clean.
Ultimately, I think we will see
a lot more marble and granite and stone products in general in
peoples living spaces. More and more clients are seeing the
value of the products, and the beauty of the stone products is
often quite dramatic.
Bob Phillips is the owner of Tile
N More in Waukesha and knows how much his customers have come
to appreciate stone flooring. He also knows, however, that there
are instances in which hardwood floors could be the way to go.
Hardwood flooring is popular and
has been for some time, he said. Its a renewable source
trees are always replanted to replace those used commercially
and has the advantage of potentially enjoying a brand new look to
it several times in its lifetime. If there are signs of wear, it
can be resanded or refinished many times. It can look brand new
over and over again.
and Joyce Lewis of New Berlin chose 4-inch select, beveled
maple flooring for the
floor in their hearth room. Schmidt Custom Floors Inc. of
The key to making the most of
hardwood floors, Phillips said, is to seriously consider what will
be moving on top of it or nearby such as heavy foot traffic, pets
with scratchy claws and splashy water bowls and possibly
appliances that use water (dishwashers and washing machines).
Generally speaking, water and children and pets tend to be enemies
of wood floors, and homeowners need to examine the whats and
wheres of the rooms in question before deciding between stone and
If there are three or four kids,
a couple beds, a kitchen or a foyer, a ceramic tile product might
be a better bet. You dont wash it like you do stone or the
laminates. Water and wood are natural enemies, and the more water
is exposed to it the more phone calls youll be making to Mr.
Resanding and Refinishing.
Always investigate the quality of
the wood when considering laying down a hardwood floor. Are the
builders putting in top grade materials? Check the grades of wood
and be sure youre getting one that wont look like the
plywood in your garden shed. While many types of wood are used
today in flooring such as oak, pine, maple, cherry, elder, ash,
beech, walnut and merbau, oak is still perhaps the most common of
the wood material used and has its own grade scale.
The higher the number, the rougher
it gets, Phillips said. Clear oak means free of defects, but
may have minor imperfections. Select & Better is almost
clear, but contains some characteristics such as knots and color
variations. The common grades number 1 and number 2 have a few
more imperfections and markings than either clear or select and
are often chosen for those markings and natural features and the
character they bring to a room. Number 1 has a variegated
appearance with light and dark colors with knots and worm holes.
Number 2 is more rustic in appearance and allows for many more
variations in color and grain.
There is prefinished wood and
unfinished wood. The prefinished types come in three grades:
regular/standard, cabin and tavern.
and Janice Behling of Hartland chose a polished
cream-colored marble for their master bath suite floor.
The same elegant material was used throughout the bath on
the walls, recesses and the whirlpool surround. On The
Surface Tile & Stone, a division of C.E.C. Inc. of
Hartland, supplied the material and installation.
Then there are the finishes on top
of the wood. Urethane is very durable and very popular, but it can
scratch. If the floor is exposed to water or humidity the finish
can split resulting in a phone call to the sander/refinisher.
There are also types of wood flooring that have acrylic injected
into the cellular structure of the wood that still require a
urethane coating (Hartco, Mannington). These are natural materials
that feature a somewhat carefree aspect to them.
Some of the more popular places to
incorporate a wood floor, therefore, are those with less exposure
to water and less traffic such as family rooms, bedrooms, living
rooms, dining rooms and rec rooms.
Wood floors cant always stand
up to the abuse that stone products can, but there are rooms in
the house where wood is ideal. In a rec room, for example, there
might be a pool table, a card table, maybe a bar. Thats not
really what we in the industry would call hard use, so wood
would perform well there and would look great.
Use dictates everything,
Phillips said. In areas where there could be a combination of
traffic, water and sun, youll want to go with a ceramic tile, a
slate or a stone product either instead of wood or possibly in
conjunction with areas of wood.
A sunroom is a good example
where a stone product is the better choice. The sun will not
affect or fade the stone and theres no finish to worry about.
The stone wont age because of the sun the way wood might.
Either way, its clear that when
it comes to flooring options, theres high quality in low
places. Whether you pine for wood or stick with stone, remember
that use should determine what material goes where.