Hardwearing flooring is an advantage for any home whether you have children, pets or even live on your own without any type of live-in companion. The reasons are threefold: hardwearing flooring lasts longer, it is easier to clean, and it will inevitably be a benefit when and if you decide to sell your house. Simply, it makes a home both more livable and considerably more saleable.

But hard wearing flooring also needs to look good and feel comfortable. So you should consider your needs carefully. Happily there are quite varied flooring options to suit all tastes.

If you do have children, or are planning children, then you will need to focus on the needs of little people very carefully. If you have animals, unless you lock them out of the house, it will be vital to install pet friendly floors. Again, if you sell the house down the track, both child and pet friendly flooring can be a positive selling feature.

Why we need flooring that is “friendly” for pets and children

While the comfort factor is important for children, particularly babies and toddlers who are learning to walk, maintenance is a primary consider if you have pets or children. They can all be extremely messy creatures, and if you can’t keep your floors clean…  and you can’t keep them clean easily, then life is likely to be pretty miserable.

Children and dogs love rolling in dirt and are notorious for tracking in mud and sand. When the weather is wet they won’t usually give a second thought to the fact that precious flooring might be wrecked underfoot. While cats are reasonably clean animals that don’t like to get their feet wet, even little kitty footprints on carpets can be extremely difficult to remove.

You could, of course, introduce a Japanese principle of removing shoes before entering the house, but it isn’t going to work with pets. So unless you are in fact not a pet friendly person, and lock them out in the wet and cold – shudder the thought – you might as well give some serious consideration to what comprises pet and kiddy friendly flooring.

Apart from the basic dirt factor, other factors to consider are that both pets and children have to be toilet trained in their early life, and until this happens accidents do happen. If this mess can’t be easily cleaned, you may not only have a stained floor, but you might also be stuck with a lingering smell that is difficult to get rid of. Cats are the worst offenders here, especially tomcats that haven’t been neutered.

Children and animals also get sick from time to time, and so there is always the possibility that they might vomit on the floor. It’s a fact of life. They are also naturally clumsy and even wagging tails are common culprits when it comes to knocking over things including drinks, plates of food and even pot plants.

Hard flooring

The most hardwearing floors are usually considered to be those that are made from hard materials, ranging from hardwoods to bricks and tiles. But animal claws can cause quite extensive damage to floorboards and some other hard surfaces. Also, when it comes to ease of maintenance, you need to consider porosity. For instance if tiles are porous and you don’t clean up blood immediately, it will stain.  At the other end of the scale, highly glazed tiles become slippery when wet and can be hazardous for children and for pets. So neither of these options translates to what we consider to be pet friendly floors.

A company like the USA-headquartered Shaw Floors (shawfloors.com/stone-and-tile-flooring) has a selection of hardwearing, contemporary tile and stone flooring products that are easy to clean. They also offer a range of flooring types (both hard and soft) that are sustainable and eco-friendly. Hard products include:

  • an engineered wood flooring that has a dense inner-core of wood fiber by-products that would otherwise be burnt or put into landfills,
  • a laminate flooring product that simulates either exotic hardwoods or ceramic tiles without using the natural resources,

The hardwood floors from Anderson (andersonfloors.com) are also both eco-friendly and pet-friendly. Recently acquired by Shaw Floors, Anderson has an amazing product made from 100% wood by-products that has been heralded as one of the most “environmentally responsible” hardwood flooring products that is currently available.

Now here’s something else to consider. When we talk about hardwoods, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are HARD woods. In fact some types of hardwood is actually quite soft. The difference is that a true hardwood comes from a deciduous tree like oak or cherry, while softwoods are cut from conifers, like pine and redwood. While most types of pine are quite soft, redwood is reasonably hard, which is why it is a popular choice for decking. Boggles the mind doesn’t it?

Ironically, though, if you choose to buy recycled hardwood flooring from a company like Nostalgic Wood, Inc (www.nostalgicwood.com), one of their selling points is the fact that their flooring has those wonderfully distinctive marks left by old nails and burrowing insects. So is it really important to worry if Bruno antiques your floors for you?

Another company that revels in maintaining a lovely weathered look with its rescued timber for floors is Canadian Heritage Timber (www.canadianheritagetimber.com). They do, however, also supply plank flooring that has been sanded to a lovely smooth, new-looking finish.

Soft flooring

Carpets and other so-called soft flooring is not only more comfortable underfoot, it is also generally warmer. However carpeting is also often linked to allergies and asthma that affects not only humans, but pets as well. So while a dog might prefer to sleep on a soft carpet than on a hard brick floor, is this really a pet friendly option? According to research, yes it is. The issue though is that carpets must be properly cleaned and maintained. If they are properly cared for, they in fact have an even lower level of dust-borne allergens that rooms with hard surface floors where the dust and other small allergenic particles are airborne (because they simply can’t settle in the hard surface).

The issue you need to consider is whether you are prepared to go that extra mile in terms of maintenance. After all, if you have fitted wall-to-wall carpets, and your devoted dog delivers mud on a rainy day, will you be able to cope or will you have to call in a professional carpet cleaning company to rectify the damage?

The compromise

Then of course you might decide to combine a hard floor of some sort, be it brick, tiles or timber, with a soft area rug on top. Or you could simply create pet friendly floors by giving your favorite animals an easily removal bed on an easily cleanable floor surface.

At the end of the day the choice is yours.

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