There’s more to floors than meets the eye. Aparna Karthikeyan brings you some ideas.

It’s probably the most used part of the house and yet, it’s expected to outlive everything else by decades. The expensive bits like gilded faucets, crystal chandeliers and the like are lavished with care but all this gets is the rough end of the broom and a lick with the mop. Flooring – and who’s not floored by a particularly beautiful one? – certainly deserves a lot more thought and planning. And to nudge you along in the right direction, we have two architects sharing their thoughts on what’s hot and what’s not.

Vikram. B, Chennai-based consultant architect, says that while vitrified tiles have held their own for over a decade, wooden flooring – essentially a generic term for flooring that looks like wood -- is gaining popularity. “Vitrified tiles are a mass-market product, yes, but they’re tougher than ceramic tiles, quite maintenance free, and likely to be around until another cost-effective option comes along,” says Vikram.

Wooden floors are, however, a niche product and something of an indulgence. There are two options, the first being traditional wooden laminates (standard 6ft by 3ft or larger ones that are four times that size and three times the price). The second option is engineered wood, which is basically a thin layer of real wood over the base. Hardwood floors cost a good deal more but then they’re solid wood, usually African teak or mahogany. Wooden floors can update a home, as they can be laid on top of an existing floor. But if cost is the over-riding concern and you still hanker for the ‘wood look, go for vinyl tiles, which come in several wood finishes. “They cost lesser than even laminated flooring and are virtually maintenance free,” says Vikram.

Ajay Sethi, Partner at Chennai-based PSP Architects, has another favourite – natural stone, which he says has always been a good choice for flooring. “We work with sandstone, Kota, rough granite, or marble, depending on the budget.” Tiles are, of course, here to stay. Not only has the quality improved over the last decade, it’s by far the easy option for builders.

Interestingly, though, Sethi says we are seeing a revival in cement flooring, popular in the West and Sri Lanka. One popular option is stained cement floors. Stainers are available in white/ grey/ light grey, and you end up with a floor that looks like acid-washed denim – with interesting light and dark patches. The second option is Indian patent stone (IPS) flooring, with a trowelled finish. “This requires the services of a skilled mason, as a 1 mm cement flurry needs to be expertly applied to the wet mortar,” says Sethi. The finishing must be done by hand and requires no additional polishing. The best part is the colours you get, from whites and greys all the way to ochres and blue-greens.

Finally, there are the cut-and-polish floors, where 12 mm cement mortar is mixed with marble powder and titanium dioxide. “This goes through an eight-stage polish, and the finish is very smooth with a marbled effect,” adds Sethi.

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Aparna KarthikeyanJune 28, 2012