How to assess the durability of floors
The life of your floor will vary a lot based on the surface – some surfaces are simply more durable than others. Durability can be said to cover two main things; the time it takes for the floor to become unusable and, more immediately, how worn out the floor looks after some use. Solid state floors like polished concrete are obviously going to outlast a shorter term solution like vinyl, but aren’t a viable option in all homes. Floorboards can last the life of the house if they're properly looked after, but a lot of care must be taken to keep the boards looking new. It is this latter aspect of durability that concerns most people.
The appearance of wear and tear
You’ll need to think about how much foot traffic a floor will see and how quickly it is likely to wear out. Whether or not you wear shoes in the house will play a big role in wear and tear on your floor, so factor that in too. Scuff marks and scratches on sealed surfaces can be long lasting, at least until the floor is refinished, and will give the floor a worn out look. Vinyl is especially susceptible to this as the pattern and colouring is sprayed onto the surface, and normally doesn't go all the way through. After a few years, this can lead to large white wear marks with the vinyl showing through appearing in popular areas such as hallways and kitchens. Durability will also vary between the same types of flooring surface – scuff resistant vinyl will last a lot longer in great condition than standard vinyl.
What to look for in carpet
Carpets too will vary widely in durability. Threadbare carpets look awful and provide poor comfort when walked on. In carpet, you should make sure to get as high a density carpet as you can manage. The more tufts per square metre, the more resistant it is to dirt and the stronger the individual fibres are. The fibres are more tightly packed and block sharp dirt particles from sifting to the lower levels of the carpet where they can be ground in, damaging the tufts. The right underlay for your carpet too will extend its expected lifetime.
A labelling scheme exists in Australia to help you assess the durability and lasting visual appeal of carpets.
Some floors will require ongoing maintenance, like the application of sealants, polishes and other finishes to keep them looking like new. These tasks are often quite labour intensive, and will usually require all the furniture to be removed or even for you to move out for a while. Consider what's involved as far as maintenance goes when you plan your floors.