Stand your ground and choose the right floor

Of stone or wood, the floor keeps you grounded

floor311 (photo credit: Meredith)
(photo credit: Meredith)
This article was written by Zev Shalev just days before he sadly passed away.  Unfortunately, he did not see the final, edited version however we are publishing with his family’s permission.
One of the most important elements in the home, both functionally and visually, is the flooring.  The two primary groups of flooring types are stone-based and wood-based. Most homes in Israel have traditionally been built with stone-based rather than wood-based flooring for a number of reasons: stone is more readily available here than wood; most homes are constructed with stone rather than wood-based material; and stone keeps the home cooler which is an advantage in a warm climate.
Some important points you should take into consideration when choosing stone-floors in Israel:
   1. Among the stone-based materials, the most prevalent flooring here has traditionally been terrazzo which is known locally as “balatot”. This is a cement aggregate with stone chips embedded in the product.
   2. In recent years, ceramic tiles have become much more dominant in the market, both in new construction and in renovations. Ceramic tiles are thinner than terrazzo tiles and are therefore easier to ship and install. Another important distinction between terrazzo and ceramic tiles is that terrazzo is not sealed and can therefore stain more easily than ceramic tiles if not treated properly.   On the other hand, the nature of most ceramic tiles is that they tend to show more everyday dirt than terrazzo but they are generally easy to maintain.
   3. Another important point to consider in choosing ceramic tiles is the grout – its color, the type of material and its width can all have an effect on the general look of the floor.
   4. Installing the tiling on a diagonal is an interesting option and this can often make the space feel larger. However, expect to order roughly thirty per cent more material for this type of installation.
   5. When choosing flooring for bathrooms and outside areas, be sure that you’re getting a non-slip product rated for wet areas.
   6. Actual stone flooring is also readily available and the choices are numerous. The look of stone flooring can be very elegant but most stone flooring is porous and it’s important to know if,  how often, and with what material the floor must be sealed.
There are many other types of flooring readily available today in the Israeli market. Among the alternatives to stone-based flooring, wood flooring is a popular choice.  This is generally known on the local market as “parket”.  When shopping for parket, there a number of important points to understand:
   1. Most “parket” flooring sold here is laminate and not solid wood.  Laminate means a picture of a wood-looking material embedded onto a laminated surface.  This material is fine for bedrooms and other low-traffic areas but installing it in high-traffic areas in the home might not be wise.
   2. You can get solid wood flooring which can often be refinished and could be an option for high traffic areas, but  it’s important to consider the thickness of the solid wood on the subsurface –this is one indication of its durability.
   3. If you are considering “parket” and your home is under construction, don’t expect your builder to install the parket.  My recommendation is to ask the supplier what  the actual thickness of the material  is, then to instruct your builder to install his standard (usually ceramic) floor lower than the surrounding areas by the thickness indicated by the parket supplier, and when the parket is installed it will be flush with other  floors.
   4. Wood for outside areas is also available and can add a warmth to your patio or deck that stone floors cannot.
Carpeting is another popular choice for floors in Israel especially among Anglos. Some important issues to consider are:
   1. Material: synthetic or wool   2. Pets in the house which will make maintenance difficult   3. Sensitivities – does anyone in the home suffer from allergies or asthma?   4. Another consideration with carpeting is the method of installation- wall-to-wall carpeting is either stretched or glued.   5. If you’re considering carpeting, keep in mind that it’s not likely that the carpeting in your home abroad ever had to be cleaned after a sandstorm when you forgot to close the windows. A periodical professional cleaning service is a good solution.
Cork is considered to be one of the greenest choices for flooring as it is from a renewable material. It is not as durable in high-traffic areas over the long term as a stone-based floor might be, but standing on cork for long periods of time can be less tiring than standing on a stone-based floor.
Another choice similar to cork is linoleum. That’s  right-the floor that was a superstar in fifties kitchens is making a major comeback for the following reasons: it’s manufactured with renewable materials; it’s more affordable than stone-base flooring; and as with cork, it’s less tiring to stand on than a stone floor.
Whatever flooring you choose – it’s important to look into the floor’s “dargat shchika”. This roughly translates to “wear and tear” ratings – some ceramic tiles are rated only for wall and not for floor applications, while other tiles can be used  in airports and supermarkets – make sure you’re paying for the quality necessary for the area where the floor will be installed.
As with all other home design elements, keep the big picture in mind when you shop – the flooring is only one item in the home and whatever your choice, it should relate in a natural way to all other colors, materials and surfaces.
The writer was a freelance interior designer and space planner servicing the English-speaking community across Israel for more than 20 years.   He sadly passed away last week at age 59.
This article was provided by the official guide to Israel real estate.