The Ultimate Flooring Guide
- Aug 29, 2017
Stuck on which flooring to get? You've come to the right place! Our ultimate flooring guide will look at seven of the most common flooring materials available in Singapore, their pros and cons, and will aim to answer all the flooring questions you might have. Have a burning question about flooring? Hit us in the comments below!
Vinyl is one of the most affordable materials for flooring and is made up of several sheets stacked together to form a 3 to 5mm-thick tile.
Image courtesy of Malford
According to Justin Chua of flooring supplier Malford, there can be a total of seven material sheets stacked together to form a single vinyl tile.
The layers are also composites of PVC, and usually first comprise a base, non-slip layer that allows the tile to get a good grip on the ground beneath it, a second layer made from glass fibre to help minimise expansion and contraction due to temperature fluctuations, a third and fourth layer that helps to enhance the stability of the tile, a fifth layer that showcases the print design, a sixth that protects the printed layer and a seventh layer that is made up of polyurethane and more commonly known as a PU coating. This final layer boosts the durability of the vinyl tile, creates a smooth touch and helps the material to be more resistant to stain, abrasion and other damages.
Estimated cost: From $5.50 psf to $6.50 psf. It will cost approximately $4,000 - $4,900 in a 4-room BTO.
The main advantage of vinyl tiles is that they are an economical option – they usually cost 50 percent cheaper than tiles. Favoured among contractors thanks to its easy and fuss-free installation process (via lock and click), a vinyl floor can be fully installed in just four hours. This method of installation results in another benefit: “It allows the vinyl tiles to be fitted closely to one another, so that even water cannot seep through,” says Justin.
Video courtesy of Wood Culture, showcasing how vinyl tiles are clicked into place
Vinyl can also be placed on existing tiles without hacking them away because of how thin they are.
Vinyl tiles require a thinner layer of cement screed compared to tiles, which usually require 2 to 3cm of screed.
While the vinyl flooring is durable in general, its durability cannot be compared to tiles, particularly if the inlaid area is subjected to constant high traffic. “Vinyl is prone to scratching,” says Justin. “Don’t drag heavy furniture around or expose it to harsh usage.”
Vinyl flooring in Singapore has to be certified with the Singapore Environment Council or the Singapore Green Building Council for Green Label certification, as poorly manufactured ones tend to contain high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), some of which may impact long-term length. However regardless of efforts put into manufacturing the eco-friendliest vinyl flooring, small levels of VOCs may still be present.
Choose this if: You want to save cost and hassle.
There are several types of tiles in the market, such as homogeneous tiles, glazed full body porcelain tiles, glazed porcelain tiles as well as ceramic tiles.
Design: Obbio Concept
Homogeneous tiles, which are a type of porcelain tile, have a consistent composition of the material throughout the whole body of the tile. The colours and designs (such as a vein-like marble design) that appear on the surface will run uniformly throughout its entire thickness and body. You will see the veins even if there’s a chip in your tile. This is because a homogeneous tile undergoes high-definition printing to achieve a consistent design pint.
Glazed full body porcelain tiles, on the other hand, will not take on the design of the surface. However, it will still retain the colour of the surface throughout its entire thickness.
Glazed porcelain tiles do not have the same colouration in its base or body as the surface. Only the top layer is glazed, so to speak. A chip on your glazed porcelain tile will be unsightly and more obtrusive as opposed to a chip on a glazed full body or a homogeneous porcelain tile.
Ceramic tiles are generally not recommended for flooring as they tend to be less durable compared to porcelain. If you must use them, make sure the flooring area plans to be subjected to very light traffic. The backs of ceramic tiles are usually powdery, indicating that they are porous and should not be used in wet areas.
Design: Sky Creation
When going for tiles, Malford’s Justin suggests settling for glazed full body porcelain tiles, which are just as good as homogeneous ones. “Homogeneous is a great choice, but they are actually really rare. It is difficult to have the vein pattern of a marble lookalike tile or a wood-like tile travel from the surface through to the entire body.”
As flooring is a high impact area (with a high tendency to break or chip), avoid going for glazed porcelain tiles.
Estimated cost: Hacking away existing tiles can cost upwards of $2,000. Laying of cement screed (2-3cm thick) will usually cost about $9 psf. Tiles typically cost $2.50 - $3 psf, if they are made from China while Spanish or Italian tiles cost more.
Porcelain tiles in general have a low water absorption rate due to its density. This also means they are stain-resistant, which is a great option for households with children and pets. They also tend to last a long time, provided proper care is given to it. Porcelain tiles are very durable and don’t break easily unless faced with heavy impact. Chipped or broken tiles can also be easily replaced.
The main gripe with tiles are the grout lines, which unlike tiles, are porous and can discolour over long term use and due to the humidity levels in the air. Constantly scrubbing grout lines from dirt and grime may be back-breaking work. Depending the look you are going for, an option is to opt for bigger tiles that will give fewer grout lines.
Sizing tips: For indoor flooring, Justin recommends choosing 600 x 600 mm. “However, if you would want to achieve a very grand effect, select larger sizes such as 900 x 900 mm or even 1200 x 1200 mm. If you are thinking or using tiles for your driveway, it is best to go as small as possible. 150 x 150 or 300 x 300 mm should be good enough.” Tiles can go up to extra-large sizes (e.g. 1.6m x 3.2m).
Maintenance tip: Sweep or vacuum before mopping for everyday cleaning. This is to prevent dirt or debris from scratching for your floor tiles. For mopping, tile supplier Hafary recommends using a mix of warm water and natural detergent to enhance the shine of your tiles. Avoid waxes, polishes and abrasive tools like hard-bristle brushes as they will damage your tiles.
Choose this if: You want a low-cost, hardworking flooring option.
Wood isn’t usually a popular flooring choice in Singapore, in part because of its expensive price tag and also because it tends to be rather high maintenance. If you do decide to go for wood flooring, make sure it’s hardwood. “Softwood can easily dent when depressed,” cautions Ng Hsiang Iang, manager at Timberplus. According to Hsiang Iang, the most common types of wood used in Singapore for flooring are oak and teak, thanks to their commercial availability. Rarer woods like Ipe tend to be harder to come by.
Design: The Design Abode
Wood flooring needs to be sealed. Hsiang Iang recommends going for either water-based polyurethane or petroleum-based products. The former provides a more natural finish compared to the latter, which features a slight sheen. Avoid solvent-based coatings, such as melamine, which although toxic, are still prevalent in Singapore.
Design: The Scientist
Conventional wood flooring typical comes in long, wide strips, unlike parquet. While parquet is also real solid wood, it is made up of shorter pieces of wood joined together to form a tile for easy installation. Parquet flooring is typically laid out in geometric pattern, giving a different aesthetic to conventional solid wood flooring.
Estimated cost: Depending on the type of wood flooring, prices go for around $30 psf.
Real wood flooring is beautiful; it lends a warm texture and natural element to your home that cannot be easily replicated with wood-like tiles or vinyl. Plus, it’s extremely valuable, lending to higher resale value of your home should you decide to put your space up for sale in the future.
Hardwood floors can last for a long time, but only if proper care is given. Minor kinks can be easily sanded down so that it looks as good as new again. Over the years, hardwood floors can develop a beautiful patina for a vintage look.
Installation for wood flooring is generally laborious, so in addition to material cost, you will also be paying more for fixing up hardwood in your home. Add that to the yearly fee that you would have to shell out to re-coat your wood flooring in order to maintain it in pristine condition.
Despite their longevity, hardwood is susceptible to scratching, dents and isn’t entirely waterproof – it can get damaged if the area has excessive moisture. It is generally not recommended for areas like the bathroom and kitchen, or zones that are usage heavy.
Buying tip: For busy households, go for denser wood types like teak and walnut as they are harder and more durable.
Maintenance tip: Invest in a dehumidifier for particularly humid areas in your home to prevent your wood flooring from warping
Choose this if: You love the feel of real wood and have cash to spare.
If you love the feel of solid wood but can’t quite afford the hefty price tag, here’s a cheaper option: engineered wood.
Image courtesy of Evorich Flooring
Engineered wood is basically made up of several layers of materials (usually between three to nine layers with more layers ensuring greater stability) glued together to form a single plank. The top layer is made up of a thin layer of real wood or a hardwood veneer glued to a core layer that is a mix of plywood, hardwood and high-density fibreboard. Different manufacturers would have different compositions.
Estimated cost: Approximately $20 psf or more.
Besides the look of real wood at half the cost, you have a greater variety of wood choices available for engineered wood, compared to solid wood, including rarer and more exotic wood or wood types that are not often recommended for flooring in Singapore’s humid weather. This is thanks to the stability of engineered wood, which, owing to its layered plank design (varies from manufacturer to manufacturer), is less likely to contract and expand from temperature and humidity fluctuations.
Image courtesy of Evorich Flooring
Unlike hardwood flooring, engineered wood is much easier and faster to install as the planks have already been sanded down and sealed. Contractors will only have to glue down the pieces to the cement screed.
While engineered wood is more stable than hardwood, it is not recommended for moisture-high areas like the bathroom due to its wood composition. It will still face a similar outcome when exposed to high moisture levels.
Unlike solid wood, engineered wood cannot be sanded down too much when you get scratches or dings over time. How much it can be sanded down depends on its top layer, which usually go from 0.6mm to 4.5mm. The thicker the top layer, the more chance there is for it to be sanded down and refinished before it hits the plywood layers.
Buying tip: The core layer is very important when selecting engineered wood. It is the core layer that provides the stability of the material. Look out for core layers made from materials that are less susceptible to expansions and contractions from humidity and temperature fluctuations e.g. rubber wood.
Choose this if: You want the look and feel of real wood with the added advantage of being cheaper and more stable.
Like vinyl, laminate flooring can also be snapped into place easily during installation. Like vinyl, laminate can take on the look of real wood and marble at more than half the cost. Like vinyl, laminate is also made from several layers. The only difference between vinyl and laminate however is in its composition. While vinyl is mainly PVC, laminate is typically made up of high-density fibreboard, combining wood fibres and wood chips alongside plastic.
Image courtesy of Wood Culture
Estimated cost: Approximately $6 psf.
Laminate is an affordable flooring option, often cheaper than vinyl, and they come with a wide variety of design options that replicate the look of natural materials from stone to wood to marble.
Avoid using laminate in wet areas as it isn’t water-resistant. When exposed to moisture, laminate flooring may expand, contract and therefore warp. Laminate flooring also isn’t spill-resistant, and a stain will occur if a spill is left unattended for too long.
You will require a very smooth surface to lay your laminate flooring on. Unlike vinyl flooring, which is more dimensionally flexible and therefore able to accommodate an uneven surface, laminate is rigid and will break over time if not laid on a smooth and even ground.
Choose this if: You want a cheap option and your choice of flooring area is in a dry zone.
Like wood, marble is a natural material and one of the pricier options for flooring in Singapore. An elegant and luxurious material, marble is harvested from quarries all over the world and cut down to tiles and slabs for use in flooring and other applications.
Design: Scale Studio
According to Justin from Malford, the common types of marble in Singapore are Volakas (white base with diagonal messy grey veins), Bianco Carrara (white base with messy spider web style veins), Crema Marfil (a beige, tan marble with cloudy veins), and Ariston White (a pure white base with one directional fine veins).
There are several types of finishes available for flooring, depending on what look you’re going for. Polished marble produces a shiny and reflective surface, although they tend to be a bit more slippery than a honed finished marble, which shows off a matte and smooth finish. Polished surfaces will bring out the colours of your original marble tile more, although a honed finish is preferred for its contemporary flair.
Design: The Scientist
Application tip: Do not apply anti-slip coatings on your polished marble to prevent slip. This will kill off the shine of the polish.
Estimated cost: Common marbles go for about $20 psf (including mandatory dry lay and sealant cost) and installation will cost around $12 psf.
Long associated with opulence and luxury, the beauty of marble flooring is unparalleled. Natural materials give your space a unique, one-of-a-kind look because each slab or tile is different, featuring a different kind of vein or pattern.
Because of their porous nature, it is not recommended in places like the bathroom or kitchen. Marble also stains easily, although a high quality sealant would make stains less penetrable. However, you should still make sure spills are wiped away immediately.
Scratches show up easily on polished surfaces, although both polished and honed marble are equally susceptible to scratching because marble is a very soft stone.
Maintenance isn’t a breeze. To ensure the durability of your marble, you will have to reapply the sealant that protects your marble flooring regularly, preferably once a year.
Also, natural marble is really expensive. Doing up an entire 4-room HDB flat in marble can cost onwards of $32,000.
Choose this if: You want a unique and elegant space, and can live with this high-maintenance material. Plus, you can afford it.
Cement screed is a popular choice for homeowners seeking after a minimalist look or an industrial style. It’s also a wise choice if you’re keeping costs low. Cement screed is usually made up of basic Portland cement mixed with polymers to give it more flexibility and durability.
Design: The Association
Cement screed can come with the option of sealing or not. Not sealing will result in a powdery surface that can be resolved by buffing it down, with the cement screed mixture re-applied at least six times. This laborious process results in a more stable flooring, although nowadays, most contractors will rely on chemicals rather than hard work to make the cement screed surface more durable.
Estimated cost: From $5 – $10 psf.
It is relatively cost-efficient, although not the cheapest option. But its attraction doesn’t just lie in its price, it also lends a raw beauty that you can’t get with other materials. It is also very customisable – there are several staining, polishing, texturing options you can do with cement screed to get the look you want.
Design: UNO Interior
Chips and hairline cracks will appear over time, depending on the amount of elasticity and rigidity in your cement screed mix. Weird, blotchy patches can occur, caused by the material interacting with the existing floor base. This is particularly so if it’s laid on an existing cement screed or concrete.
It is also highly porous and largely prone to staining, unless you coat it with a high quality sealant which will give the surface a slight sheen. Even then, avoid using cement screed in areas with high humidity and moisture.
Over time, cement screed will wear with traffic and there is no way to patch it back once the flooring is set. You will have to start all over again with a new layer.
Choose this if: You can live with cracks and weird stains on your cement screed flooring in the long run. After all, these are all part of the character, right?
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