What type of flooring do you recommend for a beach house to prevent scratching from sand and warping from dampness?
You posed a very good question. Beach houses are unique in their flooring requirements. You have multiple conditions to consider: sand being tracked in, excessive moisture in the air, and possible ground moisture from below. The fact that you’ve ruled out stone or ceramic is interesting, because either one of those choices would actually have been a great solution. Before you rule out porcelain or ceramic all together, did you know that new tile designs include leather-simulated looks, and even some wood parquet looks? Unglazed tiles offer slip resistance as well. Care and maintenance of a porcelain floor for a beach home would be minimal, and that would be a huge plus.
But here are some other options to consider: Historically speaking, real hardwood floors have not been ideal for beach climates because the moisture in the air can cause excessive expansion of the wood. Expansion and contraction of hardwood floors can result in warping and splitting–never a good thing. However Shaw Industries has a line of hardwood floors called “Epic” that have been engineered to overcome extreme climate conditions. It is a tightly milled product line that has a 5-ply, cross-core construction. This gives the product excellent stability. It’s important to note that only oak is used in the core (for its exceptional hardness), as the core is compressed under extreme heat to produce the stability you are looking for. That process should eliminate entirely the problem of expansion and contraction. If you are environmentally conscious, an added benefit is that Epic hardwoods take half as many freshly cut tress to produce. Look for a wood within this line that has an aluminum oxide top coating to guard against scratching, and always place walk-off mats at each entrance to the house to capture as much dirt and sand as possible. Choosing a lighter toned wood with a low sheen will do well against sun-fade.
One more alternative: laminate floors give the look of real hardwood, but are much more family-friendly. If you like the look of wood for your home, this may be the solution for you. You need to be sure that you choose a laminate that has a moisture resistant core (your local flooring retailer can help guide you) so that it is dimensionally stable. Laminate needs to be installed as a floating floor, with a moisture barrier material beneath, to protect it from ground moisture seeping up. With minimal care, laminate floors will look good for many years to come AND they have superior stain and fade resistance. I hope this helps.
Annette Callari, ASID; CMG