Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Flooring, Flooring, Oh What Are We Gonna Do About the Flooring??

So my brother and I have been discussing over and over about options for flooring. I mean, we are wearing out our mental capacities. But this is important stuff. It's the difference between $500 and $1200. So we gotta make sure the investment is right.

My original plan was to keep the current laminate flooring for now until a later date when we had the funds to replace it with heated flooring. But when we decided to go with Vancouver Cabinets who supplied fixed-sized cabinets instead of a custom cabinet design, and ended up saving around $8000 (now its more like around $6000 which is still phenomenal), it means we could do the flooring now.

Flooring Issues We Are Trying To Solve:
  1. Porcelain Tile
  2. Vinyl
  3. Heated Floor
  4. Raised Sub-Floor
  5. Cork Flooring

After some intense research on the internet, this is a summary of what I have found. (I am not an expert in flooring, so consider this my personal gathering of information in relation to my kitchen project)

Well the sexy and modern thing to do is tiles in the kitchen and bathroom (though it does seem like maybe it might be starting to go out of style). Porcelain from what I learned is the same as ceramic tile but very dense.



  • requires a perfectly level surface to install which means back breaking work to scrape off old laminate glue and use pricey self-leveling cement beforehand.
  • incredibly hard which means dropped items are likely to shatter or dent, not to mention the higher risk that a tile will break compromising its ability to prevent moisture from seeping underneath
  • cleaning the floor means that unseen germs or food particles can remain between the tiles even after mopping.
  • Spilled items that easily stain and fall into the grout will turn into a permanent discolouration. (I'm Korean, so soy sauce and kimchee are a staple in the kitchen)

Vinyl Flooring was an attractive option for me and my first choice even though it may appear to be the cheapy out-dated choice. The flooring we just pulled off the kitchen was vinyl laminate.


  • Easy to clean because it is a continuous surface
  • Easy to install because it can lay on an imperfectly leveled floor.
  • Malleable which makes it easy to walk or stand on and can change with the expansion and contraction of the cement with age and moisture changes.
  • Options of style and design are almost endless, even imitating hardwood and tiled flooring.


  • Does not last as long as tile or wood floors (which are expected to last a good 50 years) Thus replacement is required every now and then.
  • The glue is unforgivingly difficult to remove when you want to replace with new flooring

So an interesting piece of information I am discovering over time as I research this more. If you search for "radiant heating," you will get lots of information on in-floor heating. However, there is a difference between in-floor heating and true radiant heating. The best layout of all the information that I found is in this article by Robert Bean. The information is important for anyone considering in-floor heating.

Briefly, the difference between the two is how heat is emitted into the air. In-floor heating uses dry heat via electrical wires, while true radiant heating is wet heat from water flowing through pipes.

In-floor heating is a comfort thing, to prevent the "cold shock" walking on a tiled floor (kind of like the reason why some people use toilet seat warmers).

Radiant Floor Heating consists of water that travels through special tubes based on the presence of heat in the room and replaces the hot water tank with one that functions to provide both heat and hot water to the house, effectively eliminating the need of a furnace.

Up until now, the discussion for my kitchen has been around getting in-floor heating, not true radiant heating. And so the pros and cons are based on that.


  • Provides a remedy to the problem of almost ice-cold floors (even in the summer) in the kitchen due to moisture through the cement and the elevation at which our property is situated.


  • True Comfort, NuHeat and Warmly Yours, the 3 major companies that provide products for in-floor heating that meet Canadian standards, claim that in-floor heating cannot serve as a primary heat source. There is mention of lowering the temperature of your thermostat to save energy, or reducing the amount of heat through forced air systems, but none claim outright that it replaces your primary heat source. Thus a heated floor is essentially a luxury, not a necessity.
  • The reason why the kitchen is cold is, as we discovered, the exterior walls were poorly insulated, and the flooring was glued directly to the cement. In a scenario like that, heat emitting from the floor will essentially get lost through the cement floor and the un-insulated part of the walls. We need to remedy these problems to solve the heat loss issue in the kitchen.
  • It's expensive -- around $1200 just for the heating mats alone
  • It's time consuming to install.

Raised Sub-Floor
So one of the major reasons why it is so cold in the downstairs of the house is because the flooring was laid directly onto the concrete slab which is in direct content with the ground. So moisture is seeping through any porous openings and both cooling the cement and increasing the humidity (typical of most basements). My brother intends to install a raised subfloor using compact insulation (my brother used it against the concrete foundation portion in walls) with wood straps and 5/8" plywood secured on top. The flooring then can be applied to the plywood. We had to ensure that there was at least 2 inches or more of elevation in the room to allow for this.


  • Greatly reduces the loss of heat through the floor at reasonable price which leads to energy savings.


  • Time consuming and labour intensive.
  • With a raised floor, I am left with the necessity to either live with a raised lip in the floor when I enter the kitchen from the rec room, or eventually installing the sub floor throughout the entire downstairs (which includes removing all interior doorways to raise them at least 2 inches off the floor and then re-drywalling and painting).
  • Those materials are damn heavy. Yes, I'm still whining about that. hehe.

Cork Flooring
My doctor told me about this option that his son used when he renovated his condo. It's actually quite unique and has a lot of advantages that are widely unknown. It is considered an eco-friendly alternative to flooring because it is a renewable resource.


  • Eco-friendly because cork is a renewable resource
  • provides insulation
  • fire-proof
  • sound-proof 
  • shock aborption
  • hypoallergenic because it is resistent to mold, mildew, dust and bugs
  • VOC-free
  • Easy to install since it is sold with its own adhesive on the back
  • Malleable to imperfectly flat floor and will return to its original shape from indents caused by furniture.


  • more pricey than tile or vinyl
  • Limited in colours and will put an unique/odd patterning to the floor
The thought of cork flooring came to mind after we were told that NuHeat themselves claim that their electric radiant floors cannot be used as a primary source of heat. Then my brother said, well im paraphrasing, "Then why the hell are we gonna pay so much money to install it if it's just a luxury item?"

Tomorrow, or sometime soon, we are going to go to a cork flooring store, perhaps the one in Richmond, to investigate the possibility of installing cork flooring. Should be interesting.

    Robert Bean, R.E.T., P.L.(Eng.),"Radiant Mythology: How myths about low temperature radiant heating and high temperature radiant cooling get spread." Copyright 2004-2013, 
    "What is True Radiant?"
     Lee Wallender "Electric Radiant Floor Heating"
Appropriate Designs "What is Hydronic Heating?"
Canada NuFloors Group, Inc. "Cork Flooring"
The Eco Floor Store,,


  1. Oh wow, this is all very interesting and helpful. Thanks!!

    1. I'm so glad! Thanks for reading. Can't wait to hear what you decided for your basement floor.