Flooring is the general term for a permanent covering of a floor, or for the work of installing such a floor covering. Floor covering is a term to generically describe any finish material applied over a floor structure to provide a walking surface. Both terms are used interchangeably but floor covering refers more to loose-laid materials.
Materials almost always classified as flooring include carpet, laminate, tile and vinyl.
The floor under the flooring is called the subfloor, which provides the support for the flooring. Special purpose subfloors like floating floors, raised floors or sprung floors may be laid upon another underlying subfloor which provides the structural strength. Subfloors that are below grade (underground) or ground level floors in buildings without basements typically have a cement subfloor. Subfloors above grade (above ground) typically have a plywood subfloor.
The choice of material for floor covering is affected by factors such as cost, endurance, noise insulation, comfort and cleaning effort. Some types of flooring must not be installed below grade, including laminate and hardwood due to potential damage from moisture.
The sub-floor may be finished in a way that makes it usable without any extra work, see:
- Earthen floor adobe or clay floors
- Solid ground floor cement screed or granolithic or floor cement
Hard flooring (not to be confused with “hardwood”) is a family of flooring materials that includes concrete or cement, ceramic tile, glass tiles, and natural stone products.
Ceramic tile are clay products which are formed into thin tiles and fired. Ceramic tiles are set in beds of mortar or mastic with the joints between tiles grouted. Varieties of ceramic tiles include quarry tile, porcelain, terracotta.
Many different natural stones are cut into a variety of sizes, shapes, and thicknesses for use as flooring. Stone flooring is uses a similar installation method to ceramic tile. Slate and marble are popular types of stone flooring that requires polishing and sealing. Stone aggregates, like Terrazzo, can also used instead of raw cut stone and are available as either preformed tiles or to be constructed in-place using a cement binder.
Porcelain stoneware can be used instead of natural stone. It is a ceramic material like a tile; however, it is typically 20 mm (0.79 in) thick and often comes in squares of 60 cm (24 in).
Concrete or cement finished floor is also used for its ability to be treated for different feel and its durability, such as polished concrete. Epoxy resurfacing of concrete flooring is used to update or upgrade concrete floor surfaces in commercial and residential applications.