Choosing the Right Flooring for Your Bathroom

Choosing the Right Flooring for Your Bathroom

Vinyl? Tile? Wood? Laminates? The newer Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) or Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)? What’s the right choice for your new bathroom? Her Home™ Magazine recently posed that question to Joe Dubsky, Manager for Thornton Flooring (Sioux City, Iowa, branch). Based out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Thornton Flooring is one of the Midwest’s largest flooring retailers.

Of today’s popular flooring materials, Dubsky quickly dismissed wood as an option for bathroom flooring due to wood’s inherent problems with getting wet. Both solid hardwood and engineered wood planks will swell and “cup” from water absorption, ruining the floor. Similarly, some laminate manufacturers discourage its use for bathroom flooring due to water intrusion issues.

The remaining choices basically come down to aesthetics, durability, and budget.

Traditional sheet vinyl flooring is available in a wide range of attractive colors and patterns, including replicating natural stone and hardwood. Glued-in-place as one continuous piece, sheet vinyl offers excellent resistance to water damage. Relatively easy-care, sheet vinyl is often the least expensive flooring option, with pricing and durability typically varying depending on the thickness of the material and the thickness of its (top) wear layer. Thicker vinyl flooring, while more expensive, generally offers greater scuff and gouge resistance as well as longer warranties.

Luxury Vinyl Sheet flooring is at the high-end of vinyl roll flooring. It may be twice the thickness of cheaper vinyl flooring, warmer and softer, and more comfortable underfoot as well as significantly quieter. Dubsky likes the Beauflor® Blacktex HD Luxury Vinyl Roll, stating, “It’s much more durable than traditional vinyl sheet flooring, but less than LVP.” Beauflor’s Blacktex HD is backed by a lifetime residential warranty, compared to the more typical 10-year limited residential warranties common to traditional sheet vinyl.

BeauFlor Futurist Earth

(Photo courtesy: BeauFlor)

LVT/LVP/WPC/SPC has quickly become the choice of builders and home buyers alike. Essentially identical except for appearance (LVT looks like ceramic tile, LVP looks like wood plank), these products offer comfort, excellent performance, and amazing realism. The core material is typically considered waterproof varying from a vinyl plastic, wood plastic composite (WPC), or even a stone composite core (SPC), the latter being harder and better able to handle temperature extremes, which might be important if your bathroom sits atop an unheated garage. Typically, beneath the core is an attached foam pad, contributing to the comfort and warmth, and according to Dubsky, superior sound deadening. The printed layer, atop the core material, is protected by a wear layer that provides a hard scratch-, stain-, and scuff-resistant protective coating, measured in mils. Dubsky advises looking at the wear layer and the overall thickness of the product when considering LV products, “Wear layers are commonly 12 mil to 30 mil. I like to recommend 12-20 mil thick wear layers for homes.”

“Some LVP is smooth, while some is embossed in register, with indentations giving it the feel of natural wood or tile as well as added depth and texture.” Dubsky pointed to a less expensive LVP’s woodgrain and a knot, printed in high definition, which looked exactly like authentic wood planks. Yet its uniform smoothness, especially in that knot area, detracted from the authenticity of actual wood. The embossed in register LVP wherein the feel and texture, particularly in the knot area, was virtually indistinguishable from wood flooring. Dubsky mentioned that the embossed in register LVP was also a bit more slip-resistant, which can be an important factor in bathroom floor choice.

Selecting your flooring for your bathroom can be fun and easy. With today’s technology, many manufacturers offer tools to help you visualize your dreams. Many companies have a room scene visualizer where you can take a photo of your room, select your style and color, and even choose the direction to run your flooring.

As with other vinyl flooring, LVP and LVT prices also tend to vary by thickness of the product. The product has caught on with applications throughout the home, not just in bathrooms. Unlike sheet vinyl’s low-price stigma, for its many practical and aesthetic advantages, LVT and LVP is finding its way into million-dollar homes, often replacing what would have been hardwood and tile floors. Importantly, luxury vinyl planks and tiles, if damaged, can be replaced and sometimes even repaired. In contrast, gouged or otherwise damaged sheet vinyl must be fully replaced.

Ceramic and porcelain tile have long been the go-to choice for custom bathrooms. Both are clay-based, but the clay used in porcelain tile is more dense and more refined. Porcelain tile is also fired at hotter temperatures for a longer period of time, making it harder, more durable, and impervious to water. Due to the materials used and manufacturing process, Dubsky notes, “Porcelain tiles are generally a little more expensive than ceramic, but basically, color dictates most people’s tile selection.” Ceramic is also water-resistant, but more porous than porcelain. While generally a fine choice for bathroom floors, there is a chance of liquid spills staining a ceramic tile, even with the glaze.

Porcelain or ceramic, most tiles are printed with what is essentially a high definition ink-jet process; then the glazing, where an enamel or liquid glass top coating is applied. That glaze protects the tile and its printed surface and may be either a gloss (shiny) or matte (dull) finish. Some tiles also have a slip-resistant texture, which can be especially important for the elderly. Often tile-floor bathrooms also feature tile shower and tub surrounds as well as tile wall accents. Dubsky has found that one porcelain importer (Happy Floors) offers porcelain tile that matches up well to their LVT products, so his customers can enjoy the benefits of both products in their bathroom.

“Tile has stood the test of time,” Dubsky said, “but it is at the high-end of bathroom flooring choices.” One other drawback is that tile floors can feel quite cold to walk on. For that reason, he often installs Schluter® Systems in-floor electric heating underneath tile bathroom floors. In-floor heating can be surprisingly inexpensive when done at the time of construction.

MSI BathRoom Visualizer

So, what is the right choice of flooring for your bathroom? Check out MSI's BathRoom Visualizer Tool - visualize backsplash, wall tile, and floor tile options. Use this quick tool to mix and match your choice of colors to visualize the ideal bathroom. With a simple click—email, print, or save your favorites to help in making final selections. (Photo courtesy: MSI)

Again, it comes down to the look and performance you want, and price considerations. The following chart may help guide your decision.

Bathroom Flooring Chart

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Cover photo: BeauFlor

Wise Product Choices for a Quiet Home

Wise Product Choices for a Quiet Home

You could try masking unwanted noise with your noise cancelling headphones/earbuds like you do when traveling. Problem is, they’re not very comfortable when trying to sleep, and just not practical for continuous use. Minimizing annoying sounds by making informed product choices for your new home sounds like a good idea.

Previously we have addressed sound deadening construction products for your home. Here, we’ll look at several other key product decisions that can contribute to a quieter home, starting in your bathroom. Bathroom exhaust fans are rated for the amount of noise they make, measured in “sones.” Though there are numerous considerations in addition to a bathroom fan’s volume when making this purchase decision, comparing various fans’ volumes is easy. Broan (a leading manufacturer of bath fans) has fans rated at .3 sones (almost inaudible) retailing for $190, as seen on one of the big box home improvement store websites. A comparable 6 sone (loud) Broan fan could be purchased for less than $40. Whether enjoying a hot soak in the tub or stepping out of a steamy shower, that $150 is a small price to pay for tranquility.

You can avoid the jolting “bang” from dropping the toilet seat by choosing a soft-close lid. And in both the bathroom and kitchen, soft-close cabinet hardware eliminates the annoying bang of cabinet doors. 

Soft Close Cabinet Hinge

As in your bathroom, your choice in a kitchen range hood exhaust fan can mean the difference between continuing your conversation or having to go elsewhere to hear each other. Your dishwasher choice also makes an appreciable difference. Unlike exhaust fans, dishwasher volume is measured in decibels (dB), and the lower the dB rating the quieter it operates. Again, using prices from a big box store, a GE stainless steel dishwasher measured at 59dB costs less than $650, while the 39dB model was a bit under $1,200. But that 20dB difference means the cheaper model is 4 TIMES as loud as the quieter model! Open to your Great Room, that can mean having to go elsewhere to be able to enjoy your favorite TV show. Pay special attention to dishwasher volume if your dishwasher is installed in your kitchen island as there is no exterior wall to help muffle the sound.

Another potentially noisy item found in your kitchen is the garbage disposal under your sink. Spend less than $100 (excluding installation labor) and you’ll pause discussions until after you’ve run the disposal. Invest $300 or so and you may not even hear the disposal operating. Revealing the Real You – Selections for Your Home has further information on how your product choices affect your new home’s price.

LG Twin Wash Pair

Having your laundry room next to your bedroom can be a great convenience, but a noisy laundry pair can quickly turn that joy into regret. With washers and dryers, the noise issue is compounded, as vibration can compound sound problems. As with the above, quieter appliances are available, but typically are going to cost more. And, if your bedroom adjoins the garage (or sits atop the garage) you’re going to want a quiet garage door opener. Belt-drive openers tend to be the quietest, and DC current models may start/stop softly, further reducing noise. (Photo courtesy:

Finally, the location of your furnace and water heater will help determine how important quieter, pricier models would be for you. If your mechanicals are located near bedrooms or just off a living space, what are your options for minimizing such noise? Electric furnaces are typically quieter than gas, two-stage furnaces are quieter than one-stage models, and variable-speed furnaces quieter compared to single-speed units. Similarly, electric water heaters are usually quieter than gas models, and tankless water heaters typically make less noise than conventional tank-type heaters.

It’s an interesting paradox – on one hand we’re striving to achieve serenity by minimizing unwanted noise; on the other we’re ushering in sounds to our environments, typically through media. Smart solutions give you control over the volumes. Talk with your builder, quiet product options should be strong considerations. Savvy builders have recognized this and done the research for you, with some even offering a “Serenity Package,” an option bundle that includes quiet products throughout your home, making your choice easy.

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(Product spotlights are for informational purposes only.)

Building a Quiet Home – Construction Aspects

Building a Quiet Home – Construction Aspects

Aesthetics… price… livability… there are many competing priorities when building a new home, and unfortunately, building a quiet home isn’t atop very many people’s lists. Yet, with many of the most effective solutions for reducing noise best undertaken during your home’s construction, consideration now can help avoid regrets later.

Essentially, noise either comes from outside of your home or within. There may be little you can do to minimize traffic or neighborhood noises such as lawn mowers, barking dogs, and children playing, but better windows and doors, air sealing, and insulation all contribute to reducing external noise entering your home. Double- and triple-pane windows block noise better than single-pane. Reduce air (and, therefore, sound) infiltration through extensive use of caulking, or opt for expanding spray foam insulation to seal joints and penetrations in and around exterior walls. Once the home has been well-sealed, you can specify sound-deadening insulation between the studs for a much more serene home. Alternatively, homes built with concrete exterior walls, and especially insulated concrete form (ICF) walls are inherently more peaceful regarding external noise than typical wood construction.

Equally important is reducing unwanted noise created within the home. We will deal with home design issues and choosing quieter products for the home in upcoming posts. For now, we will consider approaches for blocking unwanted sound, and for absorbing those irritating noises best addressed when building.

Whether it’s toilets flushing, the washing machine, media entertainment, or loud discussions, unwanted noise from adjacent rooms in your home spreads freely until those sound waves run into something. Think about the difference just closing your home office door makes. But did you know a solid core door will block approximately twice as much sound as its hollow core counterpart? Solid core doors are more expensive, so you may want to carefully choose where to opt for these. Additionally, weather-stripping around the door and adding a sweep at the bottom of the door to fill the gap between the door and the flooring will make noticeable differences.

The drywall on your son’s bedroom wall and the drywall on your bedroom’s side of that wall muffle noise significantly but that may not be quiet enough. Fortunately, several fixes are available. A double layer of drywall is one of the more common approaches. Rather than standard drywall, noise-deadening drywall such as Quiet Rock® and SoundBreak® XP® can be used. Between the studs and drywall, SOUNDSTOP®, a ½” soundproofing fiberboard tacked to the wall and/or ceiling framing studs and then covered by the drywall, is highly effective. 

SoundBreak XP - bedroom

Photo courtesy: Ask for Purple

Acoustiblok®, an 1/8"-thick, flexible sound proofing mat, which transforms and dissipates sound and vibration into inaudible friction energy, according to the manufacturer. Insulating standard interior walls with a sound-deadening insulation is another option. Along with any of these approaches, seal wall penetrations and drywall seams with an acoustic caulk such as QuietZone® Acoustic Sealant.

Sometimes the sound is coming between floors. Home theatres are popular in basements, which naturally tend to be darker environments. In a two-story home, it may be hard for your kids to get to sleep upstairs while the party’s still going on in your great room. And if there is living space over your garage, the sound of the garage door opener operating can be disruptive.

Some of the solutions used for reducing sound coming through walls, such as insulating the cavities, sound deadening drywall, or SOUNDSTOP and Acoustiblok sound barriers, can be used for diminishing sound travel between floors. And, as with walls, acoustic caulking around penetrations and cracks will help. Additionally, sound-dampening glue can be used under floors. Flooring material is also one of the more obvious areas where sound absorbing options come into play. Within a room, sound waves bounce off hard surfaces such as tile and hardwood, while carpeting and luxury vinyl products are much quieter. An acoustical underlayment can be added for an extra measure of quiet. Similarly, acoustical underlayment, carpeting plus pad, or luxury vinyl products, help absorb sound transmission between floors. If you do opt for hard surface flooring, heavy area rugs may help reduce sound.

Having the opportunity to consider spending a little more to achieve serenity is just one of the many benefits of buying a new home rather than a resale house. As we learned during the COVID-19 outbreak, peace and quiet in our homes is truly a blessing. Talk with your builder about the various soundproofing measures they recommend. You’ll be glad you did!

Next time – Achieving a quieter home through design!

Last week's post: Quiet Homes - Your Health Depends on It!

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Cover photo: <a href=''>Book photo created by Racool_studio -</a>

New vs. Resale Homes: Peace of Mind

New vs. Resale Homes: Peace of Mind

Over half of all home buyers consider new construction according to Zillow’s Consumer Housing Trends Report. Maybe it’s because they get grossed out by toenails.

We were touring an open house as was another couple when all of a sudden, we heard, “Eeew!” Apparently, the current owners had a habit of clipping toenails in the owner’s bedroom. Having removed her shoes, one of the other visitors had stepped on something and bent down to see what it was – a yellowed toenail clipping. That couple left without finishing their tour.

Our oldest child was two years old when we decided to replace the living room carpeting in our first home. Even though it was a starter home built in the 1950s, most of the rest of the floors were hardwood. We were aghast to discover all of the former resident’s apparent pet “accidents” staining the back of that living room carpeting, which our son had been crawling around on!

It’s not just toenails and pet urine. It could be smoking odors or allergens, or multitudes of dust mites in the air ducts. It could be mold trapped behind a fresh coat of stain-blocking paint caused by an unseen water leak. Some things are just hidden, even to professional home inspectors.

We value certainty. Stickers on the furnace and water heater of the resale home you’re considering indicate both are 10 years old. While you didn’t climb up there, the roof shingles looked okay. And though they are by no means new, the seller is leaving all of the kitchen appliances. Those items represent some of the potential expenses when buying a resale home that can wreak havoc on your budget. You don’t know when they’re going to fail, and you don’t know how much it will cost to repair or replace them. In contrast, your new home warranty and all of the associated warranties behind the products installed in your new home, mean you can budget and buy with confidence when choosing a brand-new home.     

Beyond the dollars, there is a parallel – your time, knowledge, skill, and ability. You may want to tackle rebuilding that old deck yourself. You watch a couple online videos on the subject and can block out two weekends plus schedule to take the afternoons off during the week between. Still, you’ve never done this type of project before, and aren’t sure you have the right tools to tackle the job. And when you’re all done, will you be happy with the result?

Current technology. You may not yearn for the newest tech gadgets, but you’re used to a smart thermostat. You hope there’s an instruction manual for the “programmable” one in the used home. There’s no structured wiring, but a good router should provide a strong wi-fi signal throughout the home. Replacing that old doorbell with a video doorbell shouldn’t be too difficult; however, installing a smart garage door opener means hiring someone. From security to entertainment, technology offerings in new homes allow you to enjoy that new home more.  

Chamberlain myQ Garage App

(Photo courtesy: Chamberlain; myQ SMART Home)

Technological advancements are also evident in new homes’ energy efficiency. As reported on, “In a typical house, about 20%-30 % of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts.” But to meet today’s stiffer energy codes, many builders and their HVAC contractors employ advanced testing to reduce conditioned air leakage in ductwork down to 3%-4%. Energy-efficient products and construction have resulted in homes built today being as much as 60% more energy efficient than homes built 20 years ago.

Originally designed with 2x4-inch exterior walls, the Buckland Showcase (plan #9170) can alternatively, like most plans available from Design Basics, be ordered with 2x6-inch walls, allowing more insulation in those outside walls. The outside dimensions do not change; inside, the rooms get slightly smaller when plans originally designed with 2x4-inch walls are revised for 2x6-inch exterior wall construction. For even higher performance, the Buckland Showcase ICF (plan #9170BTX) is designed for building with 10-inch thick Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) construction. Because of the added wall thickness of ICF construction, ICF-adapted plans do increase in overall width, depth, and square footage so that the interior rooms don’t become too small.

Below: The Buckland Showcase as originally designed for 2x4-inch exterior wall construction (left: main and upper level floor plans) and adapted for 10-inch thick ICF walls (right: main and upper level floor plans). To accommodate the thicker walls and minimize cutting of the ICF, the ICF home grew three feet in width; from 1,984 to 2,218 total sq. ft.

Buckland Showcase - #9170 ML
Buckland Showcase - #9170 UL

Buckland Showcase - #9170
(As originally designed: 1,984 sq ft)

Buckland Showcase - #9170BTX ML
Buckland Showcase - #9170BTX UL

Buckland Showcase ICF - #9170BTX
(Adapted for ICF construction: 2,218 sq ft)

Technology shows up in healthier new homes, too. You see it in in “hands-free” toilets and faucets as well as water purification systems; in having lots of natural light; and in having a quiet home, which minimizes internal and external noise. But perhaps nowhere else is technology more evident than indoor air quality. From air quality monitors that turn on ventilation fans if/when indoor pollutants exceed healthy levels, to air purification systems that can trap and kill most bacteria and viruses, high-tech solutions available mean new homes can be considerably healthier than used.

Join us next time as we look at how “futureproofing” considerations affect your home purchase decision.

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(Product spotlights are for informational purposes only.)

Designing with Natural Light

Designing with Natural Light

Home designers know natural light is one of the most important elements of residential design. We are drawn to places in our homes that are bathed in natural light and oftentimes we don’t even realize it. But whether we’re having friends over or simply curling up with a good book, chances are we can be found in sunny spaces.

Physiologically, our eyes are attracted to light and studies show that sunlight triggers the release of serotonin in our bodies, a chemical that can improve our mood and also help calm us. Sunlight’s other health benefits are well documented – from Vitamin D production, lower blood pressure, and improved calcium absorption; to improved concentration, reduced irritability and headaches. Unfortunately, as we age, our eyes’ lenses yellow and harden, so less of the available light gets through. Rooms appear darker and less inviting. Everyday chores and even reading become more taxing.

In addition to the health benefits, abundant daylight dramatically affects our perception of color and size. Public areas in your home bathed in sunlight are perceived to be “welcoming” and “cheery.” They also appear larger than they actually are. It’s no surprise, then, when entertaining, people gravitate towards sunny spaces. Add in the obvious benefit of being able to easily and clearly see everything that sun-filled entertaining areas win almost every time. From the presentation of the food to the subtleties of your decorating, increased light levels in your dining area help make for memorable entertaining. Oversized windows, particularly out the back of the home can offer beautiful vistas. Placing windows on two, or sometimes three sides of your entertaining area, ushers in daylight from multiple directions.

  1. Natural light from three directions, including two sets of triple-wide windows out the back, illuminate the Silver Creek's (plan #42028 shown below) great room.
  2. When entertaining, people always seem to gather around the kitchen island. Rather than upper cabinets, there are additional windows out the back of this home's kitchen. Just be sure you've addressed that "lost" storage with, say, an oversized pantry!
Silver Creek - #42028
Silver Creek - #42028 rear windows
light cabinets in kitchen

Kitchens that enjoy high levels of sunlight are so pleasurable to be in. Additional solutions for adding daylight is to place awning windows or glass block between the backsplash and upper cabinets, high transom windows above the upper cabinets, and skylights over the kitchen area.

Consider also, windows as art. Not only are beautiful window shapes available, but the grouping of these windows can also be dramatic. Repeating arched windows… staggered thin vertical windows… delightful transoms… all speak to design aesthetics. 

Serena - #42282

Wall art?

Transom windows are smaller and typically placed high in a wall allowing daylight and at the same time, privacy. In the Serena’s (plan #42282) rear suite bedroom, those transoms provide light while still allowing you to position your bed against that wall. And in the adjoining bathroom, transoms above the shower provide much-needed natural light.

Private spaces with more than adequate natural lighting feel “safe” and “serene,” one of the reasons for the popularity of bayed window sitting areas in bedroom suites. Daylight in the bathroom has a major effect on the color rendition of makeup. Electric lighting produces various color hues, many of which are not complimentary of skin tones. Then there are privacy concerns. A big window over the bathtub can usher in sunlight, but if it is covered over with window fashions for privacy, not much light is getting in. Glass block or privacy glass is a wise choice in bathrooms.    

Other considerations. 

Most interior doors in homes are left open. Therefore, placing windows directly opposite the door leading into a room elevate light levels in the hall or adjoining space leading into that room. Windows atop a staircase or at a staircase landing provide added light, making those stairs safer to transition.  

Transom windows can also be used inside the home to further disseminate daylight. In the Gainsville (plan #6651), with windows on two sides of the great room and flex room, glass doors topped with transom windows share sunlight throughout these spaces.

Gainsville - #6651

Sometimes, the area you love for enjoying Mother Nature actually blocks much of the sunlight that otherwise would brighten your great room. Skylights to the rescue! Due to their angled orientation to the sun, skylights allow three times as much light as same size vertical window.

Kauffman - #50012V

Skylights added to the Kauffman’s (plan #50012V) sunroom brighten the adjacent great room. With the added natural light afforded by skylights in the bathrooms, you may find no need for turning on the ‘electric’ lights. And with windows in closets still being rare, adding a skylight in the walk-in closet makes quick work of finding the item you’re looking for as well as discerning colors.

What more can you do if adding windows or skylights just aren’t an option? Window screens can reduce the amount of natural light passing through that screen by as much as 40%; however, there are some newer screen materials that block very little light. Strategically placed mirrors, particularly in bathrooms and dressing areas, can reflect sunlight, effectively doubling natural light levels. Even the paint you use matters, as lighter tints and glossier finishes reflect more light. Consider also where you work. Can you move your workspace closer to the windows? Just be cognizant of glare, particularly when at certain times of the day it might wash out your computer screen.

Whether public or private, areas in your home bathed in daylight are likely among your favorite places. Whether you relish moments alone for personal reflection or growth or life-giving time spent with loved ones, “light, bright, and airy” describes the perfect space. For so many reasons, high levels of natural light should be one of your top priorities when remodeling your existing home or building new. Be aware, building codes specify natural light levels, but understand these are minimums. Take the initiative and stress the importance of natural light levels when talking with your contractor or designer to eliminate future regrets.

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Cover photo courtesy of VELUX.

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