How to choose the right flooring for your off-the-plan apartment

How to choose the right flooring for your off-the-plan apartment
How to choose the right flooring for your off-the-plan apartment

When purchasing an off-the-plan apartment, one of the first, most important things you can do (beside researching the developer), is to ask to see a comprehensive building material list. Undertaking proper research as to what is being used to construct your future home, will help you make an informed choice about whether the property meets health and wellbeing standards, as well as your lifestyle requirements.

We’ve compiled a guide to help you choose the best flooring, based on factors such as health and safety (including toxicity levels); green/eco value and lifecycle; look and aesthetic; durability and financial value.

ENGINEERED TIMBER

What is engineered wood?

Engineered wood can be produced using a wide variety of materials, but the structure is often compared to the wood composition of plywood – slices of wood bonded together using glue. It’s a good idea to look out for a high-quality pure wood composition such as Oak, which has been bonded using low VOC adhesives, rather than a product which comprises of a combination of fibreglass/particle board with a veneer of high-quality wood.

How to choose the right flooring for your off-the-plan apartment
Engineered wood. Credit: Flooring Supplies

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Improves resale value
  • Ability to re-sand
  • Underfloor-heating compatible
  • Can be water-resistant
  • Ability to source formaldehyde-free/low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) products
  • Looks organic and natural
  • Sustainable production
  • Relatively cost-effective
  • Available in a range of colour stains, wood species and patterns

Cons

  • Some engineered timber is poorly made with composite materials
  • Risk of off-gassing if purchasing a low-cost replica
  • Will show scratches/dents from high heels, pet claws and moving furniture
  • Will fade over time

SOLID WOOD

Solid wood is naturally harvested timber floorboards, which are glued or nailed onto a flooring underlay. This is arguably the healthiest flooring option for the home.

How to choose the right flooring for your off-the-plan apartment
Solid timber floorboards. Credit: Sutton Timber

Pros

  • Most natural option
  • Ability to opt for recycled wood which is highly sustainable
  • Wood breathes providing the home with good ventilation
  • Less rigid than concrete and tiles, so nicer to walk on
  • One of the healthiest options
  • Can be nailed down (meaning no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from adhesives)

Cons

  • Risk of Bora infiltration
  • Expensive
  • Can rot if not properly treated, and exposed to moisture
  • Loud

CARPET

Available in a wide range of products including wool, mixed fibre, sisal, shag pile, Berber and more.

How to choose the right flooring for your off-the-plan apartment
Carpet flooring. Credit: Yann Maignan

Pros

  • 100% wool carpet provides warmth 
  • The most comfortable flooring to walk on
  • Acts as a sound barrier
  • Relatively cost-effective
  • Large range of styles, fabrics and colours to choose from

Cons

  • Can retain stains and odours 
  • A breeding ground for dust mites
  • Can require steam cleaning/professional cleaning
  • Patterns and styles can date quickly
  • Susceptible to allergens
  • Can be known to off-gas toxins
  • Will need to be replaced quicker than any other type of floor covering
  • Carpet wear and tear is often more obvious than wood

TILES

How to choose the right flooring for your off-the-plan apartment
Tile flooring. Credit: Jason Briscoe

Pros 

  • Ability to choose from a wider range of styles and colours
  • They don't possess chemically active properties (meaning less likely to grow bacteria or spread viruses etc.)
  • Durable
  • High/low-temperature resistant
  • Made from natural materials
  • Water and stain-resistant
  • Easy maintenance

Cons

  • More susceptible to mould in wet areas
  • Tiles adapt to the weather, meaning they can become very cold in winter months
  • If a tile cracks it can be difficult to replace
  • Tiles can be slippery to walk on

Tip: Use cement-based grouting to avoid the emission of harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)


CONCRETE

How to choose the right flooring for your off-the-plan apartment
Concrete flooring. Credit: Unsplash

Pros

  • No harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Cost-effective
  • Easy maintenance
  • Concrete will last the longest
  • Many design and texture options

Cons

  • Arguably tough on ankle joints
  • Concrete doesn't retain heat very well
  • They can be loud
  • Not very environmentally friendly to produce

PLYWOOD/CORK/MDF/PARTICLEBOARD

How to choose the right flooring for your off-the-plan apartment
Particleboard flooring. Credit: Revolution Wood Panels

Pros

  • Very cost-effective
  • Flexible and easy to change

Cons

  • Often bonded with glues containing high Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and formaldehyde
  • Can splinter easily
  • Needs revarnishing often
  • Aesthetically not as appealing as hardwood floorboards
  • Prone to water damage

UNDERSTANDING THE LINGO

What kinds of adhesives and finishing products are found in flooring?

  • Urea-formaldehyde resins (UF)
  • Phenol formaldehyde resins (PF)
  • Melamine-formaldehyde resins (MF)
  • Soy-based glues
  • Polyurethane (PU)

Soy-based glues and water-based polyurethanes have been noted as some of the better adhesives/varnishes. Formaldehyde should always be avoided.

What to look out for:

  • Forest Stewardship Council certification (FSC)
  • The Green Building Council Australia approved
    • Total VOC < 0.5 mg/m2/hr
    • 4-Phenylcyclohexene < 0.05 mg/m2/hr
  • A decent warranty (20+ years is ideal)
  • Ultra-low/Zero VOC emissions that meet E1 international standards
  • Have the wood factory-finished rather than on-site
  • Green Seal-11 certification

WHAT TO AVOID

Vinyl

Vinyl is a non-renewable material derived from petroleum-based chemicals including PVC – which releases highly toxic chemical during manufacturing. Vinyl is notorious for off-gassing due to a concoction of harmful chemicals, such as phthalates, which can emit gas for years after installation. Some older vinyl is even worse, as many have an asbestos backing which makes removal of the vinyl extremely unsafe.

Laminate

Similar to vinyl flooring, Laminate is known to contain formaldehyde – a naturally occurring yet toxic chemical found in many adhesives. Formaldehyde has been found to cause a number of health complications over an extended period of toxic emission exposure. Both vinyl and laminate floorings are also non-biodegradable and melamine-formaldehyde resin cannot break down at the end of the product lifecycle.

Olivia Round

Olivia Round

Olivia Round is the Features Editor of urban.com.au. Olivia specialises in news reporting, in-depth editorial content and video + podcast interviews with industry experts.

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