Tile, laminate, and vinyl are all great choices for homes with pets. But maybe hardwood floors are what you have your heart set on. Or you want budget-friendly carpet for your bedrooms but you have an older pet that has accidents. There are definitely wood and carpet options that are designed with pets (and kids) in mind; you just need to select the right product.
What If You Just Have to Have Wood Floors?
There are some wood floors that are better suited for dogs. Not indestructible, but certainly more practical. Some features to look for:
~~Wire Brushed. A way to distress wood flooring by machine for an antique look. The weathered yet elegant authenticity of wire-brushed hardwood flooring uses wire bristles to remove the sapwood (soft wood) and open and enhance the wood grain, adding texture & character. The matte finish hides scratches and wear particularly well.
~~Character Grade. A natural appearance displaying the full characteristics of the hardwood floor. All color variations occurring naturally in the specie are allowed. Knots, burls, and worm holes which occur naturally in the forest and mineral streaks are not only allowed but desired in this grade. These visually less "perfect" floors help in hiding scratches and indentations.
~~Distressed Hardwood Flooring. Refers to the intentional scratching, scraping and/or gouging of a flooring surface to create an antique look. These processes may involve darkening the edges of the planks, wire brushing, sculpting, and hand scraping the hardwood floor. Doing so results in a floor with a lot of texture and character. You won't know if the dent in your floor was one that you paid for or one your dog made! Scratches can also be easily touched up with a color matched touch-up pen. (NOTE: Don't like handscraped floors? No worries---there are many distressed floors that are not scraped.)
~~Low gloss, satin, matte finish. These sheen levels are far more practical than semi-gloss and high gloss finishes. Less sheen helps hide the normal wear and tear from walking, chair movements, pets, toys and high heels. In addition, lower gloss finishes show footprints less due to the lower luster. The glossier you go, the more light reflects off the floors. This in turn, shows more dirt/dust as well as imperfections in the floor. Dark floors also show imperfections more easily than medium to lighter toned floor colors.
~~Sliced Cut Engineered. A cutting method for the real hardwood veneer that is glued on the top of engineered hardwood flooring. It produces a veneer that looks exactly like solid hardwood and generally costs more than other engineered cutting methods. Look for a top veneer at least 3mm thick as these engineered floors can be sanded and refinished at least twice.
~~Aluminum Oxide. An amphoteric oxide of aluminum, commonly used to finish flooring because of its strength. Second in hardness to diamond, it serves as a hard protective coating for most prefinished hardwood floors. The technology does not currently exist for use in site finished flooring and refinishing.
~~Acrylic Infused/Impregnated. A process in which acrylic resins and stain are injected into the face veneer under intense heat and pressure to fill the cell structure of the wood. The boards are substantially more crush-resistant than unprotected wood of the same species, protecting against dents, dings and damage to the floor. Most acrylic infused products have commercial warranties. Because the stain is injected in the actual wood fiber, the color is more permanent and greatly minimizes wear and visible scratches.
~~Oil Rubbed Finish. A very low gloss finish typically using tung or linseed oil instead of polyurethane or wax. An oil finish tends to make the wood look old, as if it had been installed for a very long time. Prior to the use of various urethane and similar finishes, oil was the traditional finish of choice. Since an oil finish actually penetrates and becomes a part of the surface of a wood floor, it is not nearly as sensitive to scratches and wear as a urethane finish. It is easy to maintain (DIY) and, if done properly, will prevent a wood floor from ever having to be sanded. Expect these floors to be on the upper end of the price scale.
Carpet....It Just Feels Better!
Soft, warm in the winter, comfortable to sit and lay on. Less expensive than wood and tile floors, you don't have to buy rugs to protect it----so many reasons to love carpet. But you have pets, and carpet is so hard to keep clean with animals, right? You may be surprised to know that there are carpet and pad choices that keep your new carpet looking great for years, in spite of your dogs and cats (and kids!)
Mohawk and Karastan's SmartStrand Forever Clean carpets offer All Pet Protection, the only pet-friendly carpet protection system that covers all pets, all accidents, all the time. Look for these brands: Sorona, Triexta, Silk, and SmartStrand Forever Clean to get the carpet that is 3X easier to clean dirt, hair, and pet dander from than many other carpets. The fibers have 0% moisture absorption to reduce pet odors in the carpet fiber and utilize Nanoloc™ spill and soil shield for quick and easy cleanup. The stain protection is built-in and does not wear, walk, or clean off. In fact, you will find that most stains come up with just a damp towel! And SmartStrand Forever Clean is super durable, too, for a carpet that is as pretty as it is practical.
Another carpet fiber that you will want to consider is PetProtect. It is made from Superiasd® fiber, a solution dyed nylon 6,6 polymer engineered with inherent stain resistance and built-in color that resists fading. So when pet accidents happen, you can use hydrogen peroxide-based cleaners without fear. The 6,6 nylon fiber is generally regarded as the best wearing synthetic fiber available, second only to wool. PetProtect®carpet also uses proprietary technologies and chemistries applied to the carpet that reduce the force of attraction between pet hair and the carpet, allowing the hair to be more easily removed with normal vacuuming. And anyone with a German shepherd can tell you that's a breakthrough!
Solution dyed fibers have been available for years and years, particularly in commercial products, and are available in both polyester and nylon. Without giving you a chemistry lesson, simply put, solution dyed has the dye added to the liquid fiber solution BEFORE the fibers are extruded. This allows the color to be mixed into the solution thoroughly, bringing the color all the way through the fiber once it is extruded. In this instance, picture a carrot: unlike a radish, which has color only on the outside, a solution-dyed fiber has color all the way through the fiber.
What difference does the dye method make? A lot, if you are looking for a colorfast carpet! Solution-dyed fibers are some of the most colorfast in the industry. Since the color goes all the way through the fiber, it is nearly impossible to fade or bleach the color out of the carpet. Solution-dyed fibers can typically be cleaned with a mild bleach solution. (NOTE: Many outdoor fabrics are made with solution-dyed yarns. Not only does this keep the sun from fading the fabrics almost immediately, but it also allows homeowners to clean the cushions and pillows with bleach if stains or mildew occur.)
Solution-dyed carpets are also very easy to clean and maintain, making them great for homes with pets. Almost every carpet manufacturer makes styles from solution-dyed yarn. It will be declared on the product label, usually abbreviated SD, as it is most definitely a selling feature. You will pay more for solution dyed nylon than the more budget friendly solution dyed polyester.
Now let's talk about pad. There are many different pads designed to reduce pet odors. Think of a typical rebond pad---it looks and acts like a sponge. If liquid seeps through the carpet into the pad, and there is an odor (like urine), it is now in your pad, and it is very hard to remove it. Since spills, urine, and vomit are unfortunately always a concern with pets, invest in a pad or cushion with a breathable moisture barrier that helps prevent spills from penetrating the padding and subfloor, allowing for more thorough cleaning which reduces lingering odors.
Most of your upgraded pad choices also have antimicrobials added during the manufacturing process, providing an added level of defense against bacteria, mold and mildew that can cause stains, odors and deterioration of your carpet.
Now that you know that there are definitely some carpet choices available that are great for homes with pets, here are a few tips for keeping your new carpet looking great. Always treat any stains and spots immediately. The longer the spill sits there, the harder it'll be to remove the stain. Keep a spot cleaning guide specific to your carpet fiber handy. You can even call the manufacturer for instructions on particularly hard to remove stains. Don't use just anything on a spot, you could lock-in the stain by using the wrong product. And blot, don't scrub. Vacuum your carpet regularly to prevent soil from embedding itself in the pile. And have your carpet professionally cleaned every 12 to 18 months.