Floor Show

A: For health reasons, I want to remove the wall-to-wall carpeting in my bedroom, but the wood floors underneath are what I’m told are “builder’s grade” and, accordingly, cannot be refinished. Is this true? Other than having new wood floors installed, are there any economical options? — E.W., Scarsdale


First, I asked builder Mark Franzoso, of Franzoso Contracting in Croton-on-Hudson, what “builder’s grade” means. “Never heard the term,” he said. “Any type of hardwood floor could be refinished, so it’s probably plywood.” Google, which knows everything, turned up this comment: “’Builder grade’ is a euphemism for the cheapest stuff in a category that fulfills the legal requirements.” So your floor is most likely plywood, which is why it was covered in carpet in the first place.

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As for economical options: One man’s bargain is another’s wild extravagance, but Debbie Gartner, at Floor Coverings International in Elmsford, says carpeting is generally the least expensive choice. If the health reasons you mention are allergies triggered by the carpet, you could replace it with a hypoallergenic floor covering made of natural fibers that haven’t been chemically treated for moth-proofing or stain-resistance. Woven sisals, jutes, and sea grass come in pretty colors these days and can be fitted wall-to-wall. Untreated wool carpeting is harder to find, but those with vegetable-dyed yarns and nontoxic backings are out there. Gartner also recommends a hypoallergenic pad.

I asked her about Corkoleum, a green product that’s a cross between cork and linoleum and that doesn’t emit anything noxious. “It’s very retro-looking,” she replies. And it’s expensive, too — as is cork itself.

“Most people prefer the look of hardwood,” Gartner notes. Although pricey, real hardwood adds to the value of a property and lasts forever. Engineered hardwood is a veneer of hardwood on top of thin layers bonded together; the cost “can vary widely,” she says. Laminate floors are usually made of a core of recycled hardwood with a wood graphic on top and are the least expensive of the look-alikes. Engineered wood and laminates would probably hold up well in a low-traffic room. (I assume your bedroom is low traffic.)

Gartner is a fan of bamboo, which, on the price continuum, falls between laminate and hardwood. “It’s pretty and exotic, it looks really cool, it’s good for the environment, and it costs less than oak, so you’re not making a trade-off in any regard,” she says.

Online, I found info about plywood floors, which can be painted, or stained and sealed. Yours may not be good enough to serve as a bare floor (you won’t know until you take up the carpet), but you could install a better grade on top. Done right, it’s a very low-budget alternative that can look terrific. Google “plywood flooring” and have a look.

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Gartner is unenthusiastic about that plywood idea, however, especially because they might not last and because the floors make poor insulators. As there are so many choices otherwise, your best bet may be to get a consultation at home. “My tagline is: ‘We bring the store to your door,’ ” Gartner says. “People can see the samples in their own lighting, and I can see the condition of the floor.”

Consultations and estimates are free, with no obligation. What if the customer decides to go elsewhere? “Well, I’m bummed out,” Gartner cheerfully replies. “But I’ve had a few that didn’t go with me and came back on the next job. I love going back. The kids and pets remember me.”

For more info, visit westchester.floorcoveringsinternational.com or call Gartner at (914) 937-2950.


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