The subfloor is the part of a house underneath the floor covering. Made of plywood in many modern homes, it must be sturdy and relatively even. A subfloor can be uneven in two ways: sloping or pock marked. A sloping subfloor is gradually tilted; sometimes only in one direction but more often having multiple slopes (think gentle waves in a pond). A pockmarked floor has holes located in the subfloor going through several layers of the plywood stranding, but not all the way through the entire board. An uneven subfloor limits your floor covering choices to items that are flexible and can contour around an irregular surface.
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Vinyl flooring is a mix of polyvinylchloride (more commonly known as PVC) and plasticisers, chemicals that give the floor the feel and strength of plastic. It comes in rolls or tiles which are glued to the floor. New vinyl contains a high sheen and maintains that sheen for a long time (with average household wear). Irregularities are emphasised depending on the angle of the lighting, producing shinier spots which draw the eye to the flaws.
Carpet is a looping or individually stranded material. It comes in various thicknesses of material to take into account traffic, resilience and foot feel. Proper carpet installation requires a carpet pad, a barrier between the carpet and subfloor. It provides cushioning and additional protection for both carpet and subfloor as well as another means of deemphasizing the unevenness felt by the foot. Carpet is rolled out across a room and anchored at its edges. Carpet covers a wide range of flaws, including uneven subflooring, with its multiple colours, textures and thicknesses.
Linoleum is a blend of linseed oil and renewal materials such as cork dust or wood flour. It is considered a "green" product because it contains no harmful chemicals or additives. It comes in rolls or tiles and like vinyl must be glued to the floor. It can have a high shine or be matt in finish; matt is best to conceal the unevenness.
Cork is the bark of a cork tree; the same material that is used for corking (most) wine bottles. This product is considered "green" because it contains no harmful chemicals or additives, is renewable and is easily recyclable. Cork has a matt finish and contains multiple air pockets in its fibre structure, creating a built-in pad. This provides extra cushioning for the feet as well as lessens the chance of feeling the unevenness.
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