Family's many needs go into choice of flooring

DEAR GAIL: We’re looking to replace the flooring in our family room, master bedroom and hallways. We have two dogs and have always had carpet. We’re really considering using carpet again but are not sure. Can you give us the pros and cons of using carpet as well as other options? — Britta

DEAR BRITTA: “What is the best flooring if you have pets?” I get asked that question lot. According to the 2011-2012 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, 62 percent of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 72.9 millions homes. Out of that 46.3 percent own dogs . Just some fun facts to share.

Dogs or any pets do add an extra challenge when selecting flooring. You have to consider durability, comfort for them and you, and your tolerance to accidents. Carpet is more comfortable for all but requires more maintenance. Hard surfaces can be slick, which can be dangerous depending on where and how your pet plays. My first pup had to have knee surgery because she would run after her ball; one day her leg went out from under her and we left the vet with a $2,500 bill.

We all love our furry friends, but they can be tough on some types of floors. One of the bigger problems with pets is their nails. If you don’t keep them trimmed, they could scratch even a laminate floor. Besides carpet, nothing is scratch proof. Many pets also shed quite a bit, which is tough on carpet if you don’t vacuum on a regular basis. Once a week is really not enough. And an obvious concern is pet stains, but we also spill every now and then.

So what do we do? There really is not one best flooring versus another, and there are several options to consider.

Since you’re leaning toward carpet, let’s look at that first. I know many people would never think of using carpet with pets, but you also have to think about what you personally want. I replaced my flooring with carpet because we like to sit on the floor . I know I could have used an area rug , but, sorry, even with the cushiest pad it’s not the same. Plus, I would have ended up covering most of the floor since it’s where they play.

With carpet you have to consider its stain resistance and durability . After all, pet accidents and wear and tear from four-legged traffic can really take a toll on your carpet. For us carpet is more comfortable and slip resistant. On the down side, if you have allergies you must vacuum frequently. Carpet collects dust and pet dander, which will wreak havoc with your allergies or asthma as well as the longevity of your carpet.

When shopping, make sure to check what it is made of. Wool carpet is the softest and most luxurious, but not as stain resistant as others. Nylon is the most popular choice for its durability, stain resistance and affordability. Olefin and polyester are cheaper than nylon but are considerably less durable.

You’ll also now find carpets made just for pets. Some have been designed to prevent pet stains from soaking through to your carpet padding as well as reduce pet odors. But even with these carpets, you should always upgrade to a moisture barrier pad. Some people also say to consider color to hide pet hair. But you may have a chocolate lab now and get a white poodle later, so it’s really not something on the top of my list.

Carpet style also needs to be considered. I would steer away from any looped carpet that their nails can pull. A cut pile is a better choice. To best care for your carpet, look for a vacuum approved by The Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label program, which can reduce airborne dust by 94 percent.

Other flooring options are hard surfaces: tile, vinyl, laminate and wood. Let’s look at them.

Ceramic and porcelain tile are great for pets as they are durable and stain resistant. But you have to consider your pet’s comfort and that they are slippery. Rugs and skid-proof runners do help. Also, do stay away from any porous tiles, such as marble and travertine.

If you decided on tile, make sure to spend extra for a grout that already has a sealant in it. I know that you can seal grout once it is installed, but it does wear off over time from cleaning. It will cost about $1 per square foot more to get the grout containing sealant. There are many on the market so check with your installer for the best one to suit your needs.

Another option is a high-end luxury vinyl. Now I’m not talking about your grandma’s kitchen vinyl. This is a super-heavy-duty vinyl product designed to hold up even in commercial applications. It comes in sheets as well as planks or tiles. The planks and tiles are glued down individually and give the look of real wood or stone. It is an extremely hard surface, doesn’t scratch very easily and is good with accidents. You’ve probably walked on it in a retail store or casino and didn’t even realize it.

Laminate is a favorite for pet owners, offering the look of wood without the additional maintenance. It’s also scratch resistant and good with accidents. It’s not something I would use in any high-moisture areas, say under water bowls. Any spills should be cleaned up quickly so the mess doesn’t get in-between the seams and cause buckling.

And lastly, let’s consider hardwood. Hardwood is beautiful but not the best choice if a scratch is going to bother you. Even the hardest woods will scratch . Just as with laminate, you need to clean up spills and accidents as soon as possible. The moisture can stain and warp the wood. If you really want hardwood floors, you need to consider one of the harder species on the Janka scale (scale that measures hardness and density of wood; the higher the number the harder the wood) such as Brazilian cherry, mesquite and mahogany. Look for a number higher than 1,500.

With hardwood you also need to consider the color and style. The darker the stain and glossier the finish, the more visible the scratches. Hand-scraped or distressed hardwood floors provide the best option for masking scratches, because the wood is already rustic and natural looking; dents and scrapes will blend in with the wood’s natural look.

With hardwood, if you’re going to use area rugs, make sure to move them around occasionally as time and sunlight will change the color of the wood. Then you either have to refinish, replace or leave the rugs where they are.

Britta, I hope this helps in making your decision. No matter which way you go, there will always be accidents, shedding and playful running with pets. Everyone has different tolerance levels for maintenance and comfort, both for themselves and their pets. You have to determine yours.

Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to: Or, mail to: 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her Web address is: