Neil Daley of Floor Coverings International on flooring choices - Home Front

Kevin Brasler
Apr 12, 2018

Neil Daley is director of merchandising at Floor Coverings International. He is an expert at how to select flooring for your home and about new products. He has consulted on design projects all over North America and he has developed collections with leading manufacturers. Ask him about what is the best choice of flooring whether hardwood, laminates, carpet or ceramic tile for your family's lifestyle and budget.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 10 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

Neil Daley is director of merchandising at Floor Coverings International. He is an expert at how to select flooring for your home and about new products. He has consulted on design projects all over North America and developed collections with leading manufacturers. Ask him about the best choice of flooring whether hardwood, laminates, carpet or ceramic tile for your family's lifestyle and budget. Great opportunity to discuss a subject we don't often take up on this chat. Let's get going.

I am so glad you are able to join us and hope to help you with any questions on flooring.  I train flooring industry and design professionals flooring, installation, and maintenance.  After 25 years in flooring, I’ve had to research just about every questions imaginable so please ask anything you like.  No question is off limits – as long as it is flooring! 


Solid wood versus engineered wood?

Engineered (aka Performance hardwood)  is a better option because of expansion, design, and new finishing technologies.  

Most people want wider planks today.  Solid expands and contracts too much in wide planks - even 5".    Most of us do not or can not maintain the even humidity levels needed for wide plank solid hardwood.  Home heating systems usually dries out the home to less than the 30% minimum.  Summer humidity exceeds the max 50%.  

Most homeowners want some texture to their hardwood today - not smooth.  Scraped and wire brushed hardwood shows less - less dust, less damage, and less wear marks.  Textured hardwoods can't be sanded - sanding removes the texture.

Almost all engineered hardwoods can be resurfaced without sanding - just buff and top coat.  No need for solid anymore!    

What type or Brand of Flooring will hold up in a Home Office With a lot of foot traffic and dogs . I looking for a wood look .Lighter tones.

Almost any laminate will be fine in a home office as long as you can keep it dry.  The big difference in laminates are the water resistance and the visuals.  Cheap laminate looks fake, sounds fake, and is very easily damaged with any liquid.  Look at the water resistant and spend a little more to get a pretty floor.  Anything under $2 per foot should be something that you avoid when looking for a long term floor. 

Just posting this in case you missed my article on faux flowers this week. Here it is.

There are some amazing flowers out there that don't need water. How do you feel about going faux?

Can you install a hardwood floor on a concrete slab foundation? If so, will the floor be a lot colder than it is when covered with wall-to-wall carpeting?

There are two types of hardwood floors.  Traditional (old style) hardwood that is 3/4" solid and the newer technology called performance or engineered hardwood and they are the best option available today.  Solid hardwoods can not be installed over concrete.  You will need to make sure that concrete is dry even if you have never seen water.   Tape down a trash bag (roughly 2 foot square) with duct tape on all sides.  Leave for 48 hours.  If there is no condensation and the concrete does not darken, it is dry and you can install hardwood.  

Hi - I'm trying to finish a shed for use as a bunkhouse. The shed sits on blocks and I do not believe the plywood floor is insulated. The flooring should be tough and reasonably nice to look at. Since the floor is probably not insulated, was thinking some kind of carpeting would help keep the place warm in the cooler months. What type of flooring would be best for this type of scenario? Thanks.

If you keep the bunk house heated year round, you can use just about anything.  If not, your options get limited fast. Only porcelain tile and certain luxury vinyl floors can handle a freeze/thaw cycle.   Tile is always my first choice - permanent and extremely durable.  If not, take a look at Shaw Floorte, Armstrong Luxe with Rigid Core, or COREtec.  All of these are great options.


I'm about to remodel what is now a laundry, storage and small spare bedroom (that is being used as a workshop/craft room) on the lower level of my home. We plan to get rid of all the walls we can, install cabinetry and put the washer/dryer in wall to wall closet. A contractor is arguing for a tile floor, and I'm in favor of luxury vinyl plank, particularly given that this is also going into the laundry closet. My husband would like wood. We'd like to use this room for hanging out, yoga, and occasional projects. It adjoins a large, carpeted family room. What do you think?

Overrule the contractor - your wanting to live in the space is more important that what he thinks is best.  I would not put tile in for yoga and living space for a lower level.

 Great thing about tile?  Affordable when going over concrete, more durable flooring option, waterproof, and it adds value to your home.  Worst things?  Cold, loud, and permanent if you are someone who likes to change things up once in a while.  

Luxury vinyl is popular because it is warm and waterproof as well but it is a not a permanent floor - will have to be replaced at some point but most can last well over 10 years.  Price will be similar to a basic tile.  The luxury vinyl will cost more long term but comfort matters.

Hope you enjoy your new space!


We have a room on the main level of our home that currently has carpeting. We want to replace the carpeting with hardwood to match the flooring on the rest of this level of the house. We've pulled up a corner of the carpet to see what's underneath and found concrete. (The rest of this level of the home sits over a finished basement. This is the only room that does not.) Is hardwood an option or even recommended? What kind of installation would be involved in this situation?

Installing an engineered hardwood (real - just made with multiple layers like plywood) is a great solution.  It can be either glued to the concrete or certain types can be floated.  Test to make sure it is dry - 2ft x 2ft piece of plastic duct taped to the floor for 48 hours.  If no condensation or the concrete does not darken, the floor is dry.  If yo do see condensation, special glues can be used - a flooring pro can also test for moisture and ensure it is done right.   

I have a twelve-year old wood floor that is excellent shape, EXCEPT that it is dull. It is 100% wood tongue and groove oak floor. The manufacturer says to clean it with Bruce hardwood cleaner, which I do. However - sigh- the floor has no shine on it, even when I clean it several times. It looks clean with a satin or matt finish. The manufacturer warns against using a commercial acrylic like Mop-n-Glo, but why? I would also be willing to use a wax, like Preen, if only my floors would be shiny again. Help!

Unfortunately most cleaners leave a ton of residue.  Dirt sticks to the residue and they get to sell you more floor cleaner.  The residue also makes dirt accumulate in between the planks.  Only use the manufacturers recommended cleaners.  If Bruce does not remove the dullness, it is time to have the floors buffed and recoated.  You can add a higher level of gloss if you like.  It is fairly affordable and can be done in just one day.  Google Hardwood Resurfacing for someone in your area - ask for it to be screened.  

NEVER wax a hardwood floor that has a traditional hardwood finish.  It makes the floor extremely slippery - like you are walking on ice.  Wax is only made for floors that have no finish so the wax can absorb into the wood.  

My wife waxed used Pledge on our hardwood stairs - it is a wax.  I nearly killed myself walking down them!  scrubbing wax off is no fun. 

We will be renovating our 6 x 13 bathroom which is on the 2nd floor off the master bedroom. Since the rough-in plumbing is already set with the toilet at one end of the rectangle, the shower at the opposite end and the sink in between does this limit how we can configure the new fixtures? We are willing to replace all fixtures and flooring. We would appreciate suggestions for new products and any possibility of getting a soaker tub in the mix.

Moving plumbing can be expensive but it can also be worth it of your current layout is not ideal.  Don't be  limited if you do not like what you currently have.  It is better to spend a little more to reconfigure the plumbing and have the bathroom design you love than toss money into a project and not love it.  Check with a bath designer or sites like Houzz and Pinterest for ideas.

I have just had laminate installed in my apartment. In certain spots it makes a noise when I walk over it. Is that part of a settling process or should I have them come back and fix it?

Have them come back to fix it.  If it is making a noise, the install is not right.  Either they did not prep the floor flat or the floor is tight to the walls when it must have an expansion gap.  Laminate should not move under foot.  

What is the best kind of carpet for stairs, for durability and safety?

All carpets add a ton of safety for stairs.  Most won't hold up.  Look for a carpet with a very high durability rating.  The best options are usually nylon carpet that has very densely packed yarns or a wool carpet.  Invest in a great carpet pad too - really helps the carpet last longer.  

I live in a single level, detached home with walkout basement (rambler). The basement has wall to wall carpet in most areas. There is a laundry room/kitchen with storage, which was created last year from a dark utility room and there is a living area w/gas fireplace, bathroom and bedroom my daughter uses. She complains that it is cold (most basements appear to be cold). I would like to remove the wall to wall carpet and put ceramic tile on the floor that either mimics beechwood or some other light pattern or some other low maintenance floor covering (as long as it isn't cork). Do you have any recommendations for flooring coverings? Also, the house was built in the early 1950s and it has some rubbery tiles under the carpet. I'd like that gone when the flooring is replaced. How does one tell that it has asbestos in it?

Homes built in the 50's can have asbestos tile and adhesive.  You can not tell just by looking at it. It must be tested.  This must be done by a flooring professional.

If the room is already cold, adding tile will make it colder.  Stick with carpet for warmth.   

What's the easiest way to separate a professional flooring company from a fly by night company?

Two ways I recommend vetting any company for construction in your home.  Online reviews are a great start.  Second, ensure the company is backed by a national organization such as a parent franchise or coop.  The best flooring companies are franchises which give you the best of both worlds - local service but the confidence you are safe when backed by a large company.  Flooring is  large investment so do your homework.  The company is as important as the product.  

We are replacing carpet with hardwood floors in a split foyer. Should we get unfinished flooring and then use wax on the floors or should we get the polyurethane finish? We are also planning to put hardwood in the kitchen too. My favorite food is takeout, carryout, eat-out, and delivery. I grew up waxing hardwood floors so I know that drill. What are the pros and cons for each? Thank you!!!

Safe yourself all the hard work - go for a pre-finished hardwood.  The factory finish is 10.7 times harder than the urethanes you apply in a home.  The UV curing and addition of aluminum oxide at the factory makes a huge difference.  The best prefinished hardwoods available today are made by Shaw and Armstrong.  You get what you pay for - they are a tiny bit higher but worth it.     

I have a reclaimed southern yellow pine floor with an oil finish. How should I take care of it and how often does the oil finish need to be refreshed?

Woca hardwood oils are the best available today.  Use their products - not regular cleaners.  Regular cleaners will strip the oil out of the hardwood.  Go to to review their care instructions.    Also available on Amazon.

Neil, I have just purchased a new build 3 bedroom house. I was wondering is there any common pitfalls new homeowners can avoid when choosing flooring for the whole of the new house. Thanks, Jamie

Yes - flooring takes more time and money than most think.  Think about how you may want to do the floors in phases and work with an experienced professional.  Flooring is rarely a DIY project.

Have a flooring professional come to your home, review your needs, and then make recommendations.  The person working in a retail store will not get the luxury of seeing your needs , lifestyle, and how to best tackle the project for you.  

Hello. I have a combination of hardwood and "fake" wood on my living and dining room floors (not my choice). I hope to someday replace t hem, but in the meantime I'm considering jute area rugs for these rooms. Do you have any opinion as to their durability? Will they scratch the floors? Should I get a pad for under the rugs? Many thanks!

Cheap rugs are a disposable item.  That's great if you like to change things up frequently but they do not last.  We recommend rugs from Citak and Nourison.  They are both amazing values that can last a long time.  

We unexpectedly need to replace almost 2000 sq ft of flooring. One floor is very uneven concrete (basement) that apparently gets some seepage every decade or so. The other is a second floor (plywood base). We can’t do carpet due to pets and allergies. It’s a historic home (1902) with a lot of original wood trim and detail…but tragically not the original wood floors in this part of the house. Thanks to a series of other expenses (anyone else remember The Money Pit movie?), we’ve only got about $4k to do all of it. I’m reasonably handy but don’t have unlimited time to work on this. Do we have any options other than cheap laminate? If I do LVT in the basement, how complicated is it going to be to do self-leveling concrete across 1000 sq ft by myself?

The math won't work.  You can't get 2,000 square feet of flooring that will last for $4,000.  Self leveling is not a DIY.  Time to adjust the budget or consider financing.  

I live in upstate NY and plan to renovate my kitchen next year. My house was built in 1851, and because my kitchen has very limited heat and sits above an open crawl space, the floor is freezing. I would rather not use ceramic or stone tile, because I have arthritis and I spend a great deal of time in my kitchen. I know that these tiles work great with underfloor heating mats, but wonder if other options are available. I love the look of wood, but worry about water damage and wear and tear. Any advice?

Consider a wood look luxury vinyl.  They are affordable and warm.  They come in both wood and tile looks.  

Wow. This chat got you guys going. We thank Neil for doing this chat and answering so many questions so thoughtfully. Anyway, next week - got a great guest: designer Bobby Berk from the smash Netflix remake Queer Eye. See you all then!

Our house is over 50 years old and has hardwoods throughout, however, they are very squeaky. What can be done to fix the issue? Or do we need to have the current hardwoods removed with better installation methods?

Can't tell without inspecting the floors.  Some squeaks can be minimized from the surface but most can't.  Old homes commonly have under-supported floors.  

We want to replace all of our hardwood floors in our house with new hardwood. But, many of our floors are uneven. How difficult is it to re-level floors and it is normal for the contractor to move furniture during the reflooring process, or will we need to move the furniture into temporary storage?

Full service flooring companies will take care of flattening the floor and moving furniture for you.  The great news it doesn't cost that much to add those services.




Thank you Jura and The Washington Post for the opportunity to chat with your readers.  I hope this was helpful and that you will love your floors. 

Neil Daley

Floor Coverings International  


In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Neil Daley
Neil Daley, flooring expert
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