The Price of Strength: A Comparison of Durability, Repairability and Cost | Blog Post #15
Which is better for your home – a durable premium material or an expendable low-cost material?
In today’s post, we explore the most common materials used for interior surfacing and the options you have for repairing or replacing them. While each of these materials have many specific pros and cons, the focus of this post will simply be their durability and ease of repair.
The four key things you should consider are the frequency with which you have to replace or repair the material, the cost in time, money, and convenience, the ease of acquiring the material for replacement, and the environmental impact of upkeep.
Vinyl comes in large, whole sheets and small tiles. It is a synthetic material that is rubbery and softer than most floorings. Prices can range from under $1 to over $10 per square foot, depending on quality.
Thanks to its pliable nature, vinyl is highly resistant to impacts that could chip or crack other materials. However, depending on its quality, it can be very prone to scratches or tears from sandy grit or sharp objects, and dents from heavy objects. Vinyl can get damaged by standing water if it is not sealed with a waterproof layer that adds significantly to the cost of installation and maintenance. It is also infamous for producing ugly chemical stains when it meets rubber from shoe heels or rubber protectors on furniture legs, and is susceptible to yellowing over time. These vulnerabilities mean it must be replaced relatively frequently.
Vinyl cannot be repaired – the affected tile or sheet must be replaced entirely. As such, unless you’ve a strong reason otherwise, we strongly recommend getting vinyl tiles over large sheets to reduce the cost of these inevitable and frequent replacements. Replacing lower quality vinyl tiles is cheap, but terrible for the environment, since vinyl is rarely recycled or reused and goes straight to incinerators or landfills. You should also consider stocking up on your desired pattern of vinyl tiles in advance, since stores might no longer stock them when newer designs become more popular.
Linoleum is almost identical to vinyl – it is a relatively soft, rubbery material that is made using natural ingredients such as linseed oil and cork powder, and comes in tiles or sheets. However, it is generally more expensive than vinyl.
Unlike vinyl, linoleum is resistant to scratches and abrasive wear, but is weak to chipping. It is also easily damaged by water unless an additional waterproofing layer is applied. While it does not get stained by rubber like vinyl, linoleum tends to dry up and crack over time as its natural oils degrade. Expect to replace it frequently, though not as frequently as vinyl.
Again, like vinyl, linoleum is best installed in tiles. However, homeowners bear less of a moral burden for replacements, since linoleum biodegrades more readily and harmlessly than vinyl. Hence, they aren’t as bad for the environment. Replacement is generally cheap, depending on the quality of your tiles, but more expensive than vinyl.
Wood laminate is composed of a compressed wood fibreboard sandwiched between a coated, printed layer on top and a waterproof layer below. It comes in tiles that mimic the pattern of hardwood and is priced from $2 to $10 per square foot.
Laminate tiles are only as durable as the topmost wear layer. While higher quality tiles have thicker and stronger wear layers, once the printed layer is exposed, the tiles are prone to unsightly scratches and catastrophic water damage. Expect to replace relatively often, especially in areas with high foot traffic.
Laminate tiles cannot be repaired but are cheap to replace. However, homeowners will run into the same problem of availability if they don’t stock up on replacement tiles beforehand. Thanks to a special overlapping mechanism in laminate tiles, replacements are best left to contractors, which will cost you time, money, and the inconvenience of having installers over. While laminate tiles are largely wood, their synthetic layers contribute to waste in landfills and incinerators.
Ceramic tiles are among the most common interior surfacing materials in Singaporean homes. They come in a large variety of colours, patterns, and sizes. Most ceramic tiles will set you back $12 to $16 per square foot.
Glazed ceramic tiles are waterproof while raw ceramic tiles are porous and absorb liquids. This means the former is only stained by strong chemicals such as concentrated bleach or pet urine, while the latter can be stained quite easily. Ceramic tiles are highly susceptible to chips and cracks from falling objects, both blunt and sharp, but are resistant to light abrasive wear from foot traffic.
Chipped or cracked ceramic tiles can be a hazard – stray shards and splinters will pierce skin, while broken tiles can result in serious cuts. Hence, replacement of damaged tiles is often more urgent than with other materials. Replacement is relatively expensive and homeowners who choose fancier designs may run into availability issues without an advanced stocking up of tiles.
Hardwood floors generally consist of large planks of hardwood while parquet floors consist of small strips of hardwood arranged in a repeating pattern. Both types are almost always protected by a topcoat of varnish for waterproofing and wear resistance. Expect to spend between $30 to $50 per square foot.
While some hardwoods are more water-resistant than others, the protective topcoat is necessary for most hardwood floors, since exposure to moisture will result in warping. Depending on the thickness of the topcoat, hardwood floors have varying degrees of chip and scratch resistance. Recoating of the protective layer must be done at least twice a year, failing which expensive replacements costs may be incurred.
Damage to the topcoat can be easily repaired if spotted early, while deeper gouges or chips to hardwood can sometimes be rectified by sanding and resurfacing the wood. However, water damage always requires replacement of the affected tiles and will incur greater cost. Unless you’ve the right tools and extensive experience, all these repairs will require the services of a professional. As you may well know by now, stock up on hardwood tiles in advance in case retailers no longer carry your design.
These two stones, marble and granite, are a premium option for homeowners. They can come in small tiles or large slabs for floors, countertops, or walls. Costs can range from $30 to $80 per square foot.
Granite is much harder than marble, but both stones are prone to chips and cracks. Both stones are porous and have low chemical resistance, thus they stain easily and permanently.
Whole-slab countertops can be refinished if the scratches or chips are not too deep, but would otherwise cost an incredible amount of money to replace. Stone tiles can be replaced relatively easily and at far lower cost, but are still relatively expensive. Similar to ceramic tiles, repair/replacement is often an urgent matter. One upside is that marble or granite tiles are always available, being classic materials, but can vary in price depending on prevailing market supply and demand.
Epoxy, specifically a metallic epoxy coating, is a synthetic material that is poured over a surface and allowed to harden. Costs can run as low as $7 per square foot, but we highly recommend the services of an experienced and reputable contractor. While this will cost more, the quality of the design and installation will be drastically better than with an amateur independent installer. To find out what can go wrong with slipshod epoxy installations, visit our post here.
Epoxy coatings are seamless, waterproof, highly resistant to scratches and chips, and chemical resistant. They are also frequently accompanied by a polyurethane topcoat that provides additional resistance to scratches and impacts, and greatly increases the material’s durability in the face of daily wear and tear.
For shallow scratches and typical wear, repair is as simple as a re-coating of the polyurethane topcoat. For deeper gouges that penetrate the epoxy body, installers can simply refinish* the material and fill in the cuts before applying a new polyurethane topcoat.
*do note that repair capabilities depends greatly on the kind of designs your metallic epoxy surface has.
Dollar Shop Replacements VS Olympic Endurance
Different circumstances call for different solutions, there is no one answer for every problem. A cheap and easily replaceable vinyl floor may be the right fit for one person, while a sturdy hardwood floor that only requires biannual coatings could be another person’s dream floor.
However, homeowners who are in it for the long haul could easily see the hassle and cumulative costs of frequent repairs and replacements, as opposed to regular maintenance and the occasional servicing. The one material that stands out in this list is undoubtedly the epoxy coating – at a reasonable price of installation, you could have a floor or countertop that is highly resistant to damage, requires little special care, and has great margin for error thanks to its options for repairs.
To find out more about how metallic epoxy holds up against these conventional materials in other aspects, head over to this post for a detailed comparison. If you need more detailed and personal information about getting your own epoxy coating, our experts will be happy to provide a free, non-obligatory consultation to answer all your questions.