Flooring is the single most expensive cost when it comes to home renovations – and the bigger your house, the bigger your bill. It’s also almost always permanent because it’s a tremendous hassle to redo the floor. So, should you get the most economical vinyl flooring? Is it ever worth splurging on fancy marble flooring? Here’s a guide to help you decide.
Overview: Types of flooring in Singapore
In general, these are the 6 types of floors offered by contractors in Singapore.
|Flooring||Price (excluding subfloor layer)||Pros||Cons|
|Vinyl||$5.50 to $6.50 psf||Cheap, water-resistant, comfortable underfoot, easy to maintain||Dents easily|
|Laminate||$6 to $8 psf||Cheap, scratch-resistant, looks like real wood||Chips easily, will swell if not properly sealed against liquids|
|Ceramic tiles||$10 to $12 psf (including labour)||Affordable, waterproof, durable, easy to repair||Tile grout stains easily, hard underfoot|
|Cement screed (polished)||$15 to $30 psf||Industrial look, easy to maintain||Needs expensive protective coating, will stain if not properly sealed against liquids, will eventually crack and stain|
|Hardwood (e.g. parquet)||$30 to $50 psf||Looks good, can be refinished to remove imperfections, long lifespan||Expensive, moderately hard to maintain|
|Marble||$4o to $70 psf||Looks good, very durable||Expensive, stains easily (permanent), hard underfoot|
Cheapest flooring materials: Vinyl and laminate flooring are the most affordable of the lot. They also have a soft, comfortable feeling underfoot.
Most expensive floor materials: Hardwood (e.g. parquet) and marble are, unsurprisingly, the most expensive types of flooring. However, they’re also the most durable. Surprisingly, polished cement screed – you know, the plain grey industrial-chic flooring style – is expensive due to the sealant/polish layer.
Waterproof flooring materials: For wet areas like bathrooms and kitchens, marble and tile are the best waterproof options. Tiles are much more affordable, and as a bonus, they’re easy to replace if they ever get damaged.
- Price: $5.50 to $6.50 psf
- Pros: Cheap, water-resistant, comfortable underfoot, easy to maintain
- Cons: Dents, stains and scratches easily
As a flooring material, vinyl is probably the most value for money option. It’s cheap and is generally durable. Of course, its durability cannot be compared to tiles or marble, but it will last 10 to 15 years at least. Because it’s soft – it’s made of PVC composites but sometimes include fibre glass to enhance its toughness – it’s comfortable to walk on.
Vinyl is great for bedroom floors, where you don’t expect much traffic and won’t be moving furniture around. In general, it dents, stains and scratches easily, so it’s not recommended for the living room. It is, however, reasonably water-resistant, (especially if it’s in sheet form) and easy to maintain.
There are 2 kinds of vinyl flooring – sheet or tile. Most homeowners choose tile so they can replicate wooden or ceramic tiled flooring, which is more expensive.
Do note that the stated prices are the material costs only – vinyl flooring requires a subfloor (usually cement screed) and is laid above it.
- Price: $6 to $8 psf
- Pros: Cheap, scratch-resistant, looks like real wood / marble
- Cons: Chips easily, will swell if not properly sealed against liquids
Laminate is priced similarly to vinyl, and depending on your contractor, could be slightly cheaper or more expensive. Vinyl is PVC, but laminate is usually made of fibreboard. It can replicate wood and marble (or other grained stones) because beneath the clear topmost layer is a photorealistic image of other natural materials.
The wear layer (the clear layer) makes it water-resistant, but it’s still susceptible to scratches and chips. If not laid on an even subfloor (like cement screed), it will also break over time. This is because unlike vinyl (which doesn’t have this problem), laminate is not flexible.
If not sealed properly, laminate flooring can absorb water and swell. This makes it terrible for places where you expect spillage (like the kitchen, or near bathrooms).
Do note that the stated prices are the material costs only – laminate flooring requires a subfloor and is laid above it.
Floor tiles (porcelain & ceramic)
- Price: $10 to $12 (including labour, typically $7 psf)
- Pros: Affordable, waterproof, durable, easy to repair
- Cons: Tile grout stains easily, hard underfoot
Floor tiles is the cheapest waterproof flooring option, which is why it’s commonly used in toilets, kitchens and balconies. Published prices typically quote $2 to $4 psf, but that price excludes labour costs to lay the heavy tiles.
There are several types of floor tiles. Homogenous porcelain tiles have a pattern or design – like marble grain, for instance – running throughout the tile so chips are less obvious. Glazed porcelain tiles, on the other hand, are less forgiving – any damage will show up. Ceramic tiles are less durable than porcelain tiles, and are generally porous and hence stain easily.
A great benefit of tiles is that damaged ones can easily be replaced for cheap. There is no need to redo the whole flooring. However, stains and dirt can collect in the grout, which can be unsightly and hard to clean. Even if you keep it super clean, it will discolour over time.
The normal size is around 600 x 600mm, but for a more spacious look, go for the large tiles (900 x 900 mm and up). Of course, prices depend on the tile material and size so it’s up to you to find the sweet spot for your budget.
Cement screed flooring
- Price: $15 to $30 psf (including sealing)
- Industrial look, easy to maintain
- Needs expensive protective coating, will stain if not properly sealed against liquids, will eventually crack and stain
Cement screed flooring is the “grey floor” that you see at void decks, except for homes, it’s usually polished (sealed). The unconventional flooring material has only recently risen in popularity due to its “industrial look”, but it’s not as cheap as you think.
Cement screed is usually used as a subfloor that levels out the surface and preps it for the topmost flooring like vinyl or tiles. Unlike the raw concrete floors in warehouses and industrial buildings, cement screed needs to be coated so it won’t be powdery and can resist liquids.
Cement, as a material, is porous and cracks easily. And while the protective coating will help it resist wear and tear, most contractors warn homeowners that cracks and damages are inevitable.
The final effect (and appearance) of the floor largely depends on your contractor too, so pick wisely! It’s best to ask for photos of past projects so you know how the different finishes look.
Hardwood (parquet flooring)
- Price: $30 to $50 psf
- Pros: Looks good, can be refinished to remove imperfections, long lifespan
- Cons: Expensive, moderately hard to maintain
Hardwood is one of the favourites for atas homes – it’s expensive, but it’s the real deal.
It’s moderately hard to maintain because it can chip or get scratched easily. My bedroom floor at my parents’ place is parquet, and a little piece of me died when I dropped a pair of scissors on it and gave it a hideous dent.
Aside from termites, if not properly sealed, liquid spillage can also cause problems. Singapore’s hot and humid weather is also an enemy – it can cause the wood to expand and shift over time.
The good news is that it’s real wood, which means you can sand the surface to remove imperfections. Refinishing won’t be cheap, but it means it can last pretty much forever. Also, it adds to the value of your home (just in case you’re thinking of selling).
It’s also warm, so you don’t get a cold shock when you step on the floor without your bedroom slippers.
Marble flooring (and other stones)
- Price: $40 to $70 psf (including installation, typically $12 psf)
- Pros: Looks good, very durable
- Cons: Expensive, stains easily (permanent), hard underfoot
Marble is mostly super expensive because not only is it a natural material, it’s also long been associated with all things fancy. Every tile is different and has unique markings and grains, which mean your beautiful floors will literally be one of a kind.
It’s not very practical though – due to its porous nature, it stains very easily and even quality sealants will wear over time. Marble also discolours with age. Marble is generally very durable (hard), but it can scratch on the surface.
Because of its hardness, I don’t recommend marble for households with elderly folks or young children. Falling down can result in serious injuries, and dropping fragile items (expensive glass or porcelain objects) will almost always result in breakage.
Prices depend on the size of the tiles (the bigger the more expensive), and not only are the marble tiles expensive, they’re also costly to install. Other stones like granite have similar properties, but may be slightly cheaper.
Other hidden costs of flooring
The cost of flooring isn’t the only thing you need to think about. There are some hidden costs that can turn your flooring costs absolutely astronomical.
Cement screed subfloor
Floating flooring types (like vinyl and laminate), for example, require a subfloor (usually cement screed). If you didn’t opt for HDB to do your flooring, you will need to pay for cement screeding (to level out the surface), and that itself will cost between $9 to $12 psf.
Some prices may appear lower than others because it simply doesn’t include skirting (the material running along the base of the wall, connecting to the floor). It’s possible to install vinyl and laminate without skirting, but most people find it ugly.
Trimming of doors
Some contractors don’t include the trimming of wooden doors in their prices, and will bill you for it later. When floors are installed, sometimes, you need to shave a bit off the base of the door so it works smoothly and doesn’t damage your flooring.
Once you calculate the cost of the flooring (material costs x total area), you typically need to add about 10% to the price. This is for wastage, because the contractor will cut bits and pieces off the tiles to fit your room(s).
What materials did you use for your home – fancy marble or economical vinyl flooring? Let us know in the comments below!
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