This is an all too common problem with parents, especially new parents. As a mother-to-be, (coming summer 2015!) I can only imagine what my floors will look like after the new bundle of joy is here! I have a hard enough time keeping them clean with a large black dog, a small white cat (yeah, who came up with the plan to have a pet of each color?), and a husband who loves playing/working in the yard more than an 8 year old. If you’re like me, keeping your floors clean and scratch free is a full time job all on its own! The key to this problem, I’ve found, is starting with the right floor for the life you lead. If your life is calmer and you don’t have to worry about much maintenance, not only are you one of the lucky ones but you can afford a more expensive and softer floor if you chose. If, however, your life is as hectic and dirty as mine, you’re going to need some serious durability and a small price tag to boot. Here are a few tips to help you with your flooring decisions.

1. Wood Floors:

Pros: Wood floors are beautiful, long lasting, and clean easily from minor spills and messes. With the right finish on your wood floors you have a decent wear layer against staining and scratching so it’ll hold up well against thrown toys, spilled sippy cups, and scratching dog nails. Wood floors can also help with severe allergies because it’s easy and quick to clean and won’t hold in dust and dander like carpet. Wood floors also can be refinished if a stain does appear and can’t be cleaned up rather than replacing your floors saving time and money.

Cons: Installing a brand new hardwood floor does not come cheap. Wood comes in so many species that some of the cheaper options are much softer and easier to scratch than their counterparts, without a professional grade finish. If you’re looking for something that holds up to kids, pets, heavy traffic, etc. stay away from woods like pine. Pine is extremely soft and will show every scratch and dent. Instead, choose a harder wood like oak, hickory, or maple. Keep in mind, the more durable the wood, the higher the price. Another con to wood floors is its slippery surface. While this attribute makes your floors so easy to keep clean, it’s also the cause of a lot of slipping and falling, especially with little ones in socks. I know secretly we all want to look like Tom Cruise in “Risky Business”, but truthfully a slip on hardwood with hurt a lot more than a trip on carpet. Lastly, hardwood’s biggest enemy is water. With small kids running around it’s best to keep hardwood out of spaces that can attract a lot of water on the floor like bathrooms, kitchens, etc. Water will cause staining, cupping, warping, and worse, rotting. All of these problems can only be fixed by replacing the wood, another expensive endeavor.

2. Tile:

Pros: Tile is the most durable flooring you can buy. It will hold up to pretty much anything you throw at it, literally. This stuff will hold up to kids, dogs, heavy traffic, toys, finger paints, thrown baby food, pet accidents, baby accidents, dirt, mold, pretty much anything you can dish out, it can take. Tiles also come in such a range of textures and colors and prices that you can find the perfect tile for you in a price range that’s affordable. Tile is classic and beautiful and gives you a quick pop of elegance in an easy and affordable way.

Cons: Tile installation is a little bit more expensive due to all the work that needs to go in to it. While the tile will stay put for pretty much forever, the process to get it there is a little more in depth. Comfort is also an issue with tile. With the added durability comes a hardness and coldness that is not always pleasing to bare feet. Tile does not really lend itself to sitting on the floor and is not recommended for people with joint pain or weak muscles as the hardness can sometimes be difficult to stand on. Tile also can become extremely slippery when wet. Make sure precautions are taken if tile is used in a kitchen or bathroom with non-slip mats and cleaning up spills quickly to avoid falling. A fall on tile can really hurt.

3. Carpet:

Pros: Carpet is by far, the cheapest option when installing new flooring. The process is cheaper, the product is cheaper, and the overall installation is cheaper. While many carpets come in expensive fabrics and styles, many options can be found for much less so carpet is a great option when you’re looking for a quick fix. Carpet is also softer on your feet and much more comfortable to sit on the floor to play or hang out. One of the best attributes of carpet is the sound muffling qualities it has. If you’ve ever heard a group of kids playing, it sounds like a heard of buffalos are charging through your house! Carpet minimizes the sound making it easier to concentrate on something other than the idea that your house may come crashing down due to a bunch of 10 year old boys wrestling for the “cool lego man”.

Cons: Carpet is not your friend when it comes to cleanliness. If you’re a dust freak like me, carpet will not make you happy. Carpet holds every dust particle with the strength of Hercules and will only relinquish the hold with a multitude of thorough vacuuming. Carpet will also show every spilled fruit punch, dropped lollipop, squished strawberry, and everything else you can possibly imagine. Stains like this, if they aren’t cleaned immediately, are doomed to stay put for as long as you own the carpet. The only thing you can do after that is hide them under strategically placed potted plants and rugs.