We Brits are well-known for our tendency to carpet every available floor space in the home, and while we must have our reasons, this trend can cause raised eyebrows amongst our foreign counterparts!
When houses systematically lacked insulation and efficient heating systems, the benefits of carpets were self-evident and acted as a layer of insulation on the floors. Nowadays, we understand better how to retain heat, meaning that wall-to-wall carpets are no longer such an attractive option. In fact, they could be downright unhealthy.
What Lies Beneath
Carpets tend to stay put for years before they are replaced, making them potentially the dirtiest textiles in the home. Most of would not dream of sleeping in unchanged bed sheets for years at a time, and yet we are content to vacuum up the largest of the debris from our carpets every few days. Dirt from feet or shoes, food or drink spills, hair and dust from pets, dead skin cells and dust mites can all quickly build up deep within the carpet fibres. It is not even worth thinking about what lies within a carpet in a warm, humid bathroom or WC!
As time goes by, carpets can start to cause problems for people with allergies or asthma; or they may just start to smell a little stale. The problem with carpets is that they can't simply be removed and washed on a regular basis. To really get a carpet clean it is necessary to remove all the furniture and give it a thorough shampoo, preferably with a machine, although this will also inevitably leave some cleaning chemical residue behind.
So, now that we can add insulation under the roof and in wall cavities or install under floor heating, it is not surprising that many homeowners are adopting an approach favoured in other countries. Hardwood, stone or tiled floors not only look fantastic but they allow more effective cleaning and germ control. Dust and dirt is easy to remove as there are no fibres to trap it, and regular mopping keeps floors clean and hygienic.
If hard flooring still looks a little cold and needs some softening round the edges, then the solution is simply to place some rugs on the floor. Not only do they look stylish, but they make a change of décor a piece of cake and can easily be removed for regular cleaning. For once, here is a British tradition we should be glad to see the back of!
About the author: William Herbert takes a look at changing your wall to wall carpet for hard floors and rugs.