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Do you love the look of natural stone, such as marble or granite, but laying it across an entire room isn't within budget? Use it in a smaller space, such as a powder room or entryway. Or use stone to create a dramatic hearth for the family room fireplace. Add a stone border or inset to another flooring material, such as wood, in a spacious great room.
New materials continue to present themselves as flooring options with environmental advantages and design savvy. Consider these hip newcomers:
-- Cork (shown) -- The bark of the cork oak tree offers a cushiony, quiet, and comfortable flooring material that resists moisture and germs.
-- Bamboo -- This fast-growing grass is a surprisingly hard and stable sustainable material that is being formed into wood-like strips and planks.
-- Rubber -- This quiet, resilient material resists dents and stains and comes in a variety of solid colors for a modern, commercial-like look.
-- Metal -- Steel and aluminum tiles and planks sport a low-maintenance satin matte finish with industrial styling.
Consider these tips and resources as you set out on the adventure of shopping for flooring.
-- Take along paint chips and fabric swatches to narrow down the vast array of color and pattern choices. You'll still want to bring home samples to make your final decisions in the space and lighting of your own home. But having these elements along in the showroom will help you weed out absolutely "won't work" options from the beginning.
-- Take rough room measurements ahead of time. Although you'll need precise measurements before installation, estimates will let you get a quick cost figure in mind as you shop. You want to know if a certain material you fall in love with really is within your budget.
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