Q: We have to replace our 30-year-old kitchen linoleum flooring. This floor is also in the back hall as well as the powder room. My husband does not want tile of any sort as he says it is breakable and difficult to put down.
We will be using a contractor to install any new flooring. There is a possibility we would be selling the house within five years. I would like a floor that is nice, contemporary and durable, and will look good if we sell the house.
A: There are all kinds of flooring these days that endure the kinds of hard wear we subject it to. I wouldn't rule out quarry tile. I didn't install it in our present kitchen — the previous owners did — but it has withstood about 12 years of people and dogs and, when we bother to wash it, looks just as good as the day we bought the house 10 years ago.
Wood flooring also is very popular. In times past, few builders and remodelers recommended wood because of fears of warping caused by excessive moisture, but preservatives have all but eliminated that concern. There's a lot of hardwood flooring — Brazilian cherry seems to be popular — in the new construction I tour as a real estate writer, but people with environmental concerns steer clear of it in favor of composite lumber or bamboo.
There's always low-cost vinyl, but, from my experience, if you are going to sell your house and are looking for a high-end look, you may want to choose something else.
Readers may have other suggestions, and, as always, I invite you to send them along.
Paying the piper
If you are like me, you are waiting less than eagerly for this month's utility bill, and you're looking for ways to cut energy consumption.
Hunter Douglas recommends setting your thermostat for the air conditioning as high as possible without sacrificing comfort. The less difference between outdoor and indoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.
Setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on the air conditioner will not cool your home any faster. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it could result in excessive cooling and, therefore, unnecessary expense.
Another way of reducing electricity consumption is to use power strips. Power strips aren't just for your computer gear. Use them for appliances — electronic vampires that suck electricity to the tune of $1 billion a year when not in use. Turn them off with one quick click.
Another fireplace view
From a reader: "I was reading your column this morning about gas fireplace upkeep. I have to disagree with the advice to turn the pilot off in off season. When I had my wood-burning fireplace converted to gas, the tech who installed it told me to leave the pilot lit all year.
"When you turn off the pilot, moisture can accumulate in the gas line and cause lots of problems when it comes time to light it for the next season. Friends had a gas fireplace and always turned the pilot off in the off season. After the first two years of doing this they did have problems relighting the pilot.
"When I told them what I was told, they left the pilot alone in off season and never had a problem again. The gas to keep the pilot lit doesn't cost much at all. It is less expensive then calling the repair man to do the repairs to restart the line."
My response: Everyone has a different experience. However, if there is a moisture problem with the gas line, it might not be normal. I've kept the pilot light off until I've needed the fireplace, and it has come on with no trouble for 10 years.
E-mail questions for Alan J. Heavens to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tile and wood top your choices for kitchen flooring
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