Flooring Alternatives Through Time

11 November 2012
By Russell

I’m going to make a brazen comment here: I bet that unless it is falling apart or you’ve slipped on it recently, that you have not given the floor you walked on most recently a second thought. I will go even further to say that chances are you have not thought twice about any flooring surface you’ve walked on recently unless it is impacting your life in some way.

It’s ok, we are not judging you in any way. It’s perfectly normal really, after all, unless the floor is a work of art, or a relic from a bygone era, or part of a showroom, chances are, there is no need for you to check it out. That said, at some point in time, someone somewhere has painstakingly put the floor down, aiming to make it last through the years, to meet certain criteria and to be relatively pleasing to the eye; to them the floor was note-worthy.

So what we wanted to do was go back through time and look at the different flooring surfaces used throughout the world and how they were used.


If you have ever been lucky enough to travel through Europe – or some sections of the USA –  you will have undoubtedly come across cobblestones. Held together by mortar, cobblestone roads were typically bound together using a mortar compound. Today we find them slippery when wet, uneven underfoot when dry and bumpy to drive upon in a car at any time. Yet, strangely enough, they were designed this way on purpose. Horses, which were the main mode of transport at the time, required an uneven surface to aid them in walking, so cobblestones achieved this.

Some 6 centuries later cobblestones are still standing up to the rigours of increased foot traffic and cars, a true testament to their resilience as a flooring solution.


Parquetry, which originated in the mid-1600s evolved as a decorative form of flooring. Parquetry rose to prominence as an aesthetic flooring option because it allowed the carpenter creating and laying the floor to use geometric shapes to design ever better patterns which showcased their skill.

Parquetry has similarly withstood the test of time, due in large part to the timbers used. Cedar, oak, walnut, cherry and maple were often used due to their rich colours and ability to be worked. Fortunately, these timbers are long-lasting and resilient under foot traffic. Whereas cobblestones have grown out of fashion, parquetry still remains a decorative flooring solution and is famously used on many of the courts of NBA teams.


Mosaic flooring takes us much further back in time, to around 2400 years ago where it was used as a decoration in the Macedonian palace in Aegae. Due to the fact that it was part of the royal court, its popularity spread quickly through the upper classes of both the Greek and the Roman Empires.
Mosaic was a relatively inexpensive, but highly decorative flooring option which was used to create floors of exquisite wonder and floors which could tell a story, much the same as a tapestry can. The main elements of mosaic floors are coloured glass and stones held together by a mortar. Today mosaic flooring is used as a decorative option, by those who can afford the artisans to create the works of art.


If you have ever been to Europe – or seen pictures of the palaces over there – you will be aware that Marble was a very popular flooring option for those who didn’t want to have baked clay floors. Not only was marble easy to clean, but the flooring surface was resilient and aesthetically pleasing. Marble has stood the test of time and will continue to do so, but today is a luxury item few can afford as a primary flooring option.


Mortar compounds and concrete has been around for thousands of years, though the composite structure of it may have changed somewhat. It’s versatility – it has been used in flooring surfaces, to the reinforcement of buildings, to the erection of entire buildings – makes it one of the most comprehensively important building products that have ever existed.

However, as a flooring surface, concrete has some limitations, including; tendency to be porous if poured poorly which thus allows moss to grow making the surface slippery, it’s bleak colouring and it’s a tendency to crack and funnel water flows.

Though the composition of concrete has and can be changed to suit the application, as a flooring surface it does not offer a lot of versatility.

Tiled Floor Surfaces

Tiling is not a new phenomenon. Whilst there has been an expansion in the type of tiles offered (terracotta, brick, porcelain and vinyl tiles), their use as a flooring surface dates back thousands of years. Useful because they can be aesthetically created to be pleasing, tiles are also relatively versatile, resilient to high foot traffic volumes and can be easily replaced.

Whilst tiling surfaces are great in some applications, in others, the use of tiles – such as working kitchens, bars, manufacturing facilities – can be a liability, as they can become slippery, unhygienic and in many cases are not able to withstand high temperatures. Furthermore, tiling is becoming more expensive relative to the cost of other flooring alternatives.

Composite Flooring

Whilst there are many, many other flooring alternatives which exist, we will bring to an end our analysis of different flooring surfaces with a review of composite flooring options. Composite flooring refers to the fact that there are multiple parts which are used in the creation of the surface.

Composite flooring which includes epoxy and MMA floors have become more popular choices for commercial floors due to their resilient nature because they can be made non-slip are hygienic and because they can be laid in multiple colours. Furthermore, they are a very viable alternative for warehouse, commercial and pharmaceutical floors due to their cost efficiencies and their versatility.

So that is about it – well for this blog anyhow. If you would like to add any further surfaces you think are worthy of mention, please do so, we would love to hear from you. After all, we have provided our snapshot, and we know the flooring options are much more comprehensive than this list.