Have you seen the August edition ofConsumer Reports?The cover story, “Your Dream Kitchen for Less” includes a segment that rates flooring. While it’s always nice to see flooring get some exposure in the consumer press, this offering was not particularly useful. If the report itself were subjected to Consumer Reports’rigorous standards, I believe it would flunk. Instead of helping consumers better understand the outstanding value and performance found in today’s flooring, we get a superficial and confusing little drive-by that suggests there are no truly outstanding floors. A consumer planning new floors could be forgiven for postponing their purchase after reading this.

This is not meant to diminishConsumer Reports.This venerable testing organization has done some outstanding work over the years. They pride themselves on independence and objectivity when they review products. If they report that one light bulb burns longer that another, rest assured it does. If they tell you an SUV gets great gas mileage, you can take it to the bank. But flooring is unlike most other consumer products. The criteria for product quality should go far beyond how well the floor stands up to heavy traffic and abuse. There are many other factors to consider.

Unfortunately, the 41 varieties of flooring ranked in theConsumer Reportssection were judged on nothing other than durability. As the report explains: “Top performers proved best at resisting our gauntlet of scuffs, scratches, dents, stains and other common abuse.” There was nothing in these ratings about aesthetic quality, warranties, ease-of-installation, color selection or a number of other factors that determine a floor’s overall appeal. Also, while the copy accompanying the chart touts the strides seen in the area of environmental responsibility, the people testing the products were apparently too busy scratching, scuffing and staining to factor that in. This is like judging a car strictly on its ability to withstand a high impact crash. That’s important, but shouldn’t factors like how it handles on the road and the level of maintenance expected be considered as well?

What’s even more frustrating is a suggestion byConsumer Reportsthat excellence in flooring is virtually unheard of. Only one product, a selection from Congoleum’s DuraStone vinyl line, was nudged over from “very good” to “excellent.” It scored an 85 out of a possible 100. Almost all of the other products tested were categorized somewhere between “good” and “very good.” This seems disingenuous. Remember, those performing the tests determine the level of abuse directed at the floor in question. If not one product tested can completely withstand the “gauntlet” created byConsumer Reports,maybe these folks have a fundamental misunderstanding of what top quality flooring can and cannot do. Also, do they recognize that flooring is not a one-size-fits-all proposition? An older couple living alone does not need the same flooring as a young family with a bunch of kids and a big playful dog.

There is another item included in theConsumer Reports’look at flooring that is equally disappointing. Under the headline “Trim Up-Front Flooring Costs,” bullet points offer tips aimed at securing discounts (as opposed to securing long-term customer satisfaction). “Save on overstocks” says the first. It goes on to suggest consumers look for products that no one else wants (that’s why they are overstocked). Another says shoppers can save money by opting for products with minor flaws or a damaged package. They also urge consumers to go the DIY route and “tackle the prep work.” Accordingly, consumers are urged to “tear off old flooring” and level the sub-floor themselves. “You can save hundreds” saysConsumer Reports,without noting that a mistake in either endeavor can lead to a flooring disaster that will cost a lot more than that to fix.

While I have always had great respect for this important publication, their effort to educate consumers on choosing the right floor for the “dream kitchen” was a reminder of what flooring specialists battle against daily. Yes, people shopping for flooring want something durable and, of course, everyone wants to save money; but what they want more than anything else is flooring that reflects their tastes and their lifestyle. They want flooring that helps them achieve the home (or kitchen) of their dreams. That’s what the good people atConsumer Reportsmissed.