The Ultimate Guide to Flooring
Everything you need to know about the 11 most popular materials
Whether you’re doing major renovations or just want to replace your old wall-to-wall carpet, new flooring can make or break your room and resale price.
So what’s right for your lifestyle and decor goals? Hip concrete or budget-wise laminate? And what’s that we hear about linoleum making a comeback? Here’s our guide to what, why and how much.
Pros: A major resale-value investment, hardwood floors are available in myriad finishes and configurations (you’ll pay more for wide planks). And since you can refinish them, they look great for decades.
Cons: Standing water can stain them, so they’re not great for kitchens. Plus, they’re noisy--meaning you’ll want a few area rugs if you have downstairs neighbors.
Price/Sq. Ft.: $6 to $12
Pros: This fast-growing and sustainable material is nearly as hard as hardwood and, these days, comes in wide-plank and multi-colored varieties.
Cons: Unlike solid hardwood, bamboo flooring is made by gluing strips of the plant stalk together, which makes for a material that’s less durable and more prone to wear and tear.
Price/Sq. Ft.: $4 to $8
Pros: Durable enough to withstand just about everything except a jackhammer, concrete floors can be painted, stained or polished to suit the homeowner’s taste.
Cons: Moisture can cause cracks and mildew, and it's unforgivingly hard if you’ve got a two-year-old who often topples over.
Price/Sq. Ft.: $2 to $15
Pros: Easy to clean and available in an array of painted styles and patterns, there’s a reason this stuff stands the test of time.
Cons: Your phone screen is no match for this hard surface. Plus, if it chips, it’s difficult to fix.
Price/Sq. Ft.: $3 to $7
Pros: Ceramic’s tougher (and more expensive) cousin, porcelain very difficult to chip or crack, making it the clear winner for high-traffic areas. The extensive firing and coating process also means it comes in a wide variety of colors.
Cons: The tiles are fired in a kiln at such high temperatures that they can become distorted with variations in shape, which makes installation difficult (read: don’t DIY).
Price/Sq. Ft.: $4 to $10
Porcelain Plank Tile
Pros: This recent flooring trend looks like hardwood but doesn't scratch or stain. And did we mention it's pretty cheap, too?
Cons: Sure, you get the appearance of gorgeous wood floors, but you don't get wood's natural warmth and texture.
Price/Sq. Ft.: $2 to $8
Pros: Once you get past the stigma, linoleum really isn’t a terrible idea: Modern prints and designs make it great for renovations on the cheap. And oh man does it clean up easy.
Cons: The material can expand and contract from moisture, so don’t install it in the bathroom. It can also scratch and dent from heavy furniture.
Price/Sq. Ft.: $3 to $7
Pros: Granite, marble, limestone, travertine and slate are all variations of stone flooring, which is generally durable and hewn from natural slabs (meaning every tile is one of a kind).
Cons: With the exception of granite and slate, stone materials are porous and can scratch and chip easily, and thus need periodic resealing.
Price/Sq. Ft.: $3 to $15
Pros: This durable material looks exactly like real hardwood--with a much lower price tag.
Cons: The synthetic product can’t be refinished like the real thing and isn’t as timeless. (It’ll last up to ten years.)
Price/Sq. Ft.: $1 to $3
Pros: Sustainable and environmentally friendly, cork is soft to walk on and absorbs noise, making it a great choice for children’s rooms and the kitchen.
Cons: The material is pretreated before installment but usually needs refinishing every few years to guard against stains and water damage. Its soft quality also means it scratches and dents easily.
Price/Sq. Ft.: $2 to $6
Pros: A softer (and less expensive) alternative to tile or wood, vinyl is usually backed with foam and can last up to 15 years.
Cons: It’s glued down when installed so proves difficult to remove. Also, nobody’s ever like “God, what gorgeous vinyl floors.”
Price/Sq. Ft.: $1 to $5