Freshen up your flooring without frying your finances
When choosing an affordable kitchen floor material, the choices (and costs!) can be overwhelming. And while some flooring options can be priced as high as $18 per square foot, you don't have to splurge to find something that's durable, water-resistant, and visually appealing.
Here are some top choices for budget-friendly floors that won’t sacrifice style.
1. Refinish Your Existing Floor
Take a good look at what you’ve already got, because you might not need new flooring at all. If you choose to refinish your existing floors, the work will require a little elbow grease—but you’ll save a ton on material and installation costs. Start with a deep cleaning (if you have tile, redo the grout) to quickly brighten up the space. If you have a wood floor that’s tired or damaged, consider refinishing it or painting it black or white. Concrete can also be refreshed with specialized paint and sealant.
2. Look Underneath
You never know what exists below your current floor until you take a look. You might just discover unique, historic tiles or a pine wood floor that just needs to be refinished. You’ll likely pay $3 to $8 per square foot for a professional refinisher near you to work their magic, but that’s more affordable than new hardwood—and you get to preserve a part of the original home.
3. Vinyl Sheet
You might have bad memories of the vinyl flooring installed in your grandparents' house, but try and leave that in the past. Modern vinyl flooring has many stylish options, many even resembling wood or stone. In addition to beginning at a mere $1 per square foot, this extremely popular material is waterproof, durable, soft underfoot, and easy to clean (which makes it a great floor for parents of fur babies or small kiddos). Generally, vinyl can also be laid over most types of subfloors, as long as they’re smooth.
4. Luxury Vinyl Tile
A little more expensive than vinyl sheet at $2.50 to $7 per square foot, luxury vinyl tile or LVT does a better job at trompe l'oeil and looks much closer to real hardwood. It’s easily installed over the subfloor and known to be very comfortable to walk on.
Like vinyl, linoleum may trigger an association with flooring that is garish and overall outdated. But linoleum flooring has come a long way since it was invented in the 1800s and is worth a look for your kitchen flooring. Costing $3 to $7 per square foot, it’s also durable, often lasting more than 40 years when installed properly.
Porcelain tiles are stain- and water-resistant, making them a viable choice for the kitchen. They also come in a range of colors, sizes, and shapes, giving you many design options that pair well with wood flooring transitions. Costing about $3 to $10 per square foot, depending on the style, there should be an option for everyone’s budget. Look for tiles with a Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating of 3 or above, as that indicates a higher level of durability.
Ceramic is similar to porcelain tile in terms of its basic properties: It’s available in many colors and shapes, is stain-resistant, and (while slightly less water-resistant than ceramic) the tiles can stand up to a lot of moisture when they have been glazed. You can also use a sealer to give the tiles extra durability. The best part about ceramic tiles is the cost—it starts at only $0.50 per square foot.
Laminate can give the illusion of wood, cement, or natural stone, thanks to the pattern embossed on its surface. Starting as low as $1 per square foot, laminate, like vinyl, is easy to clean and install because most planks can be clicked together and glued down, or floated over any type of subfloor.
A wonderful choice if you’re concerned about your environmental impact, bamboo is a sustainable flooring option; this grass grows fast after harvesting and doesn’t require chemicals to thrive. You can purchase it in a range of shades, with the cost coming out to $3 to $5 per square foot. Some engineered bamboo strips can be installed easily—they simply click together.
Another sustainable option, cork is environmentally-friendly because cork oak tree bark regenerates rapidly. Relatively soft, cork flooring is noise-dampening and ergonomic, easing the comfort of standing for long stretches of time. But that plus does come with a downside: the material can be punctured. Plus, cork is not ideal for moist areas and can warp and stain from spills. The price starts at about $2 per square foot.
Low-maintenance and durable, concrete floors provide a sleek, industrial look to your kitchen. For homes built on a concrete slab, this option makes a lot of economic sense—just clean, cure, and paint or seal the floor. Sealing is essential because this material is porous and highly absorbent, though polished concrete floors are stain-resistant. But as a best practice, clean up any spills immediately to prevent staining. Finished concrete flooring will run you $3 to $8 per square foot.
12. Terracotta Tiles
To give your kitchen some Southwestern charm, try terracotta tiles. Produced from a red clay, terracotta is technically a ceramic material but it’s priced more attractively than other ceramic tiles, running about $1 to $3 per square foot
13. Engineered Wood
Beautiful and long-lasting solid hardwood flooring, such as oak, will add the most value to your home. That said, it’s pricey. For an affordable wood option, go with engineered wood, which includes a wood veneer bonded to plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF). In addition to being budget-friendly, it stands up well to humidity and temperature fluctuations. The cost for engineered wood starts at $3 per square foot.
14. Builder-Grade Solid Hardwood
Also known as utility-grade or rustic hardwood, this option is a step up from engineered wood and comes unfinished and in bundles. This type of wood won’t offer a warranty, and will likely have a few defects, such as knotholes and splinters. Through large flooring dealers, you might be able to pay as little as $1.50 per square foot. Just remember to factor in the cost of finishing the wood. If you’re more risk-averse yet still insistent on solid hardwood, try hickory or parquet, which tend to be the most affordable options.
15. Hickory Wood
While hardwood and inexpensive are rarely used in the same sentence, hickory is a somewhat affordable option, costing around $3 per square foot. It’s a strong, durable wood that is very textured and can be finished in many shades, like a soft tan or a rich, dark brown, making it fit in with a range of kitchen styles.