Weighing the pros and cons of each flooring type can help determine what's best for your home
Your flooring is kind of important—it literally lays the foundation for everything that happens in your home. Each type of flooring has its own set of pros and cons, so examining these can help you weigh your options and find what works best for your space.
If you want durable flooring that will never go out of style, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option than hardwood. Not only does it add warmth and character to any space, but it also adds value to your home as well.
Hardwood flooring is susceptible to denting, so higher hardness ratings will indicate what to use in very active rooms. It can also scratch easily, but a good buffing will take care of most minor marks.
Pros of Hardwood Flooring
Beautiful and timeless style
Many different varieties to choose from
Resurfacing every 3–5 years can keep it looking good as new
Cons of Hardwood Flooring
More expensive than other flooring varieties
Softer woods like pine or maple can get damaged easily
Susceptible to water/moisture damage
Can stain and absorb odors quickly
May develop dents, scrapes, and scratches over time
Hardwood floors cost between $6 and $12 per square foot for materials and professional installation. Rare types of hardwood floors can reach up to $25 per square foot.
While you can extend hardwood floors to all rooms and hallways of your home, they hold up best in communal spaces like living rooms and dining rooms. Installing hardwood flooring yourself is not for the new DIYer and is best when performed by an experienced pro.
Where to Put Hardwood Flooring
Hardwood works well in living rooms, hallways, and other shared living spaces. Many exotic hardwoods have very high hardness ratings. This makes them excellent choices for rooms that house a pool table, piano, or other heavy furniture that would damage softer woods. Talk to a hardwood floor installer in your area to learn more about what each wood is best suited for.
Engineered Wood Flooring
Engineered hardwood has a veneer of real hardwood as its top layer, so it’s nearly indistinguishable from hardwood flooring. Beneath that veneer are several core layers of high-density fiberboard, plywood, or hardwood. These inner layers provide more stability than solid hardwood floors, while the veneer gives it the same natural beauty.
Pros of Engineered Hardwood:
Imitates the same timeless look of real wood
Far less susceptible to moisture and humidity than hardwood
Multiple layers block moisture and provide extra stability
Usually less expensive than hardwood (though not by much)
Will not warp or bulge with proper installation
More environmentally friendly than traditional hardwood
Cons of Engineered Hardwood:
Just as susceptible to scratches and dents as real hardwood
Refinishing is possible, but only once or twice before the veneer gets too thin
Not moisture-proof and can grow mold or mildew when flooded with water
More expensive than carpeting, tile, and laminate
The cost for engineered wood flooring has a wide range from $2.50 to $10.00 per square foot, depending on its quality. However, some click-in styles are easier to install than hardwood, so you may be able to cut out the price of labor.
Yet again, this type of wood flooring does best in communal areas like living rooms, hallways, and dining rooms. While it's a stronger choice for kitchens and bathrooms, it can still warp over time. Engineered wood is also a top choice for floating floors—floors that sit right on top of the subflooring—making this a contender for DIY installation.
Where to Put Engineered Wood Flooring
Just like hardwood, engineered wood works best in the living areas of the home. Though it resists moisture far better than hardwood, it’s still not moisture-proof. This means it’s not a good choice for kitchens, bathrooms, or other areas that could get flooded with water.
Ceramic, Stone, and Porcelain Tile
Ceramic, porcelain, and stone tiles come in endless varieties to suit any decor. They’re also waterproof and extremely durable. Even if they do get damaged, single tiles are replaceable instead of the entire floor.
Pros of Tile Flooring
Tons of beautiful options
Nonporous and waterproof
Easy to clean
Great for use with radiant heating
Cons of Tile Flooring
Can get expensive (comparable to hardwood flooring)
Chips and cracks easily
May be difficult to install
There is a vast range of prices for porcelain and ceramic tiles. You'll find tiles for as little as $0.50 per square foot and all the way up to $40. You can, however, save money by installing the tiles yourself.
According to HomeAdvisor, natural stone tiles cost between $5 and $17 per square foot depending on the material. Installation will add between $50 to $70 per hour as well.
The beauty of ceramic and porcelain tiles works best in the prep rooms of our homes such as the kitchens, bathroom, foyer, and hallways. For this reason, you'll rarely find them in living rooms and bedrooms, but it's unheard of in modern homes.
Natural stone floors may be an investment, but it can increase the value of your home and last as long as hardwood flooring. While you'll often find it in foyers, porches, kitchens, and bathrooms, blend the outdoors with the interior by including it throughout your home.
Where to Put Tile Flooring
Since it’s waterproof, tile flooring works great for kitchens, bathrooms, and basements. It’s also an excellent option if you prefer the same floors throughout your home.
For active families concerned about possible damage to hardwood floors, modern laminates are a great option. These have color and grain variations to make them look like real wood (without all the fussy maintenance).
Pros of Laminate Flooring
Many stylish options to choose from
More budget-friendly than wood or tile
Doesn’t expand or contract like hardwood
Resists stains and scratches better than wood
Won’t fade in the sunlight
Easy to install
Cons of Laminate Flooring
Susceptible to water damage
Planks can develop gaps if temperatures become too low
Can be slippery
Difficult to repair
You'll pay between $1.30 and $6.00 per square foot for the cost of laminate flooring including labor and materials. However, materials alone cost just $0.70 to $2.00 if you opt to install it yourself.
Like hardwood floors, you can extend laminate flooring all the way from the foyer to the bedroom. However, it doesn't do as well in water-prone bathrooms and kitchens.
Where to Put Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is great for living rooms, hallways, and other hangout areas of the home. Since it won’t expand or contract, it can work in the basement too. Water can damage laminate, so it’s not a good choice for rooms with plumbing.
Vinyl can mimic the look of wood and tile at a much lower cost. It also has more “give” than tile and hardwood, which makes it more comfortable to stand on.
Pros of Vinyl Flooring
Many beautiful styles to choose from
Easy to install
Cons of Vinyl Flooring
Not damage-proof (e.g. furniture gouges, deep scratches, etc.)
Doesn’t deliver the same ROI as wood
Can get discolored in the sunlight
Can wear over time
Often isn’t recyclable
You can expect to pay $3 to $7 per square foot to install a vinyl floor. The final cost depends on the size of your space and whether you choose sheet vinyl (which typically costs $3 per square foot) or vinyl tiles (which can cost up to $7 per square foot).
If you’re an experienced DIYer, you can save on labor fees by install a vinyl floor yourself.
Where to Put Vinyl Flooring
Vinyl flooring is perfect for high-traffic areas of your home. Because it’s waterproof, it can also go in your kitchen, bathroom, basement, or laundry room.
Linoleum often gets mixed up with vinyl, but there are slight differences to consider. It’s low-maintenance, but requires sealing to protect against water damage. However, since it’s recyclable, it’s a more eco-friendly option than vinyl.
Pros of Linoleum Flooring
Made of recyclable materials
Excellent heat resistance
Cons of Linoleum Flooring
Fewer styles to choose from
Needs regular sealing to resist moisture
Can get gouged or scratched easily
May get ruined by flooding
Like vinyl, linoleum typically costs $3 to $7 per square foot including installation. Keep in mind that professional installation runs about $36 an hour, so the layout of your room may contribute to the cost.
The mid-century look of linoleum works best in areas like bathrooms, kitchen, mudrooms, and foyers. However, since some linoleum styles mimic stone and hardwood, it can even extend to the living room and dining room. DIY installation can be complex, so we recommend calling a professional.
Where to Put Linoleum Flooring
Linoleum can go wherever there is no chance of flooding. Though it resists water, it could get ruined by a single plumbing-related mishap.
No other floor is as pleasing for the feet as carpeting, but it gets a bad rap for how difficult it is to clean. Muddy pawprints and spilled drinks can spell disaster, but they don’t have to be a death sentence. Investing in the cost of carpet cleaning on a regular basis can keep it looking fresh. There are numerous other ways to keep your carpet looking new as well.
Pros of Carpeting
Many affordable options
Soft and comfy to walk on
Cons of Carpeting
Difficult to clean, especially dust and fur
Luxury styles can get pricey
Including materials and labor, installing carpet costs between $3.50 and $11.00 per square foot. Prices range depending on whether you opt for a low-cost option like polyester or a higher one such as cotton.
Homeowners often opt for wall-to-wall carpeting in bedrooms, especially those for kids and teens. Carpeting installation is also not a recommended DIY job, so be sure to find a local carpet installer to get the job done right.
Where to Put Carpeting
Carpeting is a cozy choice for bedrooms. It also works well in the living room and in a kid’s playroom. Oh, and we’re pretty sure you know not to put it in the kitchen or bathroom. Cringe.
What is the most durable type of flooring?
New flooring costs quite a bit, so longevity is important to think about. Vinyl planks stand up against damage the best, while linoleum lasts the longest. Tile cracks easily, but damaged tiles are replaceable without redoing the whole floor.
What is the safest type of flooring?
Carpeting with a low pile is both soft and slip-resistant. There are also ADA-compliant flooring options for the elderly or disabled.
Which type of flooring is best for the kitchen?
Tile and vinyl flooring work best for the kitchen. Since these are non-porous, they can stand up against spills, splashes, and plumbing leaks.
What type of flooring is best for dogs, cats, and other pets?
Vinyl plank flooring is the overall winner for pets, as it holds up well against scratches and accidents. Non-slip stone or porcelain tile are great options as well. Each of these also provides a less slippery surface for pups that like to run around.
As for the flooring options to avoid, these are hardwood, laminate, and carpeting. Claws can scratch hardwood and tear up carpeting. On top of that, removing dog urine from hardwood floors can be difficult; likewise with carpeting. Laminate holds up much better, but it’s super slippery (especially for dogs).
How do I choose the best type of flooring for my home?
Shopping for the perfect flooring can feel overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t have to be. Outline your main concerns, along with your budget. Check out local showrooms and flooring specialty stores. From there, you can find what interests you and works for your space. Happy (floor) hunting!