What Type of Flooring Is Best for My Home?

Alison Kasch
Written by Alison Kasch
Updated August 13, 2021
An open plan kitchen and living room
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Weighing the pros and cons of each flooring type can help determine what's best for your home

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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.

Hardwood Flooring

Two workers restore parquet flooring
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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

  • Excellent ROI

  • 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

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

Detail of a professional installing engineered hardwood flooring
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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

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

Detail of a professional installing tiles on the floor
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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

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. 

Laminate Flooring

Detail of a professional installing laminate flooring
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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

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 Flooring

Detail of a professional installing vinyl flooring
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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

  • Affordable

  • Versatile

  • Waterproof

  • Long-lasting

  • Resists scratching

  • Many beautiful styles to choose from

  • Low-maintenance

  • 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

Where to Put Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring is perfect for high-traffic areas of your home. Since it’s waterproof, it can also go in your kitchen, bathroom, basement, or laundry room.

Linoleum Flooring

Detail of a linoleum flooring
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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

  • Affordable

  • Resists fading

  • Made of recyclable materials

  • Excellent heat resistance

  • Long-lasting

Cons of Linoleum Flooring

  • Fewer styles to choose from

  • Not waterproof

  • Needs regular sealing to resist moisture

  • Can get gouged or scratched easily

  • May get ruined by flooding

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. 

Carpeting

Detail of a professional installing carpeting flooring
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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

  • Retains warmth

  • Soft and comfy to walk on

Cons of Carpeting

  • Difficult to clean, especially dust and fur

  • Absorbs odors

  • Not allergy-friendly

  • Luxury styles can get pricey

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).

Choosing the Best Flooring for Your 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!

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