New Flooring: Picking the Perfect One for You

Whether you’re prepping your home for sale or just looking to spruce things up, swapping out the flooring in your home (or even in one or two rooms) can really change the look of the whole house. However, before you jump in the car and head over to your nearest home improvement center, it’s important to get an idea of your options so you’re not completely overwhelmed. There are a ton of choices out there, so let’s break things down. We’ll start with a look at the pros, cons and ballpark costs of the most popular types of flooring.

Solid Wood

Pros: Solid wood flooring adds a warmth and stylish touch to a room. It handles wear well and is fairly easy to clean (oftentimes it just requires vacuuming). Unlike engineered flooring, it can be sanded and refinished multiple times, which helps you maximize its value.

Cons: It looks great, but you’re also paying for it. It’s one of the more expensive flooring options, which can be a downside if cost is a major factor in your decision. It can also be very loud to walk on. Make sure to keep hardwood away from humid areas and standing water, which can ruin it.

Installed Cost*: $5-$10 per square foot

*Cost approximations courtesy of Consumer Reports

Other considerations:

  • According to Consumer Reports, “pre-finished floors can hold up better than those finished on site and their warranty comes from the factory, not the installer.”
  • A recent study of homebuyer preferences by USA Today and the National Association of Realtors showed that 54% of buyers were willing to pay more for hardwood floors.

Best rooms: Living room

Engineered Wood

Pros: Engineered wood can give you the similar warmth and “wow-factor” as solid wood, but because of the way it is made, it won’t cost you as much. Engineered wood uses a thin veneer of real wood over plywood.

Cons: Since it is a cheaper option, it also doesn’t wear as well as solid wood and can dent easily. While solid wood can be refinished several times, engineered wood can only be refinished once at the most. And some maybe not at all, depending on how thin the veneer is on top.

Installed Cost*: $4-$9 per square foot

Laminate

Pros: Laminate flooring is easier to install than hardwood and less expensive. It’s constructed of several different wood-based materials that are laminated together with a photographic imprint on the face of the board. That imprint can mimic many different materials: wood, tile, etc. The best-quality laminates don’t scratch easily (great for homes with pets) and don’t discolor as much as wood can in the sunlight. They’re also easy to clean.

Cons: Standing water will ruin laminate flooring. And once it’s ruined, it cannot be refinished like wood can. It will need to be replaced. While the boards can look very similar to other materials, the repetitive nature of the photographic imprint on top can give it away that it’s not the “real thing.”

Installed Cost*: $3-$7 per square foot. Laminate is fairly easy to install, so you can save money by going the DIY route.

Best rooms: Foyer or high-traffic areas. Try to avoid installing it in kitchens, bathrooms, or laundry rooms where standing water could be a problem.

Vinyl

Pros: Vinyl flooring is a great option for value-conscious consumers. And unlike wood and laminate, vinyl is a good choice for rooms that are prone to moisture. It’s easy to clean and feels softer to walk on than tile. The thicker vinyl you choose, the better it will hold up in higher traffic zones.

Cons: Like laminate, vinyl can look like a lot of other materials, but not as good as the real thing when inspected up close. Thinner and lower-end vinyl planks can dent and tear easily.

Installed Cost*: $2-$6 per square foot

Best rooms: Bathrooms, kitchens, basements and laundry rooms.

Linoleum

Pros: If you’re concerned about green (the environment that is), linoleum is an eco-friendly choice. It’s made from all natural materials: primarily linseed oil, rosins and wood flour. Natural linoleum floors are a popular choice in many hospitals because some of the properties in natural linoleum actually stop microorganisms from multiplying. It’s easy to clean and is available in a variety of colors.

Cons: While some types of linoleum hold up against water, scratches and dings, some do not. Quality varies greatly from product to product. In terms of expense, it’s more mid-range. It’s more expensive than vinyl or laminate, but usually less than wood or tile.

Installed cost: $4-$8 per square foot

Tile

Pros: Tile tends to be wear, moisture, scratch, dent and stain resistant. And there are lots of material options to choose from: marble, porcelain, travertine, slate and granite.

Cons: Tiles can crack and the grout can stain and be difficult to scrub clean. Like hardwood, tile echoes and can be loud to walk on. It’s also cold to the touch. While you can get heating systems for your tile, those can be costly.

Installed cost*: $8-15 per square foot. $5-$8 for floating tiles that don’t require the usual cement and grout.

Best rooms: Bathrooms and kitchens. Could also work well in a dining room where food and drinks may spill.

Carpet

Pros: Carpet helps add a warm touch to a room. It’s soft to walk on and is a pretty cost-effective way to freshen up a room, especially if you are getting ready to put your house on the market.

Cons: Carpet may add a comfy, cozy feel to some rooms, but it’s no secret that it holds in the dirt, even when vacuumed frequently. Even carpets labeled as “stain-resistant” still get stained. In addition to vacuuming, carpet should be regularly steam-cleaned to keep it fresh.

Installed cost**: $2-$5 per square foot (includes cost of carpet, padding and labor) for low-middle grade carpet. Keep in mind that custom cuts (anything other than a square or rectangular room) will likely cost extra.

**Cost approximation courtesy of HomeAdvisor

Best rooms: Bedrooms

Keep in mind…

If you are making flooring choices because you are getting ready to sell your home, try to think about your house as a whole rather than just room by room. You want a sense of cohesiveness throughout.

When standing anywhere, you shouldn’t see more than two types of flooring. If you are able to, try to have the flooring in your living areas be the same and then the bedrooms and bathrooms can be different.

Replacing old carpet with new will make a big difference in the eyes of potential buyers. People would definitely rather have fresh new carpets if given the choice (especially if the previous owners had pets). However, try not to get too crazy with installing it everywhere. Most buyers prefer to only have carpet in the bedrooms. And make sure to steer away from installing it in the bathrooms; it’s usually a turn-off for buyers.

 

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