Getting grounded: Your guide to choosing the right flooring for your home

Woman relaxing on couch in a room with white wood walls and hardwood floors

Buying the floors you want on any budget

By Scott Dylan Westerlund

Key takeaways

  • Homeowners have never had more choices for getting high-end floors without spending a lot.
  • Classic options like hardwood and natural stone will never go out of style. They still lead the way for home value and return on investment.
  • Budget options like laminate, ceramic tile, engineered wood, and vinyl have never looked better! Many of the low-cost styles available today perfectly recreate the looks of pricier options. However, homeowners do need to stay sharp on quality checks.
  • Factors like moisture control, maintenance, and replacement costs need to be looked at when considering different types of flooring.

Have you ever noticed how stepping into a home with flooring that is all wrong makes you cringe? 

Flooring grounds your home! While home accents can come and go, your flooring is the staple that defines the appearance and performance of your home. The right floor material can make your home look bigger and brighter while also making your life easier! Of course, not all flooring options perform the same way. That’s why you’ve noticed dozens of options on display at your local home-improvement store.

Wondering how to decide on flooring that’s durable, easy to clean, and effortlessly stylish? It’s a full-picture decision that takes into account your budget, home style, personal style, local climate, and project timeline. 

The first step is simply discovering all the best home flooring options that exist today. Welcome to your comprehensive guide to flooring!

The best flooring options for your home

Here they are! These are the flooring options to consider if you’re ready to transform your home from the bottom up! Once you see what’s out there, knowing how to choose flooring for your home will be a breeze.

Real hardwood 

Photo by Selina P

Let’s start with the classic floor choice. Universally classy, real hardwood flooring is a longtime favorite of homeowners. Versatility is the main draw of wood flooring. This option is available in as many finishes, sizes, and styles as there are fish in the sea! You can even play around a lot with price.

Real wood flooring pros

  • Very hygienic and easy to clean
  • Most wood can be refinished up to three times! That means your floors can truly last a lifetime!
  • Adds warmth to a space
  • Great return on investment
  • Very durable
  • Won’t conceal mites, bugs, debris, or dust
  • Natural and organic, wood is a top option if you’re worried about toxic materials in your home

Real wood flooring cons

  • The noise factor! Wood flooring can create noisy acoustics in a loud home.
  • Prone to water damage. You need to be very careful to avoid soaking wood floors when cleaning them.
  • Wear and tear will show up easily! Wood scratches easily, so it’s not always ideal for high-traffic areas. Factors like toys and pet claws can mark up wood floors quickly.
  • Crowning and cupping can occur in high-moisture areas
  • Wood floors tend to be pricier than other options. Raw materials for wood flooring cost between $3 and $7 per square foot. That jumps up to between $5 and $12 when installation is included.

Natural stone

Prestigious and attractive, natural stone shouts out the fact that you’ve invested in high-end materials for your home to all who enter. There’s no better way to create a custom look than natural stone flooring. Natural stone floors are available in slate, travertine, sandstone, limestone, quartzite, and marble. After choosing your stone type, you can then customize your look even more by selecting stones that are polished/glossy, honed/smooth, or tumbled/coarse.

Natural stone flooring pros

  • Unquestionably beautiful! This is how you create a home that feels like a high-end custom creation.
  • Great for warmer climates because stones keep cool
  • Easy to clean
  • Performs beautifully in high-moisture environments
  • Durable
  • Not slippery like options such as ceramic tile. Natural stone provides a nice grip for kids and pets if you’re worried about sliding.
  • Decent insulation for maintaining a consistent indoor temperature throughout all seasons
  • Perfect for high-traffic areas. No need to stress when kids trudge through the home with dirty sneakers.
  • One of the rare eco-friendly flooring options

Natural stone cons

  • Stone is typically a very high-cost option. Of course, price varies based on the stone you choose. You could pay anywhere from $1.75 to $20 per square foot. Installation costs often equal the cost of the stone when you’re hiring a professional due to the very precise skill that’s needed for neat installation.
  • Some varieties of natural stone are brittle.
  • It can be difficult to replace individual pieces of stone if your design has been discontinued.
  • Natural stone can be hard on your feet in areas where you stand for long periods of time.

Vinyl flooring

Photo by Martina Mascali Johnson

A budget option that offers tons of convenience, vinyl is a good choice if you’re looking for floors you can truly live on without worries. It’s a top pick for people looking for resilient flooring that is easy to clean, maintain, and disinfect. While it should definitely be considered by anyone seeking a comfortable, affordable option, it doesn’t necessarily add long-term value like wood or tile. 

Vinyl floor pros

  • So easy to clean! You can mop vinyl daily without worries.
  • A durable option that’s perfect for busy, high-traffic households with tons of wear and tear
  • Inexpensive! Vinyl floors can cost as little as $1 a square foot.
  • Easy to install
  • Vinyl floors come in a variety of beautiful finishes that perfectly recreate popular wood and tile looks. Nobody has to know your home doesn’t have high-end floors unless they really investigate.
  • In addition to different finishes, you’ll find different form factors: vinyl tiles, vinyl planks, and vinyl sheet flooring are all popular. 
  • Comfort! Vinyl flooring has a nice amount of firmness to create soft support under your feet.

Vinyl floor cons

  • Floors can be tough to remove because glue is used to secure them.
  • While vinyl is durable, going for thinner, cheaper products can make your floor less durable. You really have to do your homework to investigate quality.
  • Vinyl is a fully synthetic product. Do your research on the materials used in specific vinyl floors to make sure you feel comfortable with any chemicals used.

Ceramic tile

Photo by Vadim Brown

A cousin of natural stone, ceramic comes with its own list of perks and downsides. Ceramic is a synthetic tile that is made using water, sand, and clay. Grout is applied between tiles.

Ceramic tile pros

  • Very hygienic! Smooth ceramic tiles don’t hold dirt, debris, dust or pollen. They wipe clean easily.
  • A ceramic tile floors is great for high-traffic areas like kitchens, foyers, bathrooms and mudrooms.
  • Great for warm climates because they are very breathable
  • Easy to clean because they protrude from the floor’s surface
  • Can usually be kept clean with regular vacuuming
  • Handles moisture beautifully
  • Generally very resistant to cracking
  • The “grouted” nature of a ceramic floor makes replacing a single tile easy

Ceramic tile cons

  • The hard nature of ceramic flooring can hurt your feet, legs and back if you’re standing on it for long periods of time.
  • This flooring is cold against bare feet!
  • Ceramic tiles are heavy, which make them less than ideal for some older homes.
  • Quality ceramic tiles tend to be pricier than some of the budget flooring options you might be considering. While prices for ceramic tile range from $1 to $35 per square foot, most mainstream residential tiles price in at between $4 and $8 per square foot.

Laminate floors

A durable flooring option for imitating wood flooring that stands up to wear and tear, laminate is smooth and beautiful. In fact, this option comes in planks that are very similar to wood planks. You can simply snap them together to create a picture-perfect floor.

Laminate flooring pros:

  • A very tight, stable fit that won’t separate in high humidity
  • Very lightweight! In fact, you can usually install laminate over your existing floor as long as it’s not carpeted.
  • Soft under your feet. Laminate floors use a thin foam cushion underlay for extra support.
  • The top layer of laminate flooring is tough and durable.
  • Very easy to clean. Cleaning up daily with a soft-bristled broom, mop or vacuum should be enough to keep a floor pristine.

Laminate flooring cons

  • Unlike wood floors, laminate floors cannot be refinished. You’ll need to replace these floors once they wear out.
  • Laminate floors are notorious for making a “squeaking” sound when walked on that gives away the fact that they aren’t real wood.
  • Made from plastic, laminate is not necessarily an eco-friendly choice.
  • Laminate materials are synthetic. Be sure to read labels to spot formaldehyde and other chemicals. The good news is that strict EPA regulations mostly do the work for you on this one.
  • While laminate isn’t wood, it’s still not a moisture-resistant superstar like tile. It doesn’t work well in bathrooms, laundry rooms, or basements where moisture threats lurk.
  • Coming in between $1 and $6 per square foot, choosing high-end laminate puts you at a similar price point as real wood.

Engineered wood

Despite the popular misconception, engineered hardwood isn’t the same as laminate. It’s also not quite a “true” wood floor. It’s actually a plywood core that’s topped with a real hardwood veneer.

Engineered wood pros

  • Installation is easier than solid hardwood. Most engineered wood floors are installed using a click-together system.
  • Can be installed over existing floors
  • No nails or glue needed
  • The most DIY-friendly option out there
  • Cheaper than solid hardwood flooring. Expect to pay around $2.40 per square foot.

Engineered wood cons

  • While it’s durable, this flooring can scratch and dent pretty easily in homes with kids and pets.
  • Prone to warping and damage when exposed to moisture. However, it does handle moisture better than real hardwood.
  • Some low-quality engineered wood has been found to contain formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Read labels to compare your product against EPA guidelines.
  • Requires as much maintenance and care as real wood floors

Wrapping up your flooring choices

Finding the best flooring for your house is truly an adventure because you’re working with the biggest blank slate in your entire home. The good news is that selecting flooring for your home doesn’t have to feel restrictive just because you’re on a budget. Every option featured in the list above can work for every budget if you’re willing to shop around to find affordable looks.

FAQs about choosing flooring

What is the best option for flooring?

If you’re looking to add value for a good return on investment on your home, hardwood flooring is universally the best option. This is a stunning option that boosts resale value. It’s your best bet if you want to spark a bidding war when it’s time to sell one day. If you’re simply looking for an easy option that allows you to really live in your home without worrying about fragile, high-maintenance floors, an option like vinyl works.

What is the best flooring for a living room?

If you’re crafting a classic living room, hardwood flooring is a comfortable, warm option that is very easy to keep clean with some routine vacuuming.

Should floors be the same throughout the house?

This is a personal judgment call when planning a home remodel. Generally, it’s acceptable to use options like natural stone and ceramic tile in high-moisture areas like laundry rooms and bathrooms. Hardwood flooring is considered the premier choice for all of the main living areas of a home. Kitchen flooring is a real wildcard. This is where you can choose to stay uniform with the rest of the home by choosing wood, use ceramic tiles, or go totally custom using mosaics with natural stone flooring.

How do I choose a floor color?

Start by looking at the size of the room that’s getting new flooring. For large, sprawling rooms, darker colors can make things look cozier without narrowing the space at all. For smaller rooms, go with pale, light colors that open up the space. You should also consider your wall colors. Most designers agree that a room’s floor should be darker than its walls.

What is the most waterproof flooring?

Tile! Both natural stone and ceramic tiles are best for wet rooms. They’re also top picks if you’re looking for the simplest way to keep your home cool in a hot climate.

About the author: As the son of a construction contractor and a former property manager, Scott knows how to keep the lights on and the water running. In addition to Flyhomes, he has written for Angi, HomeLight and HomeAdvisor. His hobbies include fixing things around the house, baking things up in the kitchen, and spending quality time with his wife and daughter just about everywhere.

Cover photo by Jaqueline Krehnke