Don’t be afraid to break the rules when it comes to flooring. The best floor is not limited to wood planks, which are ideal for areas where you desire a warm feel underfoot.

The new technology and design developments have changed the types of flooring you might have avoided before. This opens the door to more creativity and choices.

For example, engineered wood is a less expensive option than solid-wood planks and can make a wonderful choice for bedrooms and living rooms. Vinyl flooring incorporates realistic images that look like reclaimed wood, making it stylish enough to be used in a den. In a luxurious powder room, new porcelain tiles can easily be mistaken for Calcutta Marble, while others with the texture and appearance of wood planks work beautifully in designer bathrooms.

The faux flooring products of today are also more realistic than the old ones, as they do not repeat patterns and include texture.

Our analysis of key areas in the typical home led us to choose the best two flooring options for each. If you follow our advice, your floors will look great for years to come and can withstand attacks from sunlight, moisture, and bleach.

Members of CR can browse our complete flooring ratings to find dozens more options. Consult our buying guide for smart shopping tips.

The Best Flooring For Kitchens, Mudrooms.

The Challenge

High-traffic areas like kitchens and mudrooms require the hardest-working floors in your home. After all, shoes covered in grit grind into the dirt, raincoats drip, and chairs are dragged around. Heavy cans fall from the kitchen counter to the floor.

Wood is a popular choice for aesthetics, but it will not withstand abuse. In general, our tests have shown that wood floors are more likely to dent than other materials. And foot traffic, with few exceptions, is hard on the finish.

Porcelain Tile

Larry Ciufo is the CR engineer who rates flooring. He says that porcelain tiles are a natural choice for areas with high traffic. They resist scratches and dents very well.

Porcelain tiles come in many styles that can be used to match any decor. For example, you can choose small-format hex tile for a house from the early 20th century or faux reclaimed ash planks of 4 feet that look like wood when stacked tightly with matching grout. The tile is low maintenance and requires only vacuuming and mopping.

Ciufo warns that porcelain tiles are vulnerable to heavy objects falling on them. It’s the perfect choice for kitchens or mudrooms. But, it can crack if something heavy is dropped on top of it, such as a can of vegetables.

Runner-Up: Vinyl Flooring

In the 1950s, sheet vinyl flooring became very popular among homeowners (often with layers upon layers of vinyl added as tastes changed). Vinyl flooring is a cost-effective way to cover large areas. The vinyl flooring that we tested averages around $3.42 a square foot. This is cheaper than porcelain tiles and only second to laminates in terms of affordability. Vinyl planks are easy to install.

Slaughter beck floors, based in Campbell, Calif., says that customers mistakenly think the luxury vinyl flooring in her showroom is real wood. She has also installed luxury vinyl flooring in entire homes throughout Palo Alto, as well as other Bay Area communities.

Vinyl products today are more durable, but they can also scratch easier. Keep felt bumpers under the feet of your kitchen stools as a way to protect the vinyl flooring. Also, buy extra planks to make sure you will have the perfect match in the future. You can replace any damaged planks.

Bathrooms and Laundry Rooms: Best Flooring Options

The Challenge

The floors in these rooms are not subjected to the same stress as other areas, such as heavy foot traffic and constant sunlight. These rooms are more at risk from liquids. Showers drip, toilets overflow, and bathers splash. The toilets overflow, showers leak, and bathers splash.

Porcelain Tile Flooring Is A Top Choice.

Even those who insist on real wood for their bathroom and laundry room should seriously consider porcelain tiles. John Cole, a Fryeburg architect, states that tile holds up in damp places. Porcelain allows for barrier-free, design-forward showers where the floor of the bathroom extends directly into the shower. Choose a product with a textured surface rather than a polished one to avoid slippery floors when wet.

Runner-Up: Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl is a cheaper (though less durable) alternative to porcelain tiles. It costs 26 cents less per square foot than tile based on our tests.

All vinyl planks and tiles we tested are resistant to flooding and water spillages. Luxury vinyl tiles that imitate wood and luxury vinyl planks that mimic stone will give you the most realistic appearance. You can lay them in any pattern you like, just as if they were real.

The Best Flooring for Living Rooms, Dining Rooms, and Family Areas

The Challenge

Although it is true that furniture and pet nails can damage wood floors, as can stilettos, toys on wheels, and even pets, other materials can make these common areas feel less than upscale. Slaughter beck says that wood floors are mentioned in real estate advertisements for a good reason. Hardwood floors add value to your house.

Solid Wood Flooring

This includes prefinished hardwood flooring (four of the nine products that we tested scored average or higher) and unfinished wood floors, which are sanded down on-site. (CR does not test unfinished flooring because we focus on the finish.

Prefinished planks are a great option for many reasons. Prefinished planks are easier to install because you won’t be dealing with dust or fumes during the installation. Depending on how they’re installed, it may even be possible to walk right on them. Prefinished flooring is also less expensive. The factory-applied finish is much more durable than what you would apply by your contractor after the floor has been installed.

Runner Up: Engineered Wood Flooring

engineered hardwood flooring is similar to solid wood in appearance, but it has a thin layer of wood veneer, such as maple or oak, that’s attached to a substrate like plywood. Engineered wood has several advantages over solid hardwood. Our tests found that the average cost of prefinished solid hardwood was $5.47/square foot. The wood varieties we tested averaged $4.52/square foot. With an engineered product, you can afford exotic woods such as Brazilian walnut and tigerwood. These species are more resistant to scratches and dents than maple or oak.

Engineered hardwood floors are less prone to seasonal shrinking or swelling, as the support structure beneath is more stable. Some engineered wood floors can be installed directly over concrete, something that is not always possible with solid hardwood. Engineered flooring can be installed over existing floors, allowing for huge savings. This choice is not as durable as solid wood. Wood floors may need to be refinished every decade or so in certain households. Some engineered wood products can only be refinished once, depending on the thickness and wear layer of the surface. Solid wood can be refinished up to five times.

The Best Flooring for Sunrooms and Enclosed Porches

The Challenge

The floor may be subjected to rain and intense sunlight, depending on the location of your porch. You may also have to deal with a concrete floor (which is difficult to nail to because it’s not possible to nail directly to the subfloor), storage of recreational equipment, or even freeze-thaw cycles in a room that has three seasons.

Porcelain Tile Flooring Is A Top Choice.

These rooms will be able to withstand most abuse with this durable material. Porcelain tiles are available in faux wood, stone, and handmade ceramic tile designs. These tiles make a great choice for casual lounge areas. Choose a tile that is rated for outdoor usage in your climate if your porch is not fully heated or protected from the weather.

Runner Up: Engineered Wood And Vinyl Flooring

If you’d rather pass on cold-to-the-touch tile–and your porch is weatherproofed and heated–engineered wood offers a warm, this-room-is-not-an-afterthought look. It is possible to install engineered wood flooring over concrete. For a porch exposed to the weather, it’s better to use exterior decking products such as tropical hardwood, cedar, or pressure-treated Pine.

Ciufo advises that you should always check the installation instructions of a manufacturer before purchasing engineered wood to cover such an area. He says that the manufacturer may recommend adding a vapor-proof barrier or an underlayment to a concrete surface.

Ciufo says that vinyl, particularly plank styles that mimic wood, is an attractive option. Vinyl has performed well in our tests with regard to moisture and ultraviolet rays, such as those found in sunlight.

Basement Flooring Options

The Challenge

No matter if you are refinishing the subterranean area as a recreation room, playroom, in-law suite, or man cave, the biggest threat is not from above but from below. Concrete floors, especially those below grade level, may be constantly damp. Mackmiller warns that if the area is flooded, porous materials can absorb water, expand and buckle.

The first thing to do is choose a floor that can be installed over concrete below grade. Mackmiller advises that you should carefully read the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Installing a floating floor in a basement is essential. This means that the surface should be attached only to itself and not the subfloor beneath. The entire surface will be able to move as the moisture levels and temperatures change without any pieces of flooring coming loose or buckling.

Top Choice For Vinyl Flooring

All vinyl products we tested are waterproof. Ciufo says that vinyl is the best option for basements where moisture can persist, from dampness seeping through the subfloor or pooling due to storms and plumbing problems.

Vinyl and porcelain tiles, which do not contain wood fibers, are resistant to these conditions. Porcelain tile can be uncomfortable to walk on, especially in basements. The chilly floor beneath makes it difficult to heat with electric floor heating systems. Vinyl is the best choice for basements. Vinyl is available in a variety of styles, both formal and informal.

Runner-Up: Laminate Flooring

Laminated is a dense fiberboard with a sealed image under clear plastic. It is also incredibly affordable. It’s also the least expensive of the floorings we tested, with an average price per square foot that is 60 cents lower than vinyl. Armstrong Vivero’s Homespun Harmony Flooring is our top-rated vinyl flooring. It costs $4 per square foot. You can also install it yourself. It can be used in basements with no persistent or leaky moisture or walls. Choose a product that has wide planks to simulate individual floorboards for the best look. The hollow sound that the flooring can produce will be reduced by placing it over a sound-dampening underlayment.    For more info –

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