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Types of Flooring: The Complete Guide

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Nov 30, 2022
8 min read

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Your floors cover a huge surface in your home which means their colour, texture, and quality play a major part in how each space looks and feels. Depending on the material you choose, flooring can also be a smart investment that adds to the resale value of your property. This guide breaks down the most common types of flooring, plus the main factors you should consider before settling on a material for each room.

vinyl flooring in bedroom

Vinyl flooring

Made from acrylic, PVC, or similar polymers, vinyl flooring is an affordable way to mimic the look of stone or wood. There are three main types: sheet (the least expensive), plank, and tile. Luxury vinyl plank (LVP) and luxury vinyl tile (LVT) are currently popular choices because they look better and are more durable than the cheaper types of vinyl flooring.

Pros: Cost-effective, durable for high-traffic areas, water- and fade-resistant, many design options, easy to clean.

Cons: Some styles look cheap, lower ROI than pricier flooring (i.e. wood).

Best suited for: Kitchens, hallways, bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements.

Average price per square foot: $2 to $5.

carpet in bedroom

Carpet

Carpet is a type of home flooring that’s available in sheets or tiles, as well as a variety of pile sizes and materials. Wool is the standard for a well-made carpet, but there are also synthetic options such as acrylic, nylon, and polyester. Wall-to-wall carpet, also known as broadloom, is most suitable for spaces that are meant to be cozy and comfortable. 

Pros: Soft and warm underfoot, many colour and texture options, helps with soundproofing.

Cons: May stain (though some types are stain-resistant), hard to clean, shows wear, bad for allergies.

Best suited for: Bedrooms, family rooms, dens.

Average price per square foot: $5 to $6.

hardwood floor stairs and hallway

Hardwood flooring

There are two types of wood flooring: solid hardwood flooring (which is an intact piece of milled wood) and engineered wood flooring (which looks like hardwood but is actually a thin layer of wood bonded to plywood). Both types come in popular varieties like maple, oak, walnut, and cherry. Standard planks are three-to-five inches wide, while wide planks are five-to-10 inches wide. If you love the look of wood, but don’t want to spend the money, laminate flooring can mimic the look. It has a plywood base, but the top layer is essentially an image (of wood, stone, or ceramic) covered in a plastic coating.

Pros: Hardwood increases the value of the home, is strong and durable, and can be refinished multiple times. Engineered wood is more water-resistant than real wood, is less likely to warp, and is more affordable.

Cons: Hardwood flooring is expensive, may scratch or dent easily (although some modern floor types have a scratch-resistant coating), and can get damaged by water. Engineered wood may fade easily, may sound hollow underfoot, can only be refinished once, and quality varies.

Best suited for: Living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens (assuming it’s not likely to see major water spillage or leaks). 

Average price per square foot: $6 to $11 for hardwood; $4 to $9 for engineered wood.

bamboo flooring in dining room

Bamboo flooring

Though technically a hardwood, bamboo flooring is generally considered a category all its own. Bamboo is part of the grass family and grows incredibly quickly without watering, pesticides, or herbicides, making it one of the more sustainable types of flooring. Its natural hue is light, but it can be treated to make it darker.

Pros: Environmentally friendly, hard and durable, easy to clean.

Cons: Low-quality bamboo may scuff, absorbs water, contemporary look doesn’t suit all décor, shades are limited.

Best suited for: Living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms.

Average price per square foot: $5 to $8.

checkered tile flooring in kitchen

Tile flooring

The cost of tile flooring varies widely depending on material and pattern, but it’s also often the best choice for areas that see a lot of moisture and wear and tear, like bathrooms and mudrooms. Floor tiles are most commonly made from ceramic or porcelain, with ceramic being the most affordable. 

Pros: Waterproof, durable in most cases, long-lasting.

Cons: Can be extremely expensive, difficult to install, cold and slippery.

Best suited for: Kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, entryways.

Average price per square foot: $3 to $15 and up.

linoleum floor in laundry room

Linoleum flooring

Made from linseed oil and cork, which are renewable and biodegradable, linoleum flooring is an environmentally-friendly home flooring choice. It’s similar to vinyl flooring in look and is also available in sheets, planks, and tiles, but vinyl is now more commonly available than linoleum flooring

Pros: Inexpensive, eco-friendly, water-resistant (but should not be immersed in water).

Cons: Dents under furniture, may darken or yellow if not sealed.

Best suited for: Kitchens, laundry rooms, basements.

Average price per square foot: $3 to $8.

cork flooring in basement tv room

Cork flooring

 Cork flooring is made from tree bark that’s harvested without killing the tree. Since the bark regenerates every eight to 10 years, it’s a sustainable resource. It has a warm, natural look that’s similar to wood and is available in tiles or planks. Cork flooring isn’t as commonly available at major retailers in Canada, but can be found at speciality stores.

Pros: Comfortable underfoot, eco-friendly, fire-resistant, helps with soundproofing.

Cons: Needs to be resealed every three to five years, dents under furniture.

Best suited for: Living rooms, bedrooms, dens, basements.

Average price per square foot: $5 to $6.

concrete flooring in kitchen

Concrete flooring

Concrete flooring has long been a standby for basements, garages, and sheds, but polished, etched, or stained concrete has recently become popular for a wider range of living spaces—especially in modern and industrial homes. However, it’s only a practical choice if your home has an existing concrete slab, as in a home with a slab-on-grade foundation. 

Pros: Relatively inexpensive for a basic floor, durable, easy to maintain.

Cons: Cold and hard, slippery, may be susceptible to water.

Best suited for: Living rooms, dining rooms, hallways, basements.

Average price per square foot: $5 for a basic floor; as high as $40 for polishing, special colours, etc. 

stone marble bathroom

Stone flooring

Stone flooring such as marble, travertine, granite, slate, limestone, and sandstone is a type of tile flooring that’s cut from natural stone. It can be a stunning investment that makes a statement in the home, but it also requires a huge commitment of money, plus time for installation. Softer stones, such as sandstone, don’t work as well around moisture as granite or marble, which are harder stones.

Pros: Luxurious, long-lasting, waterproof.

Cons: Expensive, cold, slippery, difficult to install, needs to be resealed and finished every four to five years.

Best suited for: Living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, bathrooms (in the case of granite and marble).

Average price per square foot: $20 and up.

herringbone wood floor

How much does flooring installation cost?

Aside from the cost of your materials, you’ll also need to budget for installation. While it may be tempting to DIY some types of flooring yourself—it’s important to keep in mind that certain flooring materials, like concrete and stone, require special tools and skills. 

The cost for installation will depend on the material you choose. Hardwood is one of the most expensive flooring types to install, at around $10 per square foot. Laminate runs at about $8 per square foot, while carpet and ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tile tends to range from about $4 to $6 per square foot.

Other factors may increase your cost, like if you choose a complex design, need the subfloor replaced, or live far out of the city. Labour shortages may also play a role.

house hallway with wood floor and mudroom

What are some factors to consider when choosing flooring?

While aesthetics are important when designing a space that you love, home flooring goes through a lot of wear and tear, which means you’ll need to think about much more than just looks. Before you brainstorm home flooring ideas, make sure you have a budget in mind, then think about key factors like pets and children, maintenance, ease of installation, and location in your house.

Budget

Try not to get your heart set on three full storeys of hardwood or wall-to-wall granite until you take a look at your budget to see what you can afford. Some types of flooring—like hardwood, tile, and stone—will provide a return on your investment if and when you decide to sell your home (especially if you’re renovating high value rooms like your kitchen or bathrooms). Others, like carpet and vinyl, are a cost-effective way to update your space. 

Read more: How to budget for a home renovation

Pets and children

If you have pets or kids, you may want to steer clear of hard surfaces like concrete and stone, or other types of flooring that are prone to stains and scratches (carpet and hardwood—although hardwood can be refinished). When it comes to your four-legged family members in particular, it’s best to avoid flooring materials that hang onto allergens like pet fur and dander (carpets again).

Maintenance

How much work do you want to put into your floors after they’re installed? Some floors, like carpets, can be more difficult to keep clean. Others, like tiles and laminates, are easy to wipe down—though you may have to do it often. Natural hardwood will need to be refinished at least once every 10 years, while natural stone needs to be polished every few years. Some types of flooring, like cork, need to be resealed every three to five years.

Installation requirements

Aside from the cost of installation, which varies depending on the material, you’ll also want to think about the amount of time the installation will take. Some materials, like carpet and sheet vinyl, take no more than one day per room. Others, like tiling complex patterns for oddly shaped spaces, may take considerably longer.

Style: which part of the house are you choosing floors for?

Just about all types of flooring have their place—depending on the space. When choosing flooring for bathrooms and basements, opt for a material that can withstand splashes and humidity. For kitchens and dining areas, spills are common, so your floor type should be stain-proof. High-traffic areas like entryways and hallways need to be extra durable.

Taking time to make the right home flooring choice

Just like a fresh coat of paint, new home flooring can completely change the tone of a room. Unlike paint, it’s often expensive and difficult to change if you don’t like it. Updating your floor is almost always worth it to rejuvenate your environment and even add value to your home. However, it’s still a big decision, so make sure you’ve walked through all types of flooring and considered your budget and lifestyle before you make any commitments.

Smart Reno helps you find trusted flooring contractors

With so much to think about when it comes to installing new home flooring, it’s important to find a contractor you can trust. Get up to three free quotes from trusted local flooring professionals, learn more about flooring renovations, and talk to an expert about renovation financing.

 

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