So, you need to spruce up your flooring, but your budget is tight. What can you do?
Thanks to new manufacturing techniques that can make attractive flooring at an affordable price, you have a surprising number of options today.
Smart features that allow for easy installation also mean you can save a few dollars by installing it yourself, DIY.
We have pulled together a list of the six best affordable flooring options that are available today.
While none of these will add value to your home, they look good, protect your substrate, and let you enjoy your home without breaking the bank.
We also have a few tips on refreshing your existing floors without the need to lay new floorings and tips on how to save on installation and find the best deals.
- Sheet Vinyl
- Luxury Vinyl Plank
- Builders’ Grade Hardwood
- Ceramic Tile
- Cork Flooring
- Refreshing Existing Floors
- Installation Tips
- Which Rooms
- Where To Buy
1. Sheet Vinyl Flooring
- Many options that resemble both stone and wood
- Extremely durable and water-resistant
- Very easy to keep clean and maintain
- Excellent choice to install over uneven or cracked subfloors
- Sheet vinyl tends to discolor
- Difficult to repair
- Definitely not one of your greener options
For an extremely low-budget flooring, you can’t beat vinyl sheet flooring. Not only is it inexpensive, it is also super easy to maintain.
It is extremely durable and water-resistant. If taken care of, these floors can easily last 15-20 years.
Sheet vinyl can be installed over all sorts of subfloors, even those that are uneven or have cracks. Just make sure the subfloor is clean and smooth before installation. Otherwise, you will see bumps on your floor from debris left underneath the sheet vinyl.
One downside to sheet vinyl is that it can stain or turn yellow. Rubber from floor mats or the bottom of your shoes can create a chemical reaction that may permanently stain the floor.
Overexposure to the sun may also cause your floors to fade or yellow. You can find sheet vinyl that is resistant to discoloration, but you may have to spend a few extra bucks to do so.
It is also not a very green option. Sheet vinyl is made of PVC and may omit volatile organic chemicals. Check with your manufacturer for their statement on VOCs.
Finally, sheet vinyl is not biodegradable. So, when you decide to upgrade your flooring, your old sheet vinyl may end up in a landfill somewhere.
2. Luxury Vinyl Planks And Tiles
- Gives your floors a wood or natural stone “look” without the hefty price tag
- LVT and LVP can easily be installed over any type of subfloor
- Feels soft to touch and walk on
- Holds up well against moisture and humidity
- Isn’t an eco-friendly choice
- Can discolor from too much sunlight
- Sharp objects can scratch or gouge it
Luxury vinyl planks (LVP) and luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) are really popular these days. And they are certainly one of the more affordable options.
The cheapest vinyl planks and tiles that still fit into the luxury category are often priced for less than $1 per square foot. Most of the options this cheap have a wear layer of 2 mm or less in thickness.
If you are willing to spend up to $2 per square foot for thicker vinyl plank, you can find more options with a wear layer 3 mm or 4 mm thick.
LVP and LVT can give your home the look of wood or natural stone flooring for a fraction of the cost. And, unlike laminate, it feels good to walk on.
The downside is that most luxury vinyl has issues when it comes to the environment.
It’s not biodegradable and it can emit VOCs. So, if you have health concerns, LVP and LVT may not be your top inexpensive flooring choices.
3. Laminate Flooring
- Variety of options to choose from that resemble hardwood, cement, and stone flooring
- Planks snap together and are easy to install
- Do not fade from sun exposure
- Low maintenance and easy to clean
- Mold and mildew resistant
- Wear out faster than other flooring, especially the more affordable varieties
- Sounds hollow and “fake” when you walk on it
- Some laminates are made of formaldehyde and can release VOCs
Yes, most laminate flooring falls into the moderate category of pricing. However, there are some very inexpensive options out there.
You can often find thin laminate for less than $1 per square foot if you are willing to make a few compromises.
Generally, the thinner the product, the cheaper it is. If you’re looking for a good/low price, look for laminate flooring that is less than 8 mm thick.
To save even more money, consider installing laminate yourself.
One of the best things about laminate is that it is very low maintenance. It cleans up well, resists mold and mildew, and it won’t fade from sun exposure.
However, if you use a cheap laminate in a high traffic area, it will wear out faster than other materials.
Note: even though it looks like hardwood, laminate often sounds & feels hollow to walk on. Some also complain that when you touch it, laminate floors feel “fake.”
However, if you are in the market for low-cost flooring, you do have to make some compromises.
4. Builder-Grade Hardwood Flooring
- 100% solid wood flooring
- Look and feel warm and natural
- Increases your home’s resale value more than any other flooring product
- Low maintenance and easy to clean
- Looks good with most styles & décor
- Some builder-grade boards may have splinters
- Expect to find up to 20% of the boards in your bundle unusable
- Knots, holes, and other imperfections in the boards are common
- This grade of solid hardwood does not come with a warranty
If you are really set on installing a hardwood floor but need a super cheap product, go with builder-grade hardwood. Depending on where you buy it, it is also called utility-grade or rustic hardwood.
This type of wood flooring is not finished, so be sure to factor in the price of finishing your hardwood into your overall budget.
Builder-grade hardwood is sold by the bundle (not the box) and is very rugged. You will probably not be able to use every piece that comes in your bundle.
Some will be broken or split, and some will have knot holes that you could stick your finger through to the other side. However, it is 100% solid wood, and it is likely the cheapest you’ll find if your heart’s set on hardwood floors.
You can find this type of hardwood for less than $2 per square foot. Sometimes, you can even find builder-grade under $1 per square foot, but you’re really rolling the dice on quality.
You can also look around for reclaimed wood, which can be as cheap as $1.00 per square foot but can also cost $10.00 per square foot. It is about shopping around. But you can also feel good about your environmentally-friendly investment.
There is no warranty with builder-grade wood. However, if you don’t mind a few compromises, this is likely your best-bet for installing solid wood floors extremely cheaply.
5. Ceramic Tile
- Highly resistant to water and humidity
- Extremely durable
- Easy to maintain and keep clean
- Tons of designs to choose from
- Can feel hard and cold to the touch
- Difficult to install
- Unglazed tile requires sealing
When it comes to ceramic tile, you can spend a small fortune, or you can spend next to nothing.
Ceramic tiles can be found for as cheap as $0.50 per square foot. Even the tightest of budgets can afford them. However, similar to builder-grade wood (and any other type of flooring, for that matter), the cheaper you go, the more likely you are to run into quality issues with your new floors.
Once installed, ceramic is easy to maintain and keep clean. Ceramic tiles are good for anyone suffering from allergies because dust and other particles do not penetrate the tile’s surface.
Even at the lower price points, you have many choices in color and style. Tip: go with a glazed option to avoid the extra cost of sealing and protecting your tiles.
Ceramic tile is inexpensive and durable, but it is also hard and cold. If you are considering tile in a room you plan to stand in often, keep this in mind.
While you may save on the square footage price, you will have to spend a little extra for installation. Ceramic tiles can be a difficult DIY project.
6. Cork Flooring
- Easy to maintain
- Environmentally sustainable
- Noise dampening
- Soft and warm under foot
- Possibility to refinish
- Difficult to install
- Can quickly look dated
- Not appropriate for moist areas
You can get your hands on cork flooring for $2.00-$7.00 per square foot, so the cheaper options are very affordable.
Cork floors are a great option because they are durable and easy to maintain, they can even be resurfaced and restored a few times.
Corl feels soft underfoot and retains heat, and they are also hypoallergenic. Cork can be noise dampening, so it can be ideal for upstairs places where someone is padding around with heavy feet.
Add to this that they are one of the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly flooring options on the market, and what’s not to like?
Well, they can’t be installed in moist or humid areas as they are sensitive to temperature and moisture levels and will warp. They will also stain if they are allowed to absorb liquids.
Fading in sunlight is an issue for cork, and they can also be scratched by sharps. This can make your floors look old, and they may also be aged by the fact that they are “trendy” rather than classic.
Cork is also tricky to install, so there can be extra costs associated with professional installation.
Refreshing Existing Floors
When your floors are starting to look a bit old and weather, laying new floors is not your only option; you can also refresh your existing floors and give them a new lease of life.
Are you dealing with a concrete slab, maybe in a garage or playroom? Make your original concrete slab look stylish by painting it, either with a sealer that gives it a natural shine or a run color with concrete floor paint.
You can read our guide to the best concrete floor coatings and coverings here.
Wood floors can also be refinished that is part of their attraction. You can expect to pay between $1.50 and $4.00 per square foot for a professional to sand down and apply several coats of new finish to your hardwood floors. So, if you are lucky enough to have hardwood, make the most of it.
If you don’t currently have the budget to refinish, a layer of varnish or even a lick of paint over the floors can give them a new look. Whitewashing is always a good look. This won’t prevent you from refinishing the floors further down the line when you have more budget available.
You can read more about the cost of refinishing solid wood floors here.
Tile flooring lasts 100 years, so if you have tiles that are starting to look old, take it a closer look. Is it the tiles that aren’t looking good or the grout? Grout is much more porous and less durable than tile, so it is usually the first thing to start to go.
You do have the options to deep clean your grout, which may be enough, and also install new grout on top, which can make the entire installation look new.
You can read our guide on cleaning tile flooring here.
Cheap flooring can save you tons of money. If done right, this investment can give your home a high-end look at a fraction of the typical high-end flooring shopper’s cost.
The key phrase here is “if done right.” Cheap flooring can look like its more expensive counterparts if it is installed correctly.
Otherwise, it just looks plain cheap.
If you are doing the job yourself, be sure to factor in the cost of the proper tools and other materials, such as underlayment and trim, to your overall budget. Put simply, do not skimp on installation.
Or hire a professional to install your floors for you, especially for the more-challenging-to-install flooring types.
Of these cheap flooring options, the ones most suitable for a DIY project are luxury vinyl planks, luxury vinyl tile, and laminate flooring. They snap and lock together and can be placed on top of any type of subfloor.
Hardwood flooring and ceramic tile are simply better left to the pros. They require more tools and are considerably more labor-intensive to install.
Finally, sheet vinyl, while cheap to buy, can also be difficult to install on your own. As always, when in doubt, we’d recommend hiring a pro who can help make sure your sheet vinyl install goes smoothly.
Which Rooms Do They Work In?
As with any type of flooring, some of these cheap flooring ideas are not suitable for every room in the house.
LVP and LVT are extremely versatile and can work in just about any room in the house. They are easy to walk on and, since they resemble wood and natural stone, they look good in any setting.
Laminate also looks good in any room; however, it does have a few limitations (especially cheap laminate). Since inexpensive laminate is often quite thin, it can wear down easily in high traffic areas. And if you install laminate in a bathroom, it is always best to lay a moisture barrier between the planks and the subfloor.
Ceramic tiles are highly durable and easy to maintain. From this standpoint, they can work in any room. But tile is hard and cold. So, if you are thinking about installing ceramic tiles in your bedroom (for instance), you may also want to invest in a large rug.
Where Can You Find These Options Cheaply?
You can find cheap flooring products at most of your major home improvement and flooring stores.
BuildDirect offers many of these flooring options at extremely cheap prices, but you must order a minimum amount to get the best deal.
Lumber Liquidators (LL) is a great place to find cheap laminate and builder-grade solid hardwood. They offer options in both of these flooring products for under $1 per square foot.
Note: LL also has cheap versions of luxury vinyl plank flooring.
And for really cheap ceramic tile, you might consider the options available through Floor & Décor.
- What Is The Cheapest Flooring Option?
- What Is The Easiest Flooring To Put Down?
- Is Vinyl Or Laminate Flooring Cheaper?
- Is It Cheaper To Carpet Or Laminate The Floor?
- What Type Of Floor Adds The Most Value To Your Home?
What Is The Cheapest Flooring Option?
What Is The Easiest Flooring To Put Down?
Aside from self-adhesive flooring, any kind of floating floor is going to be easier to put down than flooring that requires gluing or nailing down. A lot of modern floating floors, such as vinyl planks and engineered hardwoods, work with a click and lock system, which makes them extremely easy to install.
Is Vinyl Or Laminate Flooring Cheaper?
Vinyl and laminate flooring costs much the same, with options from as little as $2.00 per square foot up to $7.00 per square foot. Vinyl has waterproof and many styles available. Though laminate tends to have a slightly longer lifespan at 15-25 years, vinyl will probably last 10-20 years.
Is It Cheaper To Carpet Or Laminate The Floor?
The cost of carpet is highly variable depending on what you go for, but affordable carpet is generally cheaper than laminate per square foot. However, laminate lasts longer and is easier to maintain, so your investment should last longer.
What Type Of Floor Adds The Most Value To Your Home?
Solid wood floors are still the most prestigious flooring and add the most value to your home. This is because they are classic and also have a long lifetime. They can last more than 100 years with refinishing.
Wood alternatives such as engineered hardwood and builder-grade hardwood can also add value to your home if installed correctly and maintained.
It can be frustrating when you need to refresh your flooring but you simply don’t have the budget to do what you want. But there are definitely options on the table; it just means shopping around and thinking outside the box.
You may not get exactly what you dreamed of, but with some compromises and creativity, you can get something you’ll be more than happy with.
If you like the look of hardwood flooring, go with realistic-looking luxury vinyl planks, laminate, or a sheet vinyl that resembles wood. Or, you can even get the real thing by choosing builder-grade solid hardwood.
For a nice, stone look, choose from an array of styles in ceramic tile, luxury vinyl tile, or sheet vinyl.
Or show off your green credentials by installing cork flooring, and then you will also always have a talking piece whenever anyone comes to visit.
Also, remember that getting new flooring is not always the answer. Depending on what you have underneath, there are affordable ways to refresh your existing flooring and have it looking like you.
Whatever you are looking for, affordable options exist to help you add a fresh, new look to your home that you can enjoy for years to come.
Have you installed flooring on a tight budget? What recommendations do you have for saving money? Share your experience in the comments section below.