Whether you’re looking for kitchen flooring or something to lay down in the garage, here’s what you need to know about commonly used materials, including the average price per square foot, how labor-intensive they are to install, and how long you can expect them to last.

8 Affordable Flooring Options

1. Vinyl

Vinyl flooring comes in sheets, tiles, and planks and is predominately manufactured with PVC, resulting in durable, waterproof flooring that can be installed anywhere in your home. It requires little maintenance, just regular vacuuming or sweeping and the occasional mopping, and is one of the least expensive flooring options on the market. If installed correctly, you can expect it to last as long as 25 years.

2. Sheet Vinyl

This cut-to-length option has seen major advancements when it comes to design, texture, and quality. Sheet vinyl typically comes in 6’ and 12’ widths, making it heavy and cumbersome to handle, and is best left to the professionals to install.

Cost: The average cost is $1.25 per square foot (not including installation), with luxury brands priced at over $5 per square foot.

3. Plank Vinyl

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If you’re looking for a realistic hardwood or stone alternative, plank vinyl is the cheapest choice for rivaling the look of pricier flooring. And unlike sheet vinyl, planks come in small sizes, making the entire installation process easier. Vinyl planks can be glued down or installed with a peel-and-stick, or click-and-lock system. Installation is generally easy to tackle, even for those who may be new to home improvement projects.

Cost: Prices vary and will depend on whether you choose an engineered vinyl plank (EVP), luxury vinyl plank (LVP), waterproof vinyl plank (WVP), or rigid core vinyl plank (SVP), which is a stone composite version—ideal for high-traffic areas. Price, on average, not including installation, starts at $1.39 per square foot and increases from there depending on thickness, quality, and manufacturer guarantees.

4. Laminate

Laminate is made up of a composite of materials and mimics the look of hardwood or stone, thanks to a photographic image that’s embossed on its surface. While laminate is comparable to vinyl sheets in terms of cost, it’s is not as durable as vinyl, shouldn’t be exposed to heat, is not waterproof, and lasts only 10 years. Avoid installing laminate in high-moisture or water-prone areas like basements, kitchens, or bathrooms.

Laminate is installed as a floating floor, which means the pieces click and lock together rather than being glued directly to the subfloor. It will take time to properly prepare the area, but installation is fairly quick once you start fitting the pieces together.

Cost: The average cost of laminate flooring is $2.50 per square foot (not including installation), but will increase depending on the materials and guarantees provided by the manufacturer.

5. Cork

Cork flooring

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Cork is a soft, eco-friendly alternative to composite flooring and is easier to install than hardwood.

Cost: Made from the cork oak tree, this renewable resource is used to make floor tiles, planks, and sheets, and starts around $2 per square foot—increasing in cost based on thickness, quality, and finish.

While one of the positives about cork is that it tends to be softer than other moderately priced flooring options, its softness can also be its downfall since it can scratch and dent easily. It also doesn’t fare well in rooms like bathrooms, where high humidity levels (anything above 60%) will cause the material to crack and break.

6. Carpet

From wall-to-wall to peel-and-stick, carpeting’s another cheap flooring option available to homeowners. The choices are vast, thanks to a wide range of materials, and quality levels, and no matter the carpet, you can expect it to last 10 years—longer if you vacuum regularly and immediately treat stains.

And while it’s soft to walk on and great at dampening sound, carpet does show wear and tear much faster than other kinds of flooring. It shouldn’t be used in bathrooms or other places where the presence of moisture can lead to mold.

Wall-to-Wall Carpeting: While purchasing wall-to-wall carpeting can be a cheap flooring option (it can be found for less than $1 per square foot), installing wall-to-wall is not for the faint of heart. It’s usually a multi-person, multi-tool job that requires accuracy—otherwise, wrinkles, bumps, and weak seams will ruin the result. Because there is little room for error when installing wall-to-wall consider hiring a professional.

Peel-and-Stick Carpet Tiles: An easier way to install carpeting is by using peel-and-stick carpet tiles. As with vinyl planks, the smaller pieces make installation relatively quick and easy. Carpet tiles come with their own adhesive backing, so all you have to do is make sure the floor is clean, peel off the stickers, and affix the tiles to the floor. Plus, you can use a box cutter to trim pieces as needed. Carpet tiles can be found at big-box retailers like Home Depot for less than $1 per square foot.

7. Tile

Ceramic Tile: At less than $1 per square foot, durable ceramic tile makes an excellent inexpensive flooring option. Look for manufactured tile that’s rated at least a 3 on the PEI scale—the industry standard set by the Porcelain Enamel Institute. Tile rated less than a 3 will be too thin and brittle to sustain floor traffic. As far as installation goes, if you aren’t comfortable handling a wet saw or tile cutter, leave the job to the professionals.

Porcelain Tile: Consider using porcelain tiles when installing floors in damp areas such as bathrooms and kitchens. Due to its manufacturing, porcelain is denser and better at repelling water than ceramic, and though it costs slightly more per square foot, it wears better than conventional ceramic tile.

8. Refinish Your Floors

If replacing your existing floor isn’t an option, you can always refresh it inexpensively. Wood floors will transform with just a little paint or varnish; concrete can look fresh and new with specialized paint and sealant, and even tile can be improved by refreshing the grout. Whatever your budget, you can certainly get an updated look without spending a ton of cash.

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