cheapest flooring

Cheapest Flooring Ideas

On a budget but want new flooring?

I’ve ranked the cheapest floors. This means the cheapest to buy, but also takes into account long-term costs. After all, a floor isn’t that cheap if it’s damaged in a year or requires expensive maintenance.

And as a bonus, we’ll talk about how to make the inexpensive floor look… well, not as a cheap. Sometimes room or a rug placement can make a big difference.

Let’s start with how I ranked the floors, so you know where I’m coming from:

How we ranked the cheapest floors

Nearly every type of flooring has a cheap option. That’s good news if you’re on a budget. It’s bad news for me when I’m trying to rank the cheapest floors.

That said, there are definitely certain types of floors you find cheaper than others. The goal of this article is to look at the complete package:

  • How much is the floor material?
  • How well will it hold up at the price range?
  • Can you install it yourself if you choose?

I found the best way to rank these floors is first eliminate floors over $2 per square foot. If you can’t buy it for that, it’s not cheap.

The next step is to break ties. If two floors are in the same price range, which will cost less long-term. Will floor A last longer than floor B? That’s a win. Is it easier to install? That saves you money, too.

Note: The ‘estimated room cost’ below is for an approximately 300 square foot room. This is about the size of a moderate to large kitchen or master bedroom or small to average living room. I didn’t include installation (but most of these are easy DIY’s!).

1. Refinished Concrete

Okay, so this one may not be really fair because you already have to have concrete, and this usually only applies to basements. On the other hand, I felt I had to include this because it’s technically a new floor, it can look great, and it’s extremely durable. Basically, it’s everything you’d want in a cheap floor. Its initial cost is a little higher than the other cheap floors on our list, but it more than makes up for it with extreme durability and simple DIY to reduce total long-term costs. If you’re flooring a basement, this has to be high on your list. For everyone else, I promise the rest of the list will apply to other rooms.

Cost per square foot: $2
Estimated cost for a room: $600
Can you install it yourself? Yes. Well, technically you’re not installing floor, but that’s what makes this the easiest DIY option
Ideas on making it look good: Finished concrete’s biggest flaw is it’s cold and industrial looking, but this is actually popular now. So I’d own it, and make the rest of your room look classic with some “back to the basics” use of steel or industrial looking lighting. What’s old is new again. You could also own it by adding a bar, pinball machines, dartboards, workout equipment, or other fixtures that match well with concrete. Alternatively, you could “soften” the room by throwing down some rugs to provide warmth and comfort.

2. Sheet Vinyl

I wanted to knock sheet vinyl down a spot or two on this list because it’s not the easiest DIY, and it’s not the fanciest option. But at the end of the day, it’s durable for a cheap floor, and most importantly, it’s extremely cheap. That gives it the top spot after finishing concrete (which technically isn’t a new floor). It’s extremely waterproof and makes a great fit for any room.

Cost per square foot: $0.75 (sometimes less)
Estimated cost for a room: $225
Can you install it yourself? Yes but it’s a little more difficult than it may seem. Since you’re pulling out sheets, cutting it to line your room can be a little difficult to give a clean look.
Ideas on making it look good: I bashed sheet vinyl earlier. I think the sheet“ part of it makes it hard to look like the wood planks or tiles it imitates. That said, it’s perfect for bathrooms, garages, or even kitchens. It looks best in rooms where you expect durability over a luxury look (no one blames you for putting a functional floor in your bathroom).

3. Luxury Vinyl

The battle between laminate and luxury vinyl for cheapest flooring was the most difficult in this list. Ultimately, I gave luxury vinyl the win because it’s more durable. Even cheap luxury vinyl is great against moisture, so you can put it in a kitchen, bathroom, and don’t have to worry about spills. There are a few wins for laminate I’ll touch on next. Cheap luxury vinyl will show scratches earlier than its more premium versions, and the look and feel will most likely show its cheaper cost. Also, the cheapest luxury vinyl, which can be found for $0.50 to $1 per square foot, is often glue-down or “peel and stick,” not the floating flooring that clicks together.

Cost per square foot: $1
Estimated cost for a room: $300
Can you install it yourself? Yes. Luxury vinyl is maybe the easiest DIY. One exception: this applies mostly to the “click and lock” luxury vinyl, which is hard to find under $1.50 per square foot.
Ideas on making it look good: Use it in rooms where you wouldn’t expect realistic hardwood. More expensive luxury vinyl can have a great hardwood-imitation look, but the cheap luxury vinyl can’t pull it off. However, cheap luxury vinyl looks better than sheet vinyl in a bathroom or kitchen. It just fits the vibe of the room, and it’s moisture resistance keeps it looking good.
Want to buy it? Check out our unbiased luxury vinyl guide.

4. Laminate

For #3, I talked about how close laminate and luxury vinyl are but luxury vinyl gets the win because it’s more versatile and durable. But laminate has some advantages that almost pushed it ahead of luxury vinyl. In particular, I think cheap laminate looks a little better than cheap luxury vinyl. Laminate is more common, and laminate also has a better reputation when selling a house than vinyl. So if you don’t plan on living in your house too long, laminate could be cheaper when it’s all said and done.

Cost per square foot: $1
Estimated cost for a room: $300
Can you install it yourself? Yes. Like luxury vinyl, this is one the easiest DIY’s. Most laminate you just snap together with a “tongue and groove” system.
Ideas on making it look good: Laminate is popular, so even cheap laminate won’t look out of place in main living areas. However, don’t expect intricate designs, textures, and coloring. Cheap laminate will look fairly plain. The good news is this makes inexpensive laminate a great “background” floor… throw your favorite looking large rug on top, and you’ll transform the look of your living area.
Want to buy it? Check out our unbiased laminate guide.

5. Ceramic Tile

Tile is the most durable floor in most situations, but it also can be expensive. However, ceramic brings this cost down because it’s the cheapest type of tile. This comes at the cost of being a little less durable. It can chip if you drop a hard object, and it has pores, meaning you have to seal it well initially or it can stain with spills. Still, it’s a little more expensive than most of our list but will usually pay off in low maintenance costs and high durability over the long term.

Cost per square foot: $2
Estimated cost for a room: $600
Can you install it yourself? No. Ceramic tile isn’t for your amateur DIY’er. It’s basically a rock and rocks aren’t easy or forgiving on shaping them to your room. If you’re really motivated, it’s possible, but for most people, I’d leave it to the pros.
Ideas on making it look good: Ceramic naturally looks good, but this is important: seal it if it doesn’t come pre-sealed. It will stain easily with liquids if it’s not sealed, and that doesn’t make a pretty floor. Also, keep in mind, it’s a cold floor. That may not technically „look bad,“ but you won’t appreciate the floor if it’s freezing your feet. Avoid garages and maybe even kitchens where you might drop heavy objects on it. Cracked tile looks like a cracked windshield: you can’t help but notice it.
Want to buy it? Check out our unbiased tile guide.

Important notes on cheap flooring

A few things are obvious when you buy the cheap end of a floor: it won’t look as nice and won’t last as long.

But there are a few other things you should watch for that aren’t as obvious:

VOCs and safety of cheap flooring

The first is there has been a trend in flooring to reduce VOCs or off-gassing. You can read more about VOCs and flooring here. But in summary, some people think the chemical smells released by flooring, furniture, paint, etc can be harmful to our health.

Flooring manufacturers have responded by making very low VOC versions of almost all flooring. The problem is the cheap floors haven’t really caught up. There are costs in manufacturing and certifying that floors are low VOCs, so companies can’t sell these floors as cheap.

This applies to every floor on this list, although luxury vinyl and laminate have come under fire for VOCs.

Ease of installation

I touched on ease of installation above, but there’s one other thing to look out for when you’re buying cheap. Some floors notorious for easy installation are because they are snap together floating floors.

However, the cheaper versions don’t have some of the features that make the floors as easy to install. They’ll still be a fairly easy DIY, but might be glue-down instead of a snap together.

Captain’s parting words!

There are many ways to pull off really cheap flooring and make it look good.

Hopefully, this gave you some ideas. I’ve also seen cases where people get really creative—think using recycled bottle caps for a floor—but those more creative ideas are for another article.

Almost all of these are DIY-friendly, so feel free to roll up your sleeves and save some extra cash.

Any other questions or have your own ideas on cheap flooring? Let me know in the comments below.

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