Most Durable Flooring [all floors ranked]
Whether you know your floors will take a beating, or you just want your floors to last as long as possible, your first flooring question will be
“What is the most durable floor?”
I wish it were that easy. There are a few things that make this question not straightforward:
Challenges in ranking flooring by durability (and why this may be controversial)
I was almost hesitant to make this article because nearly every flooring can last a long time if you buy the right product. In other words, if you want your floor to last, I don’t think that limits what you buy.
On the other hand, I felt like that was a cop-out answer. Durability is important to homeowners, so it’s something I have to address. With that said, keep this in mind before reading:
Challenge #1: the flooring type isn’t the only factor in durability… specifications matter
There are other factors besides the type of floor you choose that affects its durability. For instance, I could find a laminate that is more durable than some hardwood, but this is the exception. Most hardwood will be more durable than laminate.
I tried to address this by breaking each floor down by low-quality, mid-quality, and high-quality. This breakdown gives you a more accurate idea of where each floor lands.
Challenge #2: Certain floors can be extremely durable in one environment and have poor durability in another environment
This may seem obvious, but it can completely change the rankings. For instance, tile is considered the most durable flooring, but it’s one of the worst if you’re dropping heavy objects (say in a garage). A floor that’s generally much less durable like carpet would resist heavy object drops much better.
To address this, I give a summary breakdown of each type of floor below. It will cover its strengths and weaknesses to give you more perspective on these rankings.
Challenge #3: There are close battles between many floor types and that can lead to controversy.
I started making a ranked list of floors and found some are simple to separate on the list, and some were very difficult to rank against each other.
My solution is to rank the floors in tiers. There are 3 tiers and each represents a jump in quality. In other words, you can definitely expect a tier 1 floor to last longer than a tier 2 floor.
On the other hand, don’t expect a difference between two floors in the same tier. There may be a slight difference (they are ranked most durable to least), but it’s really too close to call.
How I ranked flooring and how to get the most out of this page
I touched on this above, but here are a few things to know on the rankings:
- I separated floor durability in tiers/groups. Picking a floor in a different tier will make a big difference in durability
- The floors in the same tier are ranked in order (highest = most durable), but these rankings are likely controversial because there’s not much separation. So unlike choosing from different tiers, choosing a higher ranked floor in the same tier likely won’t make much of a difference in how long your floor lasts
- I broke down each floor by high-quality (hq), mid-quality (mq), and low-quality (lq). You can find more about what determines each floors quality by reading its unbiased guide on our site (these are linked in the summaries of the floor)
Tier 1 Durability (can last a lifetime)
- Tile (hq): Tile flooring is basically a rock, and last time I checked rocks are pretty durable. That’s why it gets the #1 spot, especially high-quality tile. It’s nearly invincible against the 3 biggest threats to flooring: foot traffic, stains, and water. The one thing to watch for with tile is dropping heavy objects. The harder the tile you choose, the less chance of damage, but chips and cracks can’t be repaired.
- Hardwood (hq): A big part of hardwoods luxurious reputation is it’s durability. Hardwood can last a lifetime, and you definitely find this with the high-quality hardwoods that have a higher Janka (hardness) rating than other woods. These are less likely to scratch and look worn from foot traffic. Hardwoods biggest weakness is moisture. Extreme humidity and certainly sitting water can permanently damage your expensive investment in hardwood. Spills aren’t a huge worry because of the water-repellant finishes applied to the hardwood.
- Bamboo (most qualities): Bamboo is classified as a species of hardwood flooring, and it’s a high-quality hardwood at that. It beats out 80% of hardwoods and falls just below the highest quality, most exclusive woods like Brazilian Walnut.
- Cork (hq): Don’t be confused by corks softness; it’s surprisingly durable. Just like hardwood, it can be sanded down and refinished every few years to get it looking like new. Also, it has good memory. Heavy furniture can sometimes dent cork but usually, it resists denting. Think of a wine bottle where the cork is smashed in for who knows how long, and then the second you take the cork out it pops back into its original shape. Cork doesn’t do well in areas with moisture problems (even though it can be very resistant against spills do to its coatings) or direct sunlight. These can cause warping and fading, respectively.
- Tile (mq): See high-quality tile above but middle-quality will chip more frequently.
- Hardwood (mq): See high-quality hardwood above but middle-quality hardwood will be more prone to scratches.
- Cork (mq): See high-quality cork above but middle-quality will be a little less likely to rebound from dents and may have lower quality finish resulting in more scratches.
Tier 2 Durability (10-20 years in most situations)
- LVT (hq): Surprised luxury vinyl is leading the tier 2 pack? Don’t be. The new high-end luxury vinyls are extremely durable. They’re the most water-resistant floors outside of tile, and they aren’t easily scuffed or scratched. These really don’t have many durability weaknesses except they can’t be refinished like hardwoods and corks so in a decade+ they will start to look worn out and need to be replaced.
- Laminate (hq): Laminate is similar to luxury vinyl in durability: a hard surface that can be fairly scratch resistant. The big disadvantage for laminate is its much more susceptible to moisture. The high-end laminates have come out with technology to resist spills but still be careful with standing water.
- Carpet (hq): I almost put carpet above laminate and luxury vinyl. High-end carpet is surprisingly resistant to foot traffic and stains. However, there are certain durability drawbacks with having fabric on your floor that you just don’t have with the hard flooring. The main kryptonite for carpet is dirty substances can’t just be mopped up, and this will wear on the floor with time. That said, high-end carpet will easily last 10 years even in high-traffic areas, and there are cases where people get 30 years out of there carpet, so you may find some carpets lasting longer than even high-end vinyl or laminate. Close call here.
- Tile (lq): See mq and hq tiles above, but expect cheap tiles to be much easier to chip. And chipped tiles aren’t fun to replace. Also, any tile if not sealed properly can stain, and this is more likely with cheap tiles.
- Hardwood (lq): See mq and hq hardwood above, but expect low-quality hardwood to easily scratch and dent. It also may not have a great finish, which can make the wood susceptible to water damage and more easily scratch.
- Cork (lq): See mq and hq cork above, but the lowest quality cork will have a poor density and finish. This will make it much more likely to dent under heavy objects, puncture under high heels. It also will be more likely to warp from water damage due to a poor finish, which shouldn’t be a problem with mid-range and above cork.
- LVT (mq): See hq LVT above. Mid-quality luxury vinyl is still very durable (the reason it’s in tier 2), but it will be more susceptible to just general wear over time. This means scuffs and scratches from foot traffic.
- Laminate (mq): See hq laminate above. Similar to mid-quality luxury vinyl, this laminate will just show more wear, but it also is going to be more susceptible to moisture. You’ll have time to clean up a spill, but you won’t want to leave standing water.
- Carpet (mq): See hq carpet above. Mid-quality carpet should last you at least 10 years in most cases. It will still have pretty good resistance to foot traffic and should have a good stain protector. In cases of high-traffic (main living area in a family of 4), it will start to look worn in about 10 years, but it can last 20 in lesser used rooms.
Tier 3 Durability (Less than 10 years)
- Carpet (lq): See hq and mq carpet above, but low-quality carpet is a different animal. The materials used will mat down in less than 5 years in high-traffic areas. Surprisingly, some of these carpets can still do pretty good against stains. If you want to carpet a dining room that’s not heavily trafficked, you could save money going with a lower quality carpet, such as lower face weight polyester.
- LVT (lq): See hq and mq LVT above. Notice that carpet overtook luxury vinyl (and laminate) in the lower-quality forms. That’s because low-quality luxury vinyl seems to just not hold up well under most circumstances. It will look scuffed easily and may come up at the end. It’s still water and stain resistant.
- Laminate (lq): See hq and mq above. Low-quality laminate is the last durable floor in my opinion. To be fair, each of these tier 3 are pretty close, but I think you throw any moisture or moderate traffic at low-quality laminate and its appearance degrades quickly.
Captain’s parting words!
The goal of this article was to help you with 3 things:
- get an idea of the rank of each floor in terms of durability
- see what you sacrifice in durability as you go for a lower quality floor in the same class
- show weaknesses of each type of flooring (even the most durable ones)
I think the third point is as important as any: sometimes even the most durable floors have a weakness that makes it a poor fit for your home. On the other hand, the least durable floors like a may work great and save you money in certain rooms.
Any questions you still have on floor durability? I’m happy to answer in the comments below.