Six Types of Flooring – The Comprehensive Guide

Choosing a new floor can be a very stressful process, especially if it’s during a kitchen or home remodel where you have a lot going on at one time. It gets even more complicated when you realize that there are many different types of flooring to choose from, and some types work better for certain areas of your home. It’s also a time-consuming and expensive project, but we’re here to help make this process smooth from start to finish. 

We’re going to go in-depth on everything you need to know about the most popular types of flooring currently available on the market. This includes everything from common solid and engineered hardwood, vinyl plank, ceramic tile, and niche products like cork flooring, bamboo, and much more. We’re also going to take a look at the installation methods, the construction, disadvantages, advantages, and more below. 

First Type of Flooring – Hardwood

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Hardwood flooring going down by moccasinlanding / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

First up is a classic type of flooring, hardwood. There are two main types you can get, and they are engineered hardwood and solid hardwood. Each option has advantages and disadvantages to it, and they both have different prices. The biggest thing that you want to remember is that one isn’t necessarily better than the others, but they do have different uses. 

There’s a reason why people love natural or solid hardwood types of flooring. It’s durable, gorgeous, elegant, and warm. Plus, it can last for centuries if you treat it right. 

Construction

Just like you can imagine, solid hardwood types of flooring uses on big pieces of solid wood throughout. You can typically purchase it in strips between 1 ½ and 2 ½-inches wide, and it also comes in planks that measure between four and eight-inches wide. The planks and strips are usually ¾-inch thick, and they can be either unfinished or prefinished, depending on what you prefer. Prefinished hardwood is the new normal these days. However, if you decide you’d rather finish it on-site, there won’t be any issues with this either. 

Installation

Because this type of flooring is natural wood, you typically need to nail and glue it to a subfloor. A subfloor is the rough surface located underneath your finished flooring. This is usually concrete or plywood in most instances. Because you can nail or glue it down, you’ll want to hire a contractor to put it in for you. You also want to leave the flooring in the room you’re going to put it in a few days before the actual installation to allow it to acclimate. The natural wood grains will shrink and expand based on the surrounding temperature and humidity levels. 

Advantages and Disadvantages 

Some of the biggest advantages of this type of flooring is that it’s very pretty, and it feels nice when you walk over it. Also, it’s a very long-lasting choice since it comes made out of solid wooden planks that you can sand and refinish over and over again for years without a problem. It’s very versatile, and there are dozens of species to choose from to give you different looks, textures, and colors. You can cut each plank differently to showcase how it looks, and there are many finishes available. 

However, there are disadvantages to this type of flooring too. First, it’s susceptible to humidity, temperature, and moisture since it’s natural. Water can easily make it swell, and it can warp, stain, and scuff easily. Without taking steps to stain or seal it regularly, as well as clean it at least once a week, you can start to notice imperfections, scratches, and dull areas. It takes a bit more maintenance, and it doesn’t do well in certain areas of the home due to not doing well with humidity or moisture. 

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Installing Bellawood Hardwood Flooring by moccasinlanding / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Finishes and Types of Hardwood Flooring

There are many types and finishes available when it comes to this type of flooring, and they include but are not limited to: 

  • Bamboo – You get a very unique look with an eco-friendly flooring option that is one of the most durable choices. 
  • Cork – Cork flooring is actually composite flooring if you’re being technical. It’s made of bark but compressed into planks and installed like a traditional hardwood floor. This makes it popular for walkways. 
  • Hickory – Hickory is complex and hard, and it’s a great pick if you’re looking for a medium to showcase the intricate detailing on your floor. 
  • Maple – Maple is a domestic hardwood that is very popular, and it has a much lighter coloring that doesn’t take stain well. It gives you a natural look with a high durability factor. 
  • Oak – Oak is the single most popular type of flooring in the hardwood category in the United States. It’s popular due to the variation, character, and coloring, and you can choose from imported, domestic, White Oak, Red Oak, and more. 
  • Walnut – Dark and rich, this type of flooring lends a luxurious appearance with a chocolate-colored grain that pops. 

Areas This Type of Flooring Won’t Survive In

You want to avoid putting this type of flooring in several areas in your home due to durability issues, and these areas include but are not limited to: 

  • Areas with a dramatic temperature shift like above underfloor heating or in a three-season room
  • Areas with a high level of activity like your pet’s area or kid’s room
  • Areas with rising damp like a below-ground level room or a basement or an area with a concrete subfloor
  • Water, humidity, or moisture like a bathroom or kitchen

Cost

Usually, solid hardwood types of flooring costs between $5.00 and $10.00 a square foot. This price includes professional installation. With this being said, imported, exotic, or luxury wood types can go upward of $15.00 a square foot. 

Second Type of Flooring – Engineered Hardwood

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Maple Greystone [reading room] by Boa-Franc / CC BY 2.0

The second type of flooring we’re going to get into is engineered hardwood flooring. This gives you the texture and look you’ll get with solid wood, but you get a little less maintenance and more versatility. 

Construction

What is this type of flooring made of? Essentially, it’s dual layers, and it’s a very thin sheet of solid wood called a veneer on the top layer. You also get a thicker core of high-density fiberboard or plywood below. You can buy engineered wood in planks or strips that are 12-inches wide, and it’s around ⅜ to ½-inch thick. 

Installation

You can install this type of flooring in several ways. You can nail or glue it to a subfloor, or you can easily install it as a floating floor with flooring planks that click together. This is a great one for a DIY project if you have the skill and time. You can also hire a professional contractor to do the job more efficiently and quickly. 

4 engineered hardwood installation
Flooring Installation by Jeremy Zawodny / CC BY-NC 2.0

Advantages and Disadvantages

There are several advantages of this type of flooring, especially when you compare it to solid wood.You get the feel, look, and versatility that you get with solid wood. It’s also much more resistant to warping. So, you can install it in places where you can’t install traditional solid hardwood. If you need wide plank flooring, this is the one to pick since solid planks can warp. You can even refinish this type of flooring in some instances, and it’s an eco-friendly product. 

However, if you want a floor that lasts a lifetime, this type of floor usually isn’t your best bet. You can only refinish this wood once or twice at a maximum or maybe not at all. The veneer’s thickness will be the deciding factor. The cost to refinish this flooring is also high, but it’s not as high as adding all new floors in. It’s also prone to gouges or scratches like you’d get with solid wood flooring. 

Areas Where This Type of Flooring Will Survive

Since engineered flooring is much less prone to warping, humidity, moisture, and temperature won’t impact it anywhere near as much as solid flooring. This means that you can put it wherever you can’t put hardwood. It works in basements as long as they’re not extremely wet, over concrete subfloors, and above underfloor heating systems without a problem. 

Cost

The cost to install this type of floor is right around the same amount you’d spend for solid hardwood floors when you use domestic species of wood. This said, if you really want more exotic or imported wood flooring but don’t want to pay a huge amount for it, engineered hardwood is a great compromise. It uses materials that are less expensive, so this lowers the cost. 

Third Type of Flooring – Vinyl Plank or Vinyl Tile

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Carpet One-Luxury Vinyl Tiles by Tom Britt / CC BY 2.0

LVT, LVP, vinyl plank flooring, or luxury vinyl tile all mean the same thing. It’s a synthetic type of flooring that is very durable, and it can mimic the feel and look of virtually anything you want. Since most people call it vinyl plank flooring or vinyl tile flooring, these are the terms we’re going to use. 

Differences Between Vinyl Plank, Vinyl Tipe, LVT, and LVP

As we touched on, all of these things are generally the same product. LVP is short for luxury vinyl plank. The luxury classification is there to set it apart from the older types of vinyl flooring. LVT is short for luxury vinyl tile, and this is the exact same thing except it comes shaped and designed to mimic the look of tiles instead of wooden planks. The different names are due to the manufacturers wanting to make their products sound special. 

Construction 

Usually, this type of flooring is made up of PVC. However, this is a vastly improved PVC material that gives you some of the best value of any flooring on the list. You get multiple layers, and they include: 

  • Core or Base Layer (Bottom) – Constructed of vinyl, the core can be flexible or rigid, and it’ll vary from product to product. 
  • Design Layer (Middle) – Also featuring vinyl for the material, this layer will mimic the feel or texture and look of anything from stone and metal to wood. 
  • Wear Layer (Top) – The final layer is a transparent layer that helps to guard against general wear and tear. 

A lot of the best vinyl flooring manufacturers also have a backing under the base layer, but this can vary by product. It could help make your tile seem softer as you walk over it, or it could make it more durable. There are dozens of variations. You can also get both a rigid core and flexible core luxury vinyl flooring. If it has a rigid core, you could hear it called EVP flooring. 

Also, if you want to go with a rigid core, you’ll want to pick out WPC flooring that comes with a wood-polymer composite core to increase your comfort levels or a SPC flooring that has a stone-polymer composite core to make it much more durable. 

Installation

You get a broad range of installation options with this type of flooring. You can get types that glue down as planks, click-lock plank that forms a floating floor, or loose lay vinyl plank flooring that uses weight and friction to cement it in place. There are also types with peel-and-stick backing. 

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Installing vinyl tile flooring in the future LIRR passenger concourse by MTA Construction & Development Mega Projects / CC BY 2.0

Advantages and Disadvantages

A lot of people are starting to choose this type of flooring because it’s comfortable to walk on, inexpensive, and very durable. As a bonus, it can easily mimic the texture and look of various materials, and you can get waterproof flooring choices. You can put it in a mudroom or basement without a problem, tile the bathroom, and put it in the kitchen. Some companies have lifetime warranties attached too. 

However, vinyl isn’t a very eco-friendly choice as plastic is the main material. It also contains certain VOCs, and they can be hazardous to your health. It also may not look as realistic as you want over the real thing. You also have to ensure that you’re installing it over a very solid, smooth subfloor with the more flexible LVP or LVT flooring. If you don’t, it’ll show irregularities or echo as you walk over it. 

Areas Where This Type of Flooring Will Survive

LVT and LVP are waterproof, and this allows you to put it virtually anywhere in your home. You don’t want to make the mistake of thinking of it as a utility floor though. A high-quality laminate does a nice job of imitating hardwood, stone, and tile. You can put it in the bedroom or living room, and they even do well as outdoor flooring for your walkways, decks, or patios. 

Cost

Vinyl tile and vinyl plank flooring are very budget-friendly, and you’ll typically pay between $1.00 and $5.00 a square foot, not including installation costs. LVP is also easier to install than hardwood, so your installation costs will be cheaper with this type of flooring. 

Fourth Type of Flooring – Laminate 

8 laminate flooring installation
Laminate Flooring by floorsmk / CC BY-SA 2.0

Laminate flooring is another durable alternative to engineered hardwood flooring. It comes with a photo layer instead of a solid wood veneer. 

Construction

This type of flooring typically has three or four layers, and they are as follows: 

  • Base Layer or Core (Bottom) – This is a high-density, rigid fiberboard just like the core you find in engineered hardwood. 
  • Image Layer (Middle) – You’ll get a photorealistic image of tile, stone, wood, or whatever type of flooring you’re trying to imitate. If you picked out wood laminate, this layer would feature a wood grain image. 
  • Wear Layer (Top) – The final layer is a transparent plastic coating that protects the floor from wear, tear, and fading. 

If you have flooring with a fourth layer, it’ll go below the base layer to help with comfort or soundproofing. 

Installation 

Generally, you’d install this type of floor as a floating floor. This means that it only attaches to itself instead of a subfloor. You’ll usually need a soft underlayment layer of foam, and you can either click it into place or glue it together. Every manufacturer will offer something different. 

Advantages and Disadvantages

Durability is the single biggest advantage of this flooring type. The wear layer makes it extremely durable to pets, kids, heavy furniture, and high traffic. Laminate also won’t gouge or scratch like other options on the list, and the wear layer also makes it UV resistant to prevent fading in the sun, and it’s easy to clean. It’s typically less expensive than other types of flooring if you’re on a budget. 

However, laminate flooring isn’t waterproof, even if it is less prone to moisture, humidity, or temperature. It will swell if water gets into the floor’s base layer. Also, lower-end models can look very artificial, and it is possible to chip it. It can also have a very plastic feel when you walk over it, and it’s slippery when it gets wet. Finally, you can’t repair or refinish it if it does get damaged without tearing it out and starting again. 

9 tile flooring
Laminate installation by Lee Haywood / CC BY-SA 2.0

Areas Where This Type of Flooring Will Survive

This is a great type of flooring to install anywhere that it won’t get it. The scratch-resistance makes it a great pick for high-traffic areas like hallways, and it does well in homes with dogs and kids. You can get waterproof laminate options if you’re ready to pay much more for them. 

Cost

This type of flooring will cost between $1.00 to $10.00 a square foot. However, it usually falls into the $1.50 to $4.00 a square foot price range. The price will depend on the quality you want, and a professional installation will add a few more dollars to every square foot. 

Fifth Type of Flooring – Tile

10 tile flooring installation
Flooring by Kristopha Hohn / CC BY-SA 2.0

Tile is a very exciting and constantly changing category that offers you a huge range of options when it comes to the design, look, and feel of your floor. 

Construction

There are several types of tile flooring available to choose from, and the most common ones are cement, ceramic, porcelain, and stone. They are: 

  • Cement – Cement tile flooring is extremely popular in Europe because they give you a gorgeous look. These tiles will cure at room temperature, and this makes them slightly more porous so you do have to seal them. They come in stunning patterns, and you can refinish them. 
  • Ceramic – Ceramic tiles are made out of baked clay, and it’s very popular due to the natural feel and stunning look.
  • Wood Look – This ceramic tile is exceptionally good at mimicking the look of wood grain while keeping the benefits of porcelain or ceramic tile. You can easily put it in kitchens, laundry rooms, bathrooms, or anywhere to wet to put wood flooring. 
  • Porcelain – This is a type of ceramic, but it uses more refined clay in the makeup that gets baked at a much higher temperature. This makes it less likely to absorb water and less likely to crack. However, it is more expensive. 
  • Stone – This category encompasses granite, marble, sandstone, and dozens of other types of materials. Every stone type comes with different uses, properties, and applications. 

Additionally, you have to remember that ceramic and porcelain tiles can come glazed or unglazed. 

  • Glazed – You get an extra glaze layer, and this is most likely what you picture when you think of a beautifully tiled bathroom with patterns. Since it is glazed, cracks and chips are more noticeable, but they don’t absorb water or stain easily. 
  • Unglazed – This tile will usually be a bit rougher, but you get the same color all of the way through. So, you get a more slip-resistant, rustic look and feel with less noticeable chips or cracks. 

Installation

It’s possible to lay and grout a tile wall or floor on your own, but this can be a very time-consuming process that is tricky to do. It’s a good idea to pay for a professional contractor to come in and perform the installation process for you. 

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IMG_8848 by reclaimedhome / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Advantages and Disadvantages

One large advantage is that this type of flooring is very timeless. No matter if you have a granite-tiled bathroom or a porcelain tile pattern, it’s hard to go wrong when it comes to looks. It’s a great pick if you need a waterproof floor, and it’ll go over an underfloor heating system without a problem. It’s also easy to clean, and it’s a low-maintenance choice. 

However, one disadvantage is that tile is brittle, so it can chip or crack easily. Some types of tile are more absorbent than others and can stain easily, like marble. However, you have to make a point to take care of your tile if you want it to last. You’ll have to redo the grout every few years, and you’ll reseal the floors periodically to avoid them cracking. 

Areas Where This Type of Flooring Will Survive

Tile can go virtually anywhere. However, you should avoid placing porcelain tile flooring in any high traffic area since it’s so prone to chipping or cracking. In the bathroom, use unglazed tiles to make it more slip-resistant. If you want to get a tile that is less slippery, look at the CoF (Coefficient of Friction) rating. 

Cost

The cost for this type of flooring will have a huge price range, depending on your material. An inexpensive type of tile can cost around $0.50 a square foot while luxury tiles can shoot up to $80.00 a square foot. Your installation costs will also depend on how intricate the pattern is, how much you buy, and who you buy it from. 

Six Type of Flooring – Carpet

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Mosque carpet by Lauren Parness Marino / CC BY-NC 2.0

The final type of flooring on the list is carpet. When you think of a traditional carpet, you’re most likely picturing broadloom carpets. These carpets cover from wall to wall in a room and have a wide or broad loom to them. 

Construction

You can generally categorize carpets into three categories, including cut pile, cut-and-loop pile, and loop pile. Cut pile will stand straight upward from the carpet’s backing, and the loop pile will bend back to form a small loop. Cut-and-loop pile combines both of these styles, and it’s popular with patterned carpets. Polyester, wool, and nylon are three popular carpet materials. 

Installation

It surprises many people that this type of flooring has a very complicated installation process. You need a lot of special materials and tools, and you shouldn’t attempt it yourself. There’s too much that could go wrong, and it’s very expensive to replace or fix if you run into problems. 

Advantages and Disadvantages

Carpet has several obvious advantages, including the fact that it’s warm, cozy, and slip-proof. You also get the choice of hundreds of colors, patterns, lengths, and styles to match your decor. 

However, carpeting has several distinct disadvantages. They’re dirt magnets, difficult to clean, they can hold mildew, and they’re huge attractants for dust, mites, bacteria, and allergens. 

Carpet Installation by Jeremy Osterhouse / CC BY-NC 2.0

Areas Where This Type of Flooring Will Survive

You can put carpet virtually anywhere you want a warm, soft floor. It does well in living rooms, hallways, bedrooms, and more. You do want to avoid moist areas like the bathroom or laundry room, and not having a carpeted kitchen is a good idea. 

Cost

Carpet is another type of flooring that comes with a huge cost range attached to it. The materials have a price range of roughly $4.00 to $20.00 a square foot and up. Installation is also another high price point because you need a professional, and it generally adds between $3.50 to $11.00 a square foot to the total cost. 

Bottom Line

We’ve outlined six popular types of flooring for you, and you can use this comprehensive guide to see which one is going to work best in your chosen area. It is possible to have more than one type of flooring in your home, and you get the freedom to choose the ones that are going to look best with your decor, wants, and needs. 

Types of flooring 1 Types of flooring 2

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