Best Flooring From Consumer Reports' Tests

Top-performing picks in solid wood, engineered wood, porcelain tile, and more

When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn affiliate commissions. 100% of the fees we collect are used to support our nonprofit mission. Learn more.

A Consumer Reports test technician completing a flooring test
In CR's test for foot-traffic wear, discs holding abrasive paper rub left and right against flooring samples. We check for wear after every 50 left-right cycle. The best flooring is unscathed after 500 cycles.
Photo: Brian Finke

Buying flooring for your home can be tricky; one type usually doesn’t meet the needs of every room. No doubt you’ll want good looks and easy care throughout, but for high-traffic, busy areas you’ll also need a durable material underfoot that withstands scratches, spills, and dents. Rooms that get strong sunlight require flooring that resists color changes from ultraviolet exposure.

Consumer Reports’ flooring tests have found that there’s no one material that does everything perfectly. But our picks below show the best in each of five categories: prefinished solid wood, engineered wood, laminate, vinyl, and porcelain tile.

More on Flooring

You’ll get the best flooring for a given area if you pick a material based on the activities that will happen there, advises Enrique de Paz, a senior test engineer who evaluates flooring for Consumer Reports. In a kitchen, for instance, think twice about a hardwood floor that may stain, nick, scratch, or dent from falling food or utensils, or may even warp or crack from large water spills. “Choices like tile or vinyl would be better,” de Paz says. “Luckily, these are now available in many styles, including some that simulate hardwood.”

If you need help thinking through the functional aspects of flooring, check our buying guide to find the best types for each room. If you know which material you’re looking for, well, you’re almost there. Take a look below at our top picks in five categories of materials, based on CR’s extensive lab testing.

How We Test Flooring

We test wear resistance by subjecting a 6-by-6-inch sample of each flooring material to an abrasion machine fitted with a fine sandpaper disc, periodically assessing each sample for signs of visible wear.

To test a floor’s resistance to denting, we drop a heavy, blunt weight that has the same impact as a large can of tomatoes, plus objects that are smaller, lighter, and pointier that serve as proxies for kitchen utensils. Our testers drop the weights from progressively higher points, examining the flooring for visible denting after each drop. The higher the drop before damage becomes evident, the better a floor’s dent-resistance rating.

A floor’s water resistance is key, and manufacturers are continually trying to improve their products’ impermeability. We check for water damage in two ways. We spill water on a flooring sample’s surface and allow it to sit overnight. We take another sample of the same flooring and completely submerge it in a bucket of water, again letting it remain overnight. The more a product swells, deforms, softens, or delaminates in those two tests, the lower its water-resistance score.

We evaluate the potential for fading by exposing part of a sample of flooring to UV rays for two weeks straight, and then compare the exposed portion to an unexposed portion. This gives us information on what can happen to a section of flooring that gets more sunlight than the rest of a room over time.

Should You Do It Yourself or Hire a Pro?

That depends on whether the material can be installed as a floating floor or should be nailed or glued into place.

With a floating floor, the pieces click together to create one large puzzle that can be installed right over an existing floor (assuming it’s flat and smooth). The weight of the material will keep it from shifting, and the walls will hold it in place. A floating floor has the advantage of being relatively easy to remove, which comes in handy if you make a mistake while you’re laying the floor or if you want to swap it for something different in the years to come. (We indicate which flooring can float in our extensive ratings.)

This approach doesn’t work with solid wood and porcelain tile, both of which attach directly to a subfloor. (Wood is either nailed or glued, and tile is set in a bed of mortar.)

Below are CR’s top-scoring options for engineered wood, laminate, linoleum, prefinished solid wood, porcelain tile, and vinyl flooring, plus runners-up in each category.

We only test one color of each product; siblings in different colors should perform similarly to the tested product for resistance to foot traffic, scratches, stains, and dents. Keep in mind, though, that the darkest floors, in particular, could fade more noticeably given routine sun exposure.

For a full picture of what’s available in the five categories below, check our complete flooring ratings. Prices listed for each type below are per square foot.

Prefinished Solid Wood Flooring

This flooring consists of factory-finished planks and is available in a variety of wood species. It adds the warmth and character of unfinished hardwood flooring, which is sanded and finished on site—but without the mess, fumes, or time spent waiting for the finish to dry. (CR doesn’t test unfinished floors; much of what we analyze is related to the finish.) As a whole, this category doesn’t do well when it comes to dent resistance. Many models earned Poor ratings in those tests.

Engineered Wood Flooring

With this type of flooring, a layer of solid wood sits atop several layers of substrate bound together by an adhesive. The substrate can be made of plywood, vinyl, or a composite like that used in laminates. Engineered wood flooring simulates the look and feel of hardwood, with one important advantage: The substrate makes each plank less susceptible to seasonal shrinking and swelling than solid wood. That additional stability minimizes gaps between boards that can appear in dry conditions.

Laminate Flooring

A less-expensive option than engineered planks, laminate flooring simulates wood, employing a photographic image of wood sealed on top of dense fiberboard. Laminate comes in a variety of wood patterns, including oak, maple, and pine. It’s usually easy to install because most products allow you to float the material over another flooring surface. That makes it an ideal choice for quick upgrades. Among the picks below, we’ve included comparable options from both national big-box stores. You’ll find more recommended models and CR Best Buys in this category in our ratings of flooring products.

Vinyl Flooring

Usually made of flexible PVC, vinyl flooring comes in squares or planks that can float or be glued in place or sheets that need to be glued down (by a pro). Vinyl flooring comes in hundreds of looks—wood, stone, and patterned, to name just a few. You’ll find more top-rated and recommended models in this category in our complete ratings.

Porcelain Tile Flooring

A type of ceramic tile, porcelain tile can look like marble, stone, hardwood, or handmade ceramic tile. It easily resists foot traffic, scratches, and stains, but can crack or chip if hit by a heavy object. Be warned if you’re considering porcelain tile for your kitchen. It’s hard on your feet, so if you’re standing a lot—say, while cooking—consider using a cushioned mat to provide a bit of relief.

Tobie Stanger

I cover the money side of home-related purchases and improvements: avoiding scams, making sense of warranties and insurance, finding the best financing, and getting the most value for your dollar. For CR, I've also written about digital payments, credit and debit, taxes, supermarkets, financial planners, airlines, retirement and estate planning, shopping for electronics and hearing aids—even how to throw a knockout wedding on a shoestring. I am never bored. Find me on Twitter: @TobieStanger