Best Flooring From Consumer Reports' Tests
Top-performing picks in solid wood, engineered wood, porcelain tile, and more
Style may earn the spotlight in your search for flooring, but durability is a key supporting player. A new floor stays beautiful for the long term only when it can hold up against foot traffic, spills, dropped items, scratches, and exposure to sunlight. With all these considerations, the choice can be daunting.
“Pick a room’s flooring based on the activities that will happen there,” advises Enrique dePaz, 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 and utensils—or may even warp or crack from large water spills.
“Choices like tile or vinyl would be better,” dePaz adds. “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.
Should You Do It Yourself or Hire a Pro?
That depends on whether the material can be installed as a floating floor or whether it 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’ve only tested 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 does not 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
In this type of flooring, a layer of solid wood sits atop several layers of substrate bound together by 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.
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. You’ll find more recommended models and CR Best Buys in this category in our Ratings of flooring products.
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.