Test technician completing scratch resistance test
Photo: Brian Finke

Flooring takes up a lot of real estate in any room, and given its visual impact, you’ll want to make sure it lasts more than a few years. But when you consider all the flooring options on the market, it can be tough to know which material to go with.

“Is there potential for moisture or spills? How much traffic will the space have?” says Joan Muratore, a senior test engineer who evaluates flooring for Consumer Reports. “Ease of cleaning and maintenance are something else to consider."

More on Flooring

If you need help thinking through the functional aspects of flooring, check out our buying guide to find the best types for each room. If you already have a sense of 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.

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, assessing each sample for signs of visible wear after each cycle of sanding.

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.

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 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 change 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 a runner-up in each category.

For a full picture of what’s available in the five categories below, check our ratings of more than 60 flooring products. 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 can survive more scuffs than unfinished hardwood, and adds warmth and character design-wise. As a whole, this category doesn’t do well when it comes to dent resistance. Many earned Poor ratings in CR's tests.

Quick Take

Teragren Portfolio Naturals Wheat TPF-PORTTG-WHT

Price: $8

Resists dents
Resists scratches
Resists sunlight
Unlock Flooring Ratings
Quick Take

Armstrong Paragon Original Ember SAKP59L401

Price: $7

Resists foot traffic
Resists scratches
Resists sunlight
Unlock Flooring Ratings

Engineered Wood Flooring

Made from several layers of plywood bound together by adhesives and topped with a layer of solid wood, this floor type simulates the look and feel of hardwood, with one important advantage: The plywood 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. (There's no runner-up in this category because none of the other products tested well enough for CR to recommend.)

Quick Take

Home Legend Strand Woven Mojave HL667 (Home Depot)

Price: $2

Resists sunlight
Resists foot traffic
Resists scratches
Unlock Flooring Ratings

Laminate Flooring

A less expensive option than engineered planks, laminate flooring simulates wood with 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.

Quick Take

Pergo Outlast+ Vintage Pewter Oak LF000848 (Home Depot)

Price: $3

Resists scratches
Resists stains
Resists foot traffic
Unlock Flooring Ratings
Quick Take

Home Legend Textured Oak Paloma HL1226 (Home Depot)

Unlock Ratings

Vinyl Flooring

Usually made of flexible PVC, vinyl flooring comes in squares or planks that can made into floating flooring or glued into place, or sheets that need to be glued down (by a pro). Vinyl flooring comes in hundreds of looks—wood, stone, and woven, to name just a few.

Quick Take

Armstrong Pryzm Elements of Heritage Vintage Multi PC020

Price: $5

Resists foot traffic
Resists sunlight
Resists dents
Unlock Flooring Ratings
Quick Take

Congoleum DuraCeramic Sierra Slate SI74 Golden Greige

Unlock Ratings

Porcelain Tile Flooring

A type of ceramic tile, porcelain tile can look like marble, stone, hardwood, or handmade tile. It easily resists foot traffic, scratches, and stains, but porcelain can dent, 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 when you’re doing a lot of cooking, though you could consider using a cushioned mat to provide a bit of relief.

Quick Take

SnapStone Beige 11-001-02-01

Price: $8

Resists foot traffic
Resists scratches
Resists sunlight
Unlock Flooring Ratings
Quick Take

Style Selections (Lowe's) Natural Timber Ash 553878

Unlock Ratings