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Which type of flooring is best depends on where you want to put it, how much you can spend, and what kind of wear it will get. For this buyer's guide, we consulted magazines like This Old House and Consumer Reports, in addition to buyer's guides at Lowe's and Better Homes & Gardens. Below is a comparison of types, along with pros and cons for each. We also considered each type's DIY possibilities and other costs.

Hardwood and engineered wood flooring
Best Reviewed

Adds most value to a home, but pricey

Wood flooring looks great and is durable with proper care. Although they are susceptible to scratches, dents and moisture, hardwood floors can be refinished multiple times, often lasting the lifetime of a home. Less expensive engineered wood flooring is also durable, but isn't as long-lasting since the top layer of wood can only be refinished one to three times. Though initially expensive, wood floors can add to the value of your home. Professional installation is usually recommended, but an experienced do-it-yourselfer may be able to handle the job. See our full review »

Laminate flooring
Best Reviewed

Durable, easier installation

Plastic laminate flooring doesn't look as nice as a hardwood or stone, but it can mimic the look for much less. Laminate floors are durable -- resistant to scratches, stains, UV light and dents. However, they are susceptible to moisture damage, so they aren't the best choice for kitchens or bathrooms. Laminate flooring uses floating installation, an easy do-it-yourself option, but it should be carefully installed, as poorly laid flooring detracts from the value of a home. See our full review »

Best Reviewed

Elegant but cold and expensive

Stone flooring – including marble, granite and travertine – can look very elegant in the right home. Stone is an expensive flooring choice and, unlike wood, must always be installed by a professional, adding to the cost. All stone floors also require periodic sealing to maintain durability, but once sealed, stone floors are easy to clean and maintain. Stone works well in kitchens and bathrooms, but can feel cold to the touch and can be slippery. See our full review »

Best Reviewed

Good for high-traffic areas

Tile is often considered as elegant as stone, but it's less expensive and with the right tools, can be self-installed by an experienced do-it-yourselfer. Tile is stylish and relatively durable, but it is also hard and noisy and can be prone to chipping and other signs of wear. Glazed tiles – available in most popular types – offer the best durability and easiest maintenance. Ceramic tiles are the most popular, though other types are available. See our full review »

Vinyl flooring
Best Reviewed

Most economical and easiest to install yourself

Although it is generally considered to be aesthetically inferior to laminate flooring, vinyl flooring is inexpensive, and tile vinyl (sometimes with a self-stick backing) is easy to install yourself (sheet vinyl usually requires professional installation). Vinyl flooring is also durable, resistant to UV light and easy to clean and maintain. And although tile vinyl is susceptible to scratches, it is also easy to repair. See our full review »

Cork, linoleum and bamboo flooring
Best Reviewed

Green flooring

Cork, linoleum and bamboo flooring are the most popular environmentally conscious options. Cork ($4 to $10 per sq. ft.) is harvested without killing the tree; it is inexpensive and works with any decor, but it is also susceptible to wear and moisture. Bamboo flooring (*est. $3 to $10 per sq. ft.) is made of a sustainable crop; it is more durable and has the look of wood flooring. Linoleum ($3 to $7 per sq. ft.), made of pine resins, sawdust, cork dust and limestone attached to a jute backing, is highly durable, but requires frequent finishing due to its porous nature, and it doesn't look as stylish as cork or bamboo. See our full review »

The flooring industry is a broad one, with literally hundreds of flooring choices available to most consumers. Although some comparison reports on flooring exist, they are generally confined to a specific type of flooring, such as wood or vinyl.

To help homeowners sort through the many available options, this article focuses on the pros and cons of the various types, along with tips on what to look for and what flooring types are most suitable for specific situations. Due to the large amount of information available, this report focuses strictly on flooring, not carpeting.

The best sources we found on flooring were consumer education publications. Consumer Reports has an excellent, highly comprehensive flooring report that covers several different types of flooring and compares them based on durability in diverse situations. Similarly, Which? magazine offers both comprehensive flooring information and comparisons, but is limited to wood and wood-type flooring products. Both of these sites require a paid subscription for full access to information.

Two non-subscription sites also provided valuable information. Better Homes and Gardens magazine offers several online articles with information about types of flooring and how to buy the best flooring to suit your needs. One of the best informational sites we found, however, was Lowes.com, offering a surprisingly non-commercial look at flooring types, pros and cons of each, and installation tips. Most sites also include information on whether you can install flooring yourself.

We also found good information on some commercial sites, but these sites were generally focused on marketing their products and/or services, biasing their information. Some of the sites we found helpful in spite of their commercialism were FlooringGuide.com, SeeMyDesign.com, WolfeFlooring.com and the Essential Industries, Inc. website.

There are many ways to classify flooring, and various sites and organizations group flooring types differently. Generally speaking, however, the basic types are wood, laminate, stone, tile, vinyl and "green" flooring (bamboo and cork, primarily). Each type has specific benefits and drawbacks, and each is suitable for different situations.

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