You need new floors but, at this point in life, you have far more ambition than cash. Not to worry. There are inexpensive flooring options on the market that, if you’re willing and able to tackle installation, can give your home a facelift without breaking the bank.

Vinyl flooring

It used to be that resilient vinyl sheeting had to be fastened down with not-so-easy-to-apply mastic. These days, installation of this kitchen- and bath-friendly flooring is considerably easier. You simply remove the shoe molding from around the room, make a paper template of the room, cut the flooring to size using a utility knife, lay the flooring down and replace the molding. There’s no glue, no staples, no nails. Sheet vinyl flooring typically comes in 12-foot-wide rolls, resulting in seamless coverage in most rooms. Prices start at about $2 per square foot. One foot-square peel-and-stick vinyl tiles, which start at about $1 per square foot, are also available for even easier do-it-yourself installation.


Vinyl and linoleum flooring are often confused but they’re actually very different. Vinyl is a synthetic product made of chlorinated petrochemicals. Linoleum is made from all-natural materials such as solidified linseed oil, pine rosin, ground cord dust and wood flour. Vinyl melts; linoleum doesn’t. Vinyl designs tend to be printed on the surface, while the colors in linoleum go all the way through the product. Linoleum was very popular until the 1960s, when cheaper and more colorful vinyl took over the market. Today, linoleum is making a resurgence, due in part to the fact that it’s now available in hundreds of colors and because it’s a “green” product. Linoleum comes both in sheets and tiles. DIYers can install linoleum tile, which start at $4 per square foot; installation of sheet linoleum is best left to professionals.

Installing laminate flooringLaminate flooring

This floating floor system is made of tongue-and-groove planks that snap together – no nails, staples or glue. Laminate comes in dozens of colors and wood-grain patterns and is available in a variety of widths. Laminate flooring’s top surface is made of plastic laminate, not hardwood; that makes the product resistant to stains, scratches, fading and wear. You’ll find low-end laminate flooring for less than $1 per square foot. Premium products tend to be thicker and more durable, often coming with warranties of up to 30 years; they’ll cost you $4 to $6 per square foot.

Ceramic tile

Ceramic tile flooring is not the absolute cheapest flooring option, nor is it the easiest to install, but its durability and long lifespan make it worth considering. The success of any tile job depends on a solid base with little flex in it. If the old floor is sturdy and even, you can simplify the tiling job by covering the old floor with a thin underlayment that gives you a fresh, clean start. Larger tiles are easier to lay than smaller ones. No matter what size tile you choose, you’ll likely need to rent or borrow a wet saw for the project. Tiling a small bathroom or entry way is most likely a two-day project – even for a rookie. If you’re comfortable using basic hand tools and have the patience to align tiles just right, you can handle this job. For a bit of added confidence, take a free class at a home improvement store. Ceramic tile, uninstalled, costs anywhere from $3 to upward of $50 per square foot.


Mary Boone is a freelance writer for Zillow Blog. Read more from her here.

About the Author

Mary was a newspaper writer/editor for 13 years and worked as spokesperson for a Fortune 500 Company before becoming a freelance writer. She has authored more than two dozen books for young readers and writes for a handful of regional home and garden magazines.

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