Hardwood floorings are the gold standard of flooring — they are elegant, gorgeous, and their classic look never goes out of style. Wood flooring works for pretty much any space and instantly elevates the look, hence the popularity.
However, hardwood floorings are one of the most expensive flooring options out there. They aren’t the most durable — therefore, not the first choice if you have kids and pets. Also, you have to pay extra attention and be cautious to clean hardwood floors properly without causing any damage.
But for anyone who wants the classic look of hardwood without the hefty bill or the hassle, we have come up with the 13 best low-cost alternatives to hardwood flooring. These hardwood flooring alternatives will mimic different hardwood features to make your floor classier than ever.
So, let’s get into it.
Table of Contents
Should You Consider Hardwood Flooring Alternatives?
One of the reasons hardwood floorings have become so popular and are one of the most used flooring options is their variety. The way the wood is cut, how it is assembled, or the type of wood that goes into it dictates the look of the wood. On top of that, you will also see variations in hardwood with different textures and finishes.
But should you choose the real deal or go for the alternatives to hardwood flooring? It depends on what your criteria are. Consider the following –
Are you on a budget?
Hardwood floors are anything but cheap. Depending on the type and installation method you choose, they typically cost between $6 and $12 per square foot. Some hardwood flooring can cost you as high as $23 per square foot. For the entire project, you are looking at somewhere between $2,300 and $6,000 with an average of $4,200.
Do you need low-maintenance flooring?
Both finished and unfinished hardwood flooring need special care to keep them in good shape for a long time. Cleaning them is a hurdle as you cannot use strong chemicals or water on the wood surface. Also, you need to re-wax and refinish from time to time to improve their durability.
Is the area prone to moisture and humidity?
Hardwood flooring is highly vulnerable to moisture. In fact, you need to maintain an ideal indoor humidity level for hardwood. The low humidity level can cause your hardwood floor to split and even damage the finish. On the other hand, high humidity can cause the hardwood to swell, buckle, or crown. It also weakens and cracks the wood.
Do you have pets and kids?
Pets can easily scratch up your hardwood floor finish with their claws. These aren’t ideal for houses with kids as they can damage it by spilling something or scratching up the surface with toys. Over time, these scratches can become very prominent, especially on darker floors.
Is noise a major factor for you?
Hardwood floors will creak when you step on them, especially after extended usage. However, you can dampen the creaking by filling the gaps between the subfloor and joist with construction adhesive.
Low-Cost Hardwood Floor Alternatives
1. Bamboo Flooring
Price: $3 to $9 per square foot
Bamboo gives the closest look to hardwood flooring while being much cheaper, sturdier, and low maintenance — basically, the best bargain you could get for a hardwood floor alternative. Another big pro of bamboo flooring is it’s organic, like wood floors, but it is also environment friendly. They are easy to clean, pet-friendly, and work in any room. Bamboo offers a variety of colors on top of its natural blond look.
Pros and cons of bamboo flooring:
2. Laminate Flooring
Price: $1 to $3 per square foot or $10 or $12 per square foot
Laminate flooring has earned its reputation as a cheaper, easy-to-install, durable alternative to hardwood flooring. It can be eco-friendly depending on the sourcing. Laminate flooring has improved vastly over the last few decades and now offers sharper high-definition imaging, deeper embossing, and better seaming mechanisms. It can create a wooden floor look at a fraction of the cost.
Pros and cons of laminate flooring:
|Extremely durable, making them a right fit for high traffic areas||The appearance might somewhat be fake or artificial|
|Easy to install and DIY friendly||Susceptible to liquid damage|
|Resists stains||It cannot be refinished|
|Non-allergenic||Hard and noisy underfoot|
3. Vinyl Plank or LVT Flooring
Price: $2.50 to $5 per square foot (Vinyl plank) or $5 and $12 per square foot (LVT)
What’s a better alternative to a hardwood floor than a copycat itself? Wood-like vinyl planks mimic the look and texture of hardwood flooring, offering a much more affordable and low-maintenance option. Vinyl offers many different variations to suit your needs. Luxury vinyl plank is an excellent choice for those with a comparatively higher budget — made with four different layers meshed together to create a sturdy wood alternative.
Vinyl flooring has a 100% waterproof surface which is a big pro to any house owner. Also, it is effortless to install and suitable for DIY projects. You can install vinyl over any hard flooring surface as long as it is smooth and level — making it ideal for renovations.
Pros and cons of vinyl planks:
4. Cork Flooring
Price: $2 to $12 per square foot
Cork is a biodegradable, sustainably harvested, and wood-derived flooring material that’s gained popularity in recent years as an environmentally friendly and cheaper alternative to hardwood flooring. It comes from the bark of the cork oak tree, which is grouped up and turned into sheets, and later bonded with resin to create the end product as we see it in the household. However, cork is not as durable as hardwood and is susceptible to damage. It has a soft and cushioned surface and offers good insulation. Another big pro of cork is hypoallergenic and antimicrobial.
5. Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Price: $3 to $14 per square foot
Engineered hardwood is probably as close as you will get to hardwood flooring when you are not up for the real deal. It is everything hardwood is, minus all the fuss and at almost half the price. The engineered wood construction features a top layer of hardwood bonded over a plywood layer that gives the flooring excellent stability.
As for longevity, good quality engineered wood floors will easily last a couple of decades or more. It is also easy to install and friend to the DIYers. Unlike solid wood, engineered wood is not susceptible to moisture-induced damage and can withstand fluctuation in humidity.
Pros and cons of engineered hardwood flooring:
6. Linoleum Flooring
Price: $2 to $2.50 per square foot (Linoleum sheet) or $3.50 to $5 per square foot (Linoleum tiles)
Linoleum is a durable, cheaper, and environment-friendly flooring option that offers a variety of colors and designs to stimulate natural flooring materials such as wood or stone. It is made of a mix of renewable natural materials, including linseed oil, jute, cork powder, tree resin, and wood flours. The design is embedded throughout the material to create a more natural finish. Another pro of linoleum is its durability and water-resisting properties that make it an ideal choice for anywhere.
Pros and cons of linoleum flooring
|Durable and resistant to wear and tear||Susceptible to dents from heavy furniture|
|Wide variety of colors, patterns, and styles||Not DIY friendly|
|Water-resistant||Color may fade or change due to sun exposure|
|Biodegradable and sustainably manufactured||Quality may vary depending on the manufacturer|
|Requires very little maintenance|
|Scratch-resistant and pet friendly|
|Does not emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs)|
7. Wood-like Tile Flooring
Price: $2 and $8 per square foot (Ceramic) or $4 to $12 per square foot (Porcelain)
With advancing technologies, ceramic and porcelain tiles can mimic the look of hardwood floors to perfection. Although you can tell it’s not hardwood from up close, wood-like tiles are water and moisture resistant, incredibly durable, and withstands load extremely well — pretty much all the benefits of tile flooring. You can install tile flooring in any part of the house without worrying about damages. Also, they require little to no maintenance, and you can clean them with water, unlike hardwood floors.
Pros and cons of wood-like tile flooring
|Very durable and strong||Dropping heavy objects might shatter it|
|Easy to clean||It does not replicate the feel of wood|
|Water-resistant||Hard and noisy underfoot|
|Frost-resistant||It might not be considered cozy|
|Requires little to no maintenance|
|Does not retain dust or allergens|
|It does not absorb smoke, odors, or fumes|
8. Hemp Wood Flooring
Price: $9.99 per square foot
Hemp wood flooring is now the up-and-coming and trendiest alternative to hardwood flooring in the market. Hemp wood is made from hemp stalks, making it one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly flooring options. This organic flooring has a very similar look and feel to hardwood while offering twice the tensile strength. However, the manufacturer option for this flooring is still limited, and you might struggle to find it depending on where you live.
Pros and cons of hemp wood flooring:
9. Stone Flooring
Price: $5.30 to $9.75 per square foot
Stone flooring might not cross your mind when thinking about alternatives to hardwood flooring, but they are comparable in many ways. Although stone flooring creates a different look, they are an incredible choice to bring a contemporary look and feel to your home. They offer a wide variety in color, style, pattern, and types.
Marble, granite, travertine, slate, and limestone are some of the most popular stone flooring options. Another advantage of stone flooring is most materials are naturally resistant to stains, moisture, and heavy foot traffic. You get plenty of choices to play around with to either make your floor stick out or to stay on the neutral side of the spectrum.
Pros and cons of stone flooring
|Long-lasting and durable||Some stone materials can be expensive|
|Ideal for both outdoor and indoor areas||Can be slippery|
|Improves indoor energy efficiency||Requires special tools and skills to install|
|Keeps away dust and allergens||Some natural stones are prone to water damage|
|Some stone floors are water and stain resistant|
|Lots of variety to choose from|
10. Concrete Flooring
Price: $2 to $8 per square foot
Concrete is one of the cheapest and most durable flooring options out there. Before you rule it out as an alternative to hardwood flooring, consider the latest varieties it offers in color, texture, polish, and stamp. You can create a similar look to hardwood with concrete. Concrete is an open canvas that you can play around with. Love the rich color and shine of mahogany? Or a cool tone of oak with a slightly non-slip texture? Concrete can do it all. However, the price varies greatly depending on the texture and finish.
Pros and cons of concrete flooring
|Low maintenance||Hard and somewhat uncomfortable underfoot|
|Eco-friendly||May develop cracks over time|
|Good insulator||Some finishes may be slippery|
|Durable and long-lasting|
|Lots of variety to choose from|
11. Painted Plywood Flooring
Painted plywood is an incredibly clever DIY flooring that is best for areas where hardwood flooring is not practical or worth the cost. For example, plywood is the perfect alternative to hardwood flooring for attics or other low-profile areas of the house. As most houses already have plywood subflooring, all you need to do is apply a few coats of paint to create a finished floor. However, keep in mind to add a waterproof sealer as plywood is susceptible to water damage.
Pros and cons of painted plywood flooring
|Very affordable||Not durable|
|DIY friendly||The knots may crack or break|
|Highly flexible||It might negatively impact the resale value of the house|
|Ideal for both hot and cold environments|
12. Peel and Stick Tiles Flooring
Price: $1.5 to $3 per square foot
Peel and stick vinyl tiles are one of the most budget-friendly flooring options for homeowners. Even the most inexperienced person can install these peel and stick tiles. Although many people are skeptical about its durability, this flooring is virtually indestructible. It can be waterproof in some cases, making it ideal for bathrooms and the basement. You also get a variety of options to choose from to create the perfect floor.
Pros and cons of peel and stick tile flooring
|Very durable||It is not long-lasting|
|Easy to install||It might impact the resale value of the house|
|Water-resistant in most cases|
|Ideal for high moisture areas|
|Can be installed over existing floor|
13. Rigid Core Waterproof Planks
Price: $2 to $4 per square foot
Rigid core waterproof planks (RCWP) are one of the best low-cost alternatives to hardwood flooring. These are 100% waterproof and resistant to moisture-caused damages. Unlike hardwood floors, they will not expand or contract with the changes in humidity and temperature.
Additionally, they are stain, dent, and scratch-resistant. These are also very low maintenance compared to hardwood floors — making them a perfect choice for a household with pets and children. Also, they don’t trap any allergens or dust. You can even use steam mops to clean RCWP.
Pros and cons of rigid core waterproof planks
|100% waterproof||Not biodegradable|
|Stain, dent, and scratch-resistant||Exposure to UV might cause damage|
|It does not expand or contract with humidity and temperature fluctuations|
|It does not trap allergens or dust|
|Floating or glueless installation|
Did you find the perfect alternative to hardwood flooring for your home? Comment below and let us know!