Before you make choices about where to cut costs and where to splurge when it comes to your flooring, remember that floors get more wear and tear than any other part of your home. What might save you money up front in lower grade materials and do-it-yourself installation may cost you more in the long run. Think carefully about the use of the room, traffic patterns, kids, pets and anything else that can do damage to your floor.

One cost homeowners often forget is preparing the sub-floor. If you don’t have a clean, flat-level surface, you may need a contractor to do prep work before you can put down flooring materials.

Hardwood Flooring

Wood floors can add an elegant and earthy look to your home. They can be installed relatively quickly, and they’re tremendously versatile. You can change the color of your wood floors simply by applying a stain. They can be sanded and refurbished many times and kept looking new. On the downside, wood floors can be more expensive than other options. Of course, how much you’ll spend depends on the type of wood, with the harder woods generally costing more and lasting longer.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Made using three to four layers of wood glued together, engineered hardwood is often more durable, more environmentally friendly and can stand up better to changes in humidity as well as unruly children. The material costs are about the same as traditional hardwood, but the installs are faster and cheaper.

Bamboo Flooring

Not only is bamboo resistant to moisture, it’s just about as green as you can get, as bamboo grows so quickly. Bamboo is considerably softer than traditional hardwoods, so it will be gentler on your joints. Dancers love it. Another advantage is that the softness of the floor reduces noise. The downside? It can be expensive and brittle, and although it’s generally durable, it’s more susceptible to dings and scratches than other wood floors.

Carpeting

New carpet in your home is a great way to freshen the look of a room – or your whole house. Carpet can be relatively inexpensive, but choosing the right carpet and installation method is important. Carpet prices can be compared based on several factors, including the pile of the carpet, room size and cost of installation. The pile of the carpet refers to the thickness or density of fibers used to weave the carpet. Natural products often cost more than those made of synthetic materials because natural fibers cannot be mass-produced as easily. Carpet is commonly priced by the square foot so your room size will also determine cost. The cost of carpet installation will vary, but many companies will offer free installation if you buy your carpet from them.

Tile Flooring

Popular in bathrooms and kitchens, tile flooring is the cleanest-looking and often the most durable option. Tile prices vary according to the materials used and where they’re produced. Among the options: ceramic, stone, marble and porcelain. Material costs can swing from a few bucks to thousands of dollars per tile, varying from big box mass produced to handcrafted and hand painted. Installation is fairly involved, and is often more expensive than the material costs.

Vinyl and Linoleum Flooring

Vinyl and linoleum represent the cheapest options to install. And though they can get a bad rap for the low-end varieties, recognize that modern versions are far better than your grandmother’s linoleum kitchen floor. They can be rolled or installed in squares, the latter of which is generally easy enough for the DIY set. Maintenance and repair costs are generally inexpensive but can also be doable DIY tasks. Although sometimes described interchangeably, vinyl is a petroleum product, while linoleum is made largely of linseed oil, an extract from flax seeds.

Cork Flooring

Like bamboo, cork represents an Eco-friendly alternative. And, also like bamboo, it’s expensive and soft, with all the advantages and disadvantages that represents.

Laminate Flooring

This cost-effective option is simple to install, easy to clean and can stand up to abuse from kids and animals. Laminate floors are made of synthetic layers with an inner core of fiber board or resin. Unfortunately, it doesn’t carry the rich look or feel of wood, and damaged laminate can be difficult to repair.

Another Factor

Flooring, particularly tile, can be cold on bare feet. Before you put down your new flooring, you might consider an under-floor heating system, using radiant, electric, liquid or air-heating systems.

Floors impact your life. Whether you’re doing yoga in the den, hosting a dinner party in the dining room, or entertaining the neighborhood kids in your kitchen, you need a surface underfoot that’s comfortable and durable. Since the floor is usually the largest surface in a room, it lays the foundation for the entire look of the space—color, style, texture, and pattern. And a new floor can be a big investment, so you want a surface that will last for years. Your floor choice is about balancing your needs with your style. Here are some considerations to help you pick.

Know Your Style. What colors and patterns do you like? Think about which floor textures appeal to you: the rich grain of hardwood, luxuriously thick carpet or the sleek lines of tile. And take into account your current décor, too. Unless you plan on redecorating on the entire room, you’ll want to choose floors that complement the furniture and accessories you have now.

Consider Your Lifestyle. Think about how you use the room. Are you an avid cook who spends hours standing at the stove? Then you may want to skip the tile, which can be uncomfortable to stand on for long periods. Do your kids leave puddles of water on the bathroom floor? You may want to go for that tile, which stands up to water. Do you have pets who track mud into the front hall? Think concrete, Your floor will need to be able to stand up to the wear and tear your family dishes out and accommodate your activities.

Crunch Numbers. Calculate your budget. Keep in mind that along with the cost of the floor material, you may need to incorporate the cost of underlayment, delivery, and installation, as well as removal and disposal of your previous flooring. Don’t forget to factor in any additional materials such as baseboards, stains, or adhesives.