The best flooring for each room of the house

Ilyce R. Glink

New flooring is one of the easiest ways to brighten up a space. But with such a wide range of available flooring options, picking the perfect material isn't always easy.

To find the right type of flooring for each room in your house, consider the unique needs of each space.

Living Room

The living room is the perfect place to try solid hardwood flooring. Wood flooring will add warmth to your home and can last decades, since it can be refinished multiple times before it needs to be replaced.

Proper installation is the first step to keeping your floor looking good for years to come. A good contractor can ensure the new floor will be able to withstand both everyday wear and tear and long-term issues, like the house settling.

When hiring a contractor, be sure to ask about training, licensing and insurance. Check with services like the Better Business Bureau, Yelp and Angie's List for reviews, complaints and the overall reputation of the contractor you're considering.

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Protecting the wood from moisture, scratches and dents is also critical. Chicago-based contractor Bogdan Blasik, owner of BBL Construction Inc., cautions against wearing your shoes inside the house.

"The biggest enemy of hardwood floors is high heels," he says.

There are many wood options ranging from the American hardwoods like white oak, maple and hickory, to more exotic woods like Brazilian Cherry and African Teak.

Blasik recommends red oak, an American hardwood. It's very easy to stain, giving you a choice of many different looks, and it's affordable. Prices can start as low as $5 per square foot.

Other wood options, such as factory finished flooring, can run upwards of $14 per square foot and are more difficult to refinish than traditional hardwood.


The kitchen might be the messiest place in the house. Spills, mud-soaked boots and wet dogs will always push your floor to the limit.

Cassity Kmetzsch, author of the blog, says kitchen floors must be water-resistant and easy to clean. That's why she recommends a resilient flooring option like vinyl or linoleum.

Vinyl is durable, flexible and can handle spills, making it a smart choice for your kitchen. It comes in many different colors, patterns and textures so it's easy and fun to personalize your space. Prices range from less than $1 per square foot to well over $5 per square foot.

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Environmentally friendly linoleum is a good alternative to vinyl. It's as durable as vinyl, but is slightly more expensive because it's made from renewable materials. With installation, linoleum generally runs $4 to $7 per square foot.


Bathrooms see a lot of moisture and heat, and your flooring choice must be able to stand up to those elements.

"Based on budget, my top pick is tile for bathroom flooring," says contractor and designer Tracy Tesmer, owner of Atlanta-based firm Tracy Tesmer Design/Remodeling. "Pair it with a radiant floor heating system to make it more comfortable."

Tile comes in a number of unique designs and is fairly easy to have installed. On average, it runs $6 to $12 per square foot. But there's no need to go to the top of the budget to get a nice tile. Online wholesalers like BuildDirect offer 12-by-12 marble tile starting at $2.35 per square foot, and big box stores often have sales on flooring.

Just be sure to shop around and make sure you're getting the best price, and consider porcelain or ceramic instead of marble or granite to keep the new floor even more affordable.

Radiant floor heating costs vary based on type, but Warmly Yours Radiant Heating offers their Tempzone roll twin – that covers 18 square feet and can easily heat a 20 square-foot bathroom – for $288. With a thermostat and circuit check, the price comes to $472.

Cost of installation varies depending on location and difficulty of the job, so call your local contractor to get a better idea of budget.

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The purpose of basement space can vary drastically, from kids' playroom to home gym, so it's important to think about how you plan to use the space when considering flooring options.

"A popular trend in basement flooring right now is stained concrete," says Tesmer. "It has a pretty long life expectancy and is fairly affordable, too."

Basic staining can start between $2 and $4 per square foot. Adding intricacies like saw cut patterning and sandblasted stencil work can increase the price by $10 or more per square foot.

While stained concrete works great in a basement used as a home gym, it's not a good option if you want your young kids to be able to crawl around on their hands and knees. If you plan to use the space as a playroom or living room, you'll probably want to consider something a little softer.

"The basement is typically a little bit more casual, making it the perfect space for carpet," Tesmer says.

Carpet is affordable - on average, it costs $29 per square yard to install – and easy to replace if your basement ever floods. Just keep in mind the cost of cleaning when considering this option, since carpeting in high-traffic areas can become dirty, matted, and crushed.

While it's tempting to DIY a tile or wood flooring job, incorrect installation can cost you in the long run. If you have to have the project re-done, that's hundreds of dollars and countless hours you can't get back. No matter what room you're updating with new flooring, it pays to have it done correctly by a pro.

Ilyce Glink is an award-winning, nationally syndicated real estate columnist, blogger and radio talk show host, and managing editor of the Equifax Finance Blog. Follow her on Twitter @Glink.