Top-performing picks in solid wood, engineered wood, porcelain tile, and more
In CR's test for foot-traffic wear, discs holding abrasive paper rub left and right against flooring samples. We check for wear after every 50 left-right cycle. The best flooring is unscathed after 500 cycles.
By Tobie Stanger
Buying flooring for your home can be tricky; one type usually doesn’t meet the needs of every room. No doubt you’ll want good looks and easy care throughout, but for high-traffic, busy areas you’ll also need a durable material underfoot that withstands scratches, spills, and dents. Rooms that get strong sunlight require flooring that resists color changes from ultraviolet exposure.
Consumer Reports’ flooring tests have found that there’s no one material that does everything perfectly. But our picks below show the best in each of five categories: prefinished solid wood, engineered wood, laminate, vinyl, and porcelain tile.
You’ll get the best flooring for a given area if you pick a material based on the activities that will happen there, advises Enrique de Paz, a senior test engineer who evaluates flooring for Consumer Reports. In a kitchen, for instance, think twice about a hardwood floor that may stain, nick, scratch, or dent from falling food or utensils, or may even warp or crack from large water spills. “Choices like tile or vinyl would be better,” de Paz says. “Luckily, these are now available in many styles, including some that simulate hardwood.”
If you need help thinking through the functional aspects of flooring, check our buying guide to find the best types for each room. If you know which material you’re looking for, well, you’re almost there. Take a look below at our top picks in five categories of materials, based on CR’s extensive lab testing.
How We Test Flooring
We test wear resistance by subjecting a 6-by-6-inch sample of each flooring material to an abrasion machine fitted with a fine sandpaper disc, periodically assessing each sample for signs of visible wear.
To test a floor’s resistance to denting, we drop a heavy, blunt weight that has the same impact as a large can of tomatoes, plus objects that are smaller, lighter, and pointier that serve as proxies for kitchen utensils. Our testers drop the weights from progressively higher points, examining the flooring for visible denting after each drop. The higher the drop before damage becomes evident, the better a floor’s dent-resistance rating.
A floor’s water resistance is key, and manufacturers are continually trying to improve their products’ impermeability. We check for water damage in two ways. We spill water on a flooring sample’s surface and allow it to sit overnight. We take another sample of the same flooring and completely submerge it in a bucket of water, again letting it remain overnight. The more a product swells, deforms, softens, or delaminates in those two tests, the lower its water-resistance score.
We evaluate the potential for fading by exposing part of a sample of flooring to UV rays for two weeks straight, and then compare the exposed portion to an unexposed portion. This gives us information on what can happen to a section of flooring that gets more sunlight than the rest of a room over time.
Should You Do It Yourself or Hire a Pro?
That depends on whether the material can be installed as a floating floor or should be nailed or glued into place.
With a floating floor, the pieces click together to create one large puzzle that can be installed right over an existing floor (assuming it’s flat and smooth). The weight of the material will keep it from shifting, and the walls will hold it in place. A floating floor has the advantage of being relatively easy to remove, which comes in handy if you make a mistake while you’re laying the floor or if you want to swap it for something different in the years to come. (We indicate which flooring can float in our extensive ratings.)
This approach doesn’t work with solid wood and porcelain tile, both of which attach directly to a subfloor. (Wood is either nailed or glued, and tile is set in a bed of mortar.)
Below are CR’s top-scoring options for engineered wood, laminate, linoleum, prefinished solid wood, porcelain tile, and vinyl flooring, plus runners-up in each category.
We only test one color of each product; siblings in different colors should perform similarly to the tested product for resistance to foot traffic, scratches, stains, and dents. Keep in mind, though, that the darkest floors, in particular, could fade more noticeably given routine sun exposure.
For a full picture of what’s available in the five categories below, check our complete flooring ratings. Prices listed for each type below are per square foot.
Prefinished Solid Wood Flooring
This flooring consists of factory-finished planks and is available in a variety of wood species. It adds the warmth and character of unfinished hardwood flooring, which is sanded and finished on site—but without the mess, fumes, or time spent waiting for the finish to dry. (CR doesn’t test unfinished floors; much of what we analyze is related to the finish.) As a whole, this category doesn’t do well when it comes to dent resistance. Many models earned Poor ratings in those tests.
Teragren Portfolio Naturals Wheat TPF-PORTTG-WHT
CR’s take: While Teragren Portfolio Naturals Wheat TPF-PORTTG-WHT planks may look like solid bamboo, they’re actually made from long bamboo fibers glued and pressed together at high pressure. This flooring earns an impressive Excellent rating for resisting dents; all of the other prefinished wood floors we tested received a Poor score in this test. Its rich finish does an exceptional job holding up against scratching and staining, too. The only downside is that you may see some fading from sun exposure over time based on our simulated sunlight test.
Lumber Liquidators Bellawood Character Red Oak 10047316
CR’s take: Lumber Liquidators Bellawood Character Red Oak 10047316 solid wood flooring, a CR Best Buy, scores Excellent in resisting foot traffic, water, and slipping. It also earns a Very Good rating for stain resistance. It earns only a Good rating, though, at resisting scratches, and—like most prefinished solid wood flooring, it rates Poor at fending off dents. These smooth-textured planks, which come in fair, medium, and dark shades, are just Fair at keeping their color after two weeks’ exposure to ultraviolet light, so consider this flooring for areas that won’t be exposed to sunlight.
Hartco Paragon Original Ember SAKP59L401
CR’s take: Paragon Original Ember SAKP59L401 from Hartco is one of only three products in this category that receives an Excellent rating for its ability to resist wear from foot traffic. It also does well in retaining its color when exposed to ultraviolet rays, so you can expect that it won’t fade as much as others might in sunny rooms. As for installation, it needs to be nailed to a plywood subfloor.
Engineered Wood Flooring
With this type of flooring, a layer of solid wood sits atop several layers of substrate bound together by an adhesive. The substrate can be made of plywood, vinyl, or a composite like that used in laminates. Engineered wood flooring simulates the look and feel of hardwood, with one important advantage: The substrate makes each plank less susceptible to seasonal shrinking and swelling than solid wood. That additional stability minimizes gaps between boards that can appear in dry conditions.
Lumber Liquidators AquaSeal 72 Engineered Bamboo Water Resistant Click Strand Toffee 10046516
CR’s take: Lumber Liquidators AquaSeal 72 Engineered Bamboo Water Resistant Click Strand Toffee 10046516 earns Excellent marks in nearly every one of our tests, including resistance to foot traffic, stains, water, and slipping. What’s more, its performance in retaining its color when exposed to ultraviolet rays is top-notch, so you can expect that it won’t fade as much as others might in sunny rooms. It scores a Good rating for resistance to scratches and dents; in fact, its dent resistance is better than that of any other engineered wood flooring model in our tests. This flooring can be installed either as a floating floor or glued to a plywood subfloor. This AquaSeal model has a slight texture and comes in medium-hued wood shades.
Lumber Liquidators Bellawood Geneva White Oak 10045563
CR’s take: Lumber Liquidators Bellawood Geneva White Oak 10045563 stands up against foot traffic, stains, water, and slipping, earning Excellent ratings in those tests. This slightly textured flooring earned just a Good score at resisting sunlight, so it’s not ideal for areas that get direct light. Scratch resistance is just Fair, and like most engineered wood flooring in our tests, it’s poor at fending off dents. This flooring is veneer over plywood substrate and can be installed as a floating floor or attached to plywood with nails or glue. Available in medium shades only.
A less-expensive option than engineered planks, laminate flooring simulates wood, employing a photographic image of wood sealed on top of dense fiberboard. Laminate comes in a variety of wood patterns, including oak, maple, and pine. It’s usually easy to install because most products allow you to float the material over another flooring surface. That makes it an ideal choice for quick upgrades. Among the picks below, we’ve included comparable options from both national big-box stores. You’ll find more recommended models and CR Best Buys in this category in our ratings of flooring products.
Lumber Liquidators AquaSeal 24 Tapestry Oak 10047713
CR’s take: Lumber Liquidators AquaSeal 24 Tapestry Oak 10047713, a CR Best Buy, is stellar in nearly all categories, earning Excellent marks resisting foot traffic, stains, water, sunlight, scratches, and slipping. The textured, floating flooring scores only Good at withstanding dents, though. Made of a plastic film over high-density fiberboard, AquaSeal 24 Tapestry Oak is available only in light shades.
Home Legend Textured Oak Paloma HL1226 (Home Depot)
CR’s take: If you’re looking for a highly textured, wood-look laminate flooring at a competitive price, Home Legend Textured Oak Paloma HL1226 is a good bet. It’s a CR Best Buy, earning a Very Good Overall Score. In our tests, it excelled in resisting foot traffic, stains, and color change from UV exposure. Its one drawback is that it’s subpar at resisting dents. It’s sold at Home Depot and is available in light, medium, and dark shades.
Pergo Portfolio+ Wet Protect Hermosa Oak LF000951 1071545 (Lowe's)
CR’s take: Pergo Portfolio+ Wet Protect Hermosa Oak LF000951 1071545 laminate flooring, a CR Best Buy, earned impressive scores in resistance to foot traffic, scratching, staining, and color change from UV exposure. It did well at resisting dents, too. This smooth, wood-look floor is sold at Lowe’s. It comes in light, medium, and dark shades.
Pergo Outlast+ Vintage Pewter Oak LF000848 (Home Depot)
CR’s take: Resistant to stains, scratches, and foot traffic, Pergo’s Outlast+ Vintage Pewter Oak LF000848 earns impressive Excellent and Very Good scores across all our tests. Sold at Home Depot, it comes with a lifetime warranty that promises that the laminate surface won’t wear through and that the floor won’t fade from exposure to sun or electrical lighting.
Usually made of flexible PVC, vinyl flooring comes in squares or planks that can float or be glued in place or sheets that need to be glued down (by a pro). Vinyl flooring comes in hundreds of looks—wood, stone, and patterned, to name just a few. You’ll find more top-rated and recommended models in this category in our complete ratings.
Congoleum DuraCeramic Sierra Slate SI74 Golden Greige
CR’s take: For those interested in a vinyl floor with the look and feel of stone, the Congoleum DuraCeramic Sierra Slate S174 Golden Greige is a top choice. It earns a rating of Excellent in our tests for staining, denting, scratching, and resistance to fading, making it a solid bet for sunny kitchens.
Armstrong Alterna Mesa Stone Canyon Sun D4112
CR’s take: Impressive as vinyl may be in durability, it often looks like vinyl. But Armstrong Alterna Mesa Stone Canyon Sun D4112 vinyl flooring looks like real slate, right down to its variegated colors and texturing. The 16-inch tiles endure the effects of water, scratches, dents, and fading in sunlight superbly, earning Excellent scores in those tests. This flooring is also impressive at resisting foot traffic, stains, and slipping. Its limited-lifetime warranty covers wear-through, denting, and other problems, including manufacturer defects.
Porcelain Tile Flooring
A type of ceramic tile, porcelain tile can look like marble, stone, hardwood, or handmade ceramic tile. It easily resists foot traffic, scratches, and stains, but can crack or chip if hit by a heavy object. Be warned if you’re considering porcelain tile for your kitchen. It’s hard on your feet, so if you’re standing a lot—say, while cooking—consider using a cushioned mat to provide a bit of relief.
Style Selections (Lowe's) Natural Timber Ash 553878
CR’s take: Style Selections Natural Timber Ash 553878 porcelain tile, available at Lowe’s, tops nearly every CR performance test, earning Excellent scores resisting foot traffic, scratches, stains, water, and slipping, and for colorfastness. While it rates Good in its ability to withstand damage from dropped objects, other ceramic tiles in our tests do better. This smooth tile is available in light, medium, and dark shades.
LifeProof Shadow Wood LP33624HD1PR (Home Depot)
CR’s take: LifeProof Shadow Wood LP33624HD1PR is a hardy wood-look porcelain tile at a competitive price, earning it a CR Best Buy designation. The flooring scores Excellent in resisting foot traffic, water, scratches, and slips, and it’s colorfast against sun exposure. Its performance against cracks and stains earns a Very Good score. This textured tile comes in light, medium, and dark shades.
Marazzi Montagna Dapple Gray ULM7 (Home Depot)
CR’s take: Marazzi Montagna Dapple Gray ULM7 porcelain tile offers impressive performance at a low price, making it a CR Best Buy. It posts Excellent scores for holding up against foot traffic, scratches, water, and color change due to sunlight. What’s more, it rates Very Good marks for its stain, crack, and slip resistance. This textured flooring can be purchased in light, medium, and dark shades.
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