A sleek, stylish kitchen is the hub of all household activity. Ample cabinetry, counter space, and room to entertain often take center stage. Flooring, however, is a major appeal factor that shouldn’t be an afterthought. Whether you just bought a new home or are working on a kitchen renovation, affordable but sophisticated flooring can make all the difference.
Top-of-the-line floors can cost around $30 per square foot. Professional installation for a sizable kitchen can easily put a remodel over budget. And although DIY installation might sound like a good idea, you’ll still need to pay for grout, goggles, glue, and other tools and materials that you’ll need to store later.
You might find better value by opting for less expensive flooring. Ahead, design experts offer their favorite flooring options for high style with a low price tag.
1. Cork Flooring
Fine art and surface design are part of Erin Shakoor’s interior design process at Shakoor Interiors in Chicago, IL. Her top three choices, which include cork, wood, and porcelain, are highly functional and will last a lifetime with proper maintenance.
“Colored cork is unique, unexpected, affordable, environmentally-friendly, and durable. It also pairs well with adjacent wood flooring that may be in the great room or dining room,” Shakoor says. Although cork kitchen flooring might be at the higher end of inexpensive options, it offers great features. It is easy to install and offers added comfort for adventurous toddlers or aging elders.
Moreover, cork flooring lasts longer than other types of flooring and offers more cushion underfoot. The price range starts as low as $2.75 per square foot, making it affordable, even for larger spaces. Avoid walking on it in high heels, though, which can easily damage the material.
2. Porcelain Tiles
“Porcelain is always my top go-to. It comes in a gazillion textures, shapes, and color combos, and you cannot beat the price for the style,” says Shakoor. “I do, however, shy away from wood-looking porcelain planks that are meant to mimic wood. If you want wood, I say, just get the wood.”
Porcelain tiles are a good option for high-traffic areas. It is more durable than ceramic tiles, and depending on the color and glaze, can easily hide scratches or scuffs. According to Fixr, a completed floor can range from $500 to $7,000. This site can help price the cost by simply inputting the exact square footage of the room and zip code where the house is located.
3. Hardwood Kitchen Flooring
It’s easy to get lost in a Pinterest vortex when searching for types of woods, with all the colors and varieties. If you’re looking for an inexpensive fix, you might be surprised to learn that hardwood can be an affordable option.
You can choose between solid wood flooring and engineered wood flooring—both offer affordable varieties. Solid wood flooring is just like it sounds: Planks are milled from solid pieces of wood. Engineered wood flooring features a wood veneer bonded to a substrate of plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF). This makes it a more stable choice for temperature and humidity fluctuations.
“Wood in a small, galley-style, low-traffic kitchen is perfect and classic, especially if flooring in the adjacent room is wood. Kitchen flooring also presents a great opportunity to use patterned wood, to avoid monotony,” Shakoor suggests.
As a low-cost option for solid hardwood flooring, consider hickory. The gorgeous color variations range from dark brown to red to light tan and highlight pronounced grain patterns. In a high-traffic kitchen, the hardness and density of hickory stand up well. One line of hickory strips (3/4 x 2-1/4 inches) sells for less than $3 per square foot.
If you’re longing for an oak wood floor and have a limited budget, take a look at unfinished utility oak options for less than $1.50 per square foot through large flooring dealers. These “seconds” often have defects, knots, or machine burns and splits, and may come as a mix of square edges and V grooves. You can install them as-is for a rustic look that suits a country kitchen, or sand and finish after installation for a more contemporary style.
“It’s possible to find cheap engineered flooring, but if comparing mid- to good-engineered flooring, often the solid wood will cost a bit less (unless you are looking at very wide widths),” says Debbie Gartner of The Flooring Girl blog. Pricing for wood varies heavily by region, so it is best to go to your local hardware store, compare prices, and ask around about labor costs. The most affordable option might surprise you.
4. Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP) Floors
Jordan Fulmer owns Momentum Property Solutions, a real estate investing company in Huntsville, Alabama, that has flipped more than a dozen houses. He says that one of the main features homeowners look for with kitchen flooring is protection against moisture. “Common types of flooring, such as hardwood and laminate, simply can’t hold up to prolonged exposure to water. Tile offers protection against spills, but it’s not necessarily an inexpensive option, especially when you factor in the installation labor cost.“
Fulmer almost exclusively uses luxury vinyl flooring in his kitchen remodels, because it is 100% waterproof, easy to install, and many styles are very scratch-resistant.
“When choosing luxury vinyl flooring, there are two main options: planks and tiles,” Fulmer says. “Luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring comes in long sections, just like laminate flooring, and is usually very thin and flexible. They come in a variety of patterns, so you can choose what fits best with the surrounding colors and finishes. Being longer planks, most of the styles resemble wood flooring; but there is an abundance of colors and wood-grain patterns. Because this flooring is so versatile, it works well when you want to use the same style of flooring throughout the kitchen and other areas of the house.”
At Lowe’s, there are more than 600 options, including a handful that are now under $1 per square foot. If you can’t decide which one to select, try out their flooring visualizer for the kitchen to imagine the perfect color and style for your space.
5. Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) Floors
Fulmer says luxury vinyl tile generally comes in 12×24-inch tiles and is made to look like ceramic or porcelain tile. “It is fairly thick and much more rigid than its plank counterpart,” he says. “Just like the planks, luxury vinyl tile flooring is 100% waterproof.”
Because of its shape, luxury vinyl tile flooring often looks like stone or marble. He says this material is a great option when you want to use a different type of flooring in your kitchen to set it apart from the adjacent rooms. Both vinyl options can be cost-effective if the subfloor is in good condition. In addition to being cheaper to install, luxury vinyl tiles are built to last and easy to clean—a damp mop will do the trick.
6. Bamboo Flooring
Extend your budget and be kind to the Earth with sustainable and cheap bamboo flooring. Bamboo is a type of grass that grows back quickly after harvesting. You can find bamboo flooring in a wide range of stain colors and affordable price points.
For under $2 per square foot, consider a natural-stained engineered bamboo strip floor that features click-together edges for easy installation. Just as you would for solid wood flooring, be sure to wipe up spills right away on a bamboo floor, and use felt pads on furniture feet to avoid scratches. Sweep up dirt and grit daily.
7. Parquet Wood Flooring
Small pieces of wood assembled into a geometric pattern make parquet flooring look like artwork you can walk on. Even with precision construction, affordable parquet flooring is available, including 12-inch tiles with alternating grain blocks that form an attractive checkerboard effect. A pre-finished medium-brown solid oak parquet tile with a high-gloss finish sells for under $3 per square foot.
8. Laminate Wood Flooring
With laminate wood flooring, you can have the look of a handsome dark hardwood floor that is easier to clean and costs less. There are an abundance of laminate products that offer inexpensive kitchen flooring. Consider hand-hewn texture and warm hickory tones for inviting character at less than $1 per square foot. As an added bonus, cheap laminate flooring with fold-down installation doesn’t require gluing and lets you walk on the floor right away.
9. Ceramic Tile
Long-lasting and easy to clean with mild detergent and water, ceramic floor tiles come in every color and pattern imaginable as well as a variety of sizes and shapes. Create a custom look by combining cheap floor tiles to form a border around your kitchen floor for a ceramic “rug.” Ceramic tile prices start as low as $1 per square foot.