Buying Guide

Sampling is Smart

Before you buy, bring home samples of your top flooring choices. Compare them side-by-side where they are going to be installed.

Compare for Consistency

Manufacturers try to match solid- and engineered-wood flooring for color and grain. Variations can occur from one batch to the next, so buy all the flooring you'll need at one time. Laminate floorboards within a given package often have a similar pattern. When installing, pull boards from multiple packages

Measuring Avoids Mistakes

To determine how much flooring you'll need, measure the room's square footage by multiplying its length times its width. (Divide an irregularly shaped room into smaller rectangles, calculate the square footage of each rectangle, and then add them together.) Then buy 7 to 10 percent extra to allow for mistakes, bad samples, and waste. Consider buying an extra box of flooring for future repairs or additions.

Know Your Traffic Patterns

Common high-traffic areas are entryways to rooms and to the house itself. If you have pets or kids, the family room can also be a busy place. Our top products performed best in simulated foot-traffic tests. For less-busy areas, consider one of the top-engineered wood or bamboo floors, for their natural veneer and easy installation.

Preparing to Install Flooring

Before installing wood or laminate flooring, unpack it and let it sit for one to three days in the space where it will be installed so that its temperature and moisture become acclimated to the levels in the room.

Check for Certification

Vinyl floors with the industry's FloorScore certification (pictured below) emit relatively low levels of volatile organic compounds—substances linked to health problems and pollution. For wood flooring, certification by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative offers some assurance that your flooring comes from responsibly managed forests—a plus for the planet. Check packaging for product and manufacturer certification.

Ways to Save

Check prices with overstock discounters: They buy directly from manufacturers, and often sell flooring below list price.

  • You can often save on opened or damaged boxes or on flooring with minor flaws that you can install where it won't be noticed.
  • Hiring a pro to do your installation? Trim hundreds of dollars off the job by doing the prep work yourself.