Feeling ho-hum about classic hardwood floors? Here are six alternative floor solutions that can give any room in your house a fresh sense of personality, whether you’re starting from scratch or looking for an inexpensive DIY update.
1. Rubber. Often associated with commercial interiors, industrial rubber flooring can also be a sleek and smart solution for homes. Rubber is comfortable to stand on, easy to clean and durable enough to take on plenty of mess and abuse — great for an entry, a mudroom or a laundry room. From a style perspective, it gives a room a hint of an industrial edge, but in warm muted tones that still create an inviting air.
In a kitchen, a rubber floor is a chef’s dream, as it cushions the feet while the cook is standing to reduce fatigue. Plus, the textural surface reduces slipping hazards from spills and is very child-friendly.
DHV Architects, original photo on Houzz
Want a rubber floor with a less industrial vibe? Choose sheets or tiles of rubber with a flat surface dyed to various hues that draw from the tones in stone tile. You wouldn’t guess this floor is rubber by looking at it, but your feet would be able to tell.
Cost: Rubber flooring can be extremely inexpensive but, in general, quality materials start at $12 per square foot. Anything below that would probably be of a quality that wouldn’t look appropriate inside a home.
Green Goods, original photo on Houzz
2. Bamboo. Bamboo flooring is similar to wood flooring in many ways, but it imparts a Zen flair that can add a sense of peace to a room. And it is typically more moisture-resistant and hard-wearing than wood.
It should be noted that not every bamboo product is equally environmentally conscious. For one thing, shipping products from overseas can quickly make up for any carbon-footprint cost saved during production. However, if you are looking for a durable natural floor that’s sustainably grown, bamboo is a great option to consider.
It’s also worth noting that bamboo flooring can come in quite a variety of styles. A higher-contrast grain and stain can create an exotic look, for an effect that is playful and energetic rather than soft and tranquil.
If you love the look of walnut or zebrawood, bamboo can recreate that vibe with a stronger surface, and without cutting down any rare trees.
Keep in mind that the stains and adhesives involved in bamboo flooring can off-gas with an unpleasant odor, so those who are sensitive to chemicals may want to avoid the space immediately following an installation, or look at traditional hardwoods instead.
Cost: Bamboo is generally comparable in price to hardwoods, running about $2 to $8 per square foot.
3. Parquet. Everything old is new again, and while some homeowners (and many renters) are wishing away their parquet floors, others are installing them anew. These patterned wood floors add a sense of life and richness to a home, bringing visual interest and a sense of dynamic energy that typical straight-laid planks can’t match.
Installing wood in a parquet pattern also gives a lot more character to inexpensive local woods that might not have an exciting grain. For a patient DIYer, a parquet floor gives a high-fashion look with a much lower price tag than some other choices.
Arnold Ziffel, original photo on Houzz
To give a classic block parquet layout a modern twist, use an oversized pattern in squares 12 inches or bigger. And, yes, a warm honey or orange tinted stain is back as well, especially mixed with classic modern furnishings in deep rich tones like chocolate, ruddy tan or espresso or crisp, airy whites.
Cost: Installation fees may be a bit higher than for straight-laid flooring, but the material cost can be as low as a few dollars per square foot.
ABRAMS, original photo on Houzz
4. Painted. Think painted wood floors are only for cottages? As with walls, painting a floor can create as many different moods and effects as there are colors of paint. And if you choose a paint in a durable finish, it will hold up just as well as your wall paint does.
For a contemporary interior, consider a painted floor in a simple, natural hue like a muted beige or an off-white, and mix it with anything from antiques to midcentury classics or hip, trendy pieces.
You can kick up the style of a painted floor another notch by creating patterned effects that echo stone inlays, without that thousands-of-dollars investment. With a little painter’s tape and patience, this can be another great DIY approach to getting high style at home without ripping out your existing wood.
For those who do prefer a relaxed cottage air, a muted color adds a lot of charm, much like an accent wall, only underfoot. Try pale blue for a semi-neutral that will work with neutrals or other colors without clashing.
Cost: Paint and a top coat will cost a few dollars per square foot, and can be applied to existing flooring (with some good sanding and prep) or to inexpensive wood planks for a new installation.
Christian Gladu Design, original photo on Houzz
5. Concrete. Concrete floors may sound like the domain of cold, minimalist works of architecture, but they can actually come in many forms to suit various tastes and personalities. Like wood, concrete can be stained (or tinted), allowing the material to feel quite warm and human in a way that beautifully suits transitional or traditional spaces.
Why choose concrete? Well, you can imagine that if the material can handle the wear and tear in an auto factory or warehouse, it can easily handle pets, children and sharp heels.
For an added seal and a gloss effect, concrete is sometimes finished with a coat of resin. This gallery-like look typically comes with a gallery price tag, but for those who enjoy a modern atmosphere with a perfect polish, this look is definitely photoshoot-ready.
It should be noted that concrete does not retain heat well, and thus can be chilly without a heated floor system, but extremely cozy with one installed.
Cost: With heated floors and a sleek finish, the cost can definitely add up. Your budget could range from $2 to $20 per square foot and beyond.
6. Cork. Cork flooring, like bamboo, can be developed very sustainably, making many cork products a smart choice for those hoping to reduce their environmental impact.
In the case of cork, the finish is very important to determining how water-resistant the product will be. However, cork has natural springiness that makes it feel extra comfortable (a little like rubber) and makes it resistant to dents and dings. Plus, it has a unique visual texture that’s a little like wood’s but with a twist, for a very livable sense of flair.
KCS Design, original photo on Houzz
Cork works beautifully for sleek modern spaces or contemporary ones, as it has a natural softness that gives it a friendly vibe. If you’re considering using carpet in some rooms and wood in others, consider cork for the entire home, and get the best of both worlds along with a sense of harmony.
Cost: Cork ranges from $3 to $8 per square foot, but keep in mind that some products may require an additional sealant to hold up to moisture and possible stains.
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