Updated for 2021
Here at Home Flooring Pros we love a challenge, so when we were asked to find some really great, budget flooring ideas we jumped to it; the main condition was to ensure that the flooring came in at under $2 per square foot – and we’re pleased to say that we found lots of top rated and inexpensive flooring options for you, from clever, cheap DIY flooring ideas, to low cost flooring products that don’t actually look cheap at all!
When you’ve had a look through the options, read on for tips on where to buy budget flooring and installation suggestions.
So here you are, the best cheap flooring options available today!
Vinyl Sheet Flooring – Updated for Today’s Tastes
Sheet vinyl flooring has always been inexpensive, but gone are the days when sheet vinyl meant having to make do with some horrendous, yellow-brown, floral designs!
Vinyl sheet has had a wonderful renaissance in recent years, and has been updated to include modern designs that are majorly on-trend. Coupled with improved imaging techniques, there are some really beautiful vinyl sheet options that are easy on your eye and easy on your wallet.
Check out this gorgeous faux, hexagon marble mosaic design from Tarkett, currently available at Menards for just $1.39 per square foot!
Plus, contemporary vinyl sheet is being designed to mimic just about every kind of flooring, so if you look carefully you’ll find some pretty authentic looking options.
For example, over at the Home Depot you can get this rather lovely TrafficMASTER faux oak plank design for a very decent $1.91 per square foot, cheap flooring from a respected manufacturer.
Sheet final is our favorite low budget flooring idea based on choice alone.
Vinyl Tiles and Planks – Super Easy to Install
If the idea of putting a huge roll of vinyl sheet into place seems a little daunting, then a better option might be to go for some luxury vinyl tiles or planks. Don’t be put off by the word ‘luxury’ you can still find some price friendly products.
Again, the technology has come a long way with these products, and you’re now able to get some very good looking vinyl tiles that are made to resemble real encaustic cement, porcelain or stone tiles for a fraction of the price!
Plus, you can make things super simple with the click-lock or peel and stick versions – easy to install, even for the novice DIYer, making your flooring project even cheaper.
For instance, the Home Depot currently stock these superb tiles from Armstrong made to look like stained and distressed reclaimed wood for only $0.89 per square foot! Also take a look at Armstrong’s luxury vinyl range called Luxe Plank, which comes in different qualities and price ranges.
And these trendy concrete look vinyl tiles from Casa Moderna are currently available online at Floor & Décor for $1.09 per square foot.
Laminate Flooring – Bargain Opportunities
Another relatively easy and low-cost flooring option for occasional DIYers is laminate flooring. Much like the vinyl planks mentioned above, advances in how they are made means that many have a simple click-lock installation, and some even come with attached underlayment, making the whole process even simpler.
Check out the offers available at the online Pergo Outlet Store. Featuring an ever-changing selection of discontinued Pergo lines, you can really pick up some great bargains, like this Golden Bamboo with underlayment which works out at $1.68 per square foot.
And this warm and characterful wood laminate flooring from Lamton retails on BuildDirect between $0.79 and $1.09 per square foot, depending on how much you buy! The more flooring you buy the cheaper it is.
Oak Flooring Seconds – Best Kept Industry Secret!
But what if you want real, solid wood underfoot? Well, a little known industry secret is that you can get perfectly good, but also cheap, oak wood flooring! You’ll find it at lumber yards that advertise seconds oak flooring, also sometimes known as common grade, rustic grade, utility grade, builder grade or contractor specials.
But be aware that if you go down this route, you may have to buy more oak than you need as these planks tend to be more “characterful” than the more expensive oak options – that is to say there will be more knots and streaks, a greater variation in color and also often shorter planks (makes it super perfect for herringbone and chevron parquet patterns though!).
You will also more than likely have to budget for staining and finishing the flooring on site as most seconds oak is unfinished. For example, here’s a link to one lumber yard’s specials page, with red oak flooring options from as little as $0.99 per square foot and white oak from $1.09 per square foot!
Plywood for Flooring – An Effective Alternative
If you really want the real wood look, but are on a really super tight budget, then you might be interested to know that you can create a great looking floor that looks very much like solid hardwood using nothing more than simple plywood sheets, stain and sealant! At the Home Depot the cheapest plywood sheet retails at $5.63 for a sheet that is 2 x 4 feet wide; that works out at just $0.70 per square foot!
Proficient DIYers have found all kinds of ways of finishing plywood flooring to create unique and interesting looks, including charring it with a blowtorch for dramatic color contrasts or painting it with stencils; have a peak at our post here about plywood floor ideas and also this useful DIY tips on Remodelaholic. For a more rustic feel, we’ve also seen flooring made using Oriented Strand Board.
Painting Existing Floors – Budget-Friendly Update
If ripping out your existing flooring for a complete remodel simply isn’t an option – either because your time or your budget is limited – then your best cheaper option might be painting the floor you’ve already got!
One gallon of paint should cover about 400 square feet, and with most top quality floor paints coming in between $30-$40 a gallon, that works out at $0.10 or less per square foot! Even when you add primer and top-coat sealant, you’re still look at well under $1 per square foot!
Just about any kind of flooring can be painted (even vinyl, linoleum and laminate flooring can be painted), provided you‘re prepared to do the necessary grunt work of prepping it to ensure good adhesion.
Paint also has the added advantage of allowing you to be as creative as you want, from straight block color to sombre effects, stenciled or freestyle patterns, stripes or checkers. Have a look at our painted flooring trends article for inspiration.
However, even the best paint job in the world won’t stop a painted floor eventually showing signs of wear and tear. This could be great news if you love the distressed, lived in feel. If not, just be prepared to repaint in a year or two – and in the meantime minimize erosion by having a no shoes policy!
Wallpaper for Flooring – Super Clever DIY Flooring
If you love the idea of stenciled flooring, then you might also like to know that you can actually wallpaper your floor! Yes, indeed! Wallpaper can adhere to wood, vinyl and linoleum floors. Once you’ve papered your floor, simple paint over with several coats of polyurethane to provide a fairly tough sealant.
This option gives you on-trend patterns without the worry of smudged stencils, or the permanence of paint. Plus the design options are endless – Wayfair currently stocks a huge selection of peel and stick wallpapers for under $1.50 per square foot, with designs ranging from geometric to floral to everything in between.
Have a look at how Medina at Grillo Designs papered her flooring and take note of some of her top tips: wallpapering your floor is best for smaller spaces like a hallway or WC, and not suitable for family bathrooms or kitchens where there will be too much humidity. Here are some more top tips if you want to try wallpapering your floor in your home!
Carpet Tiles – Softness Underfoot for Less
Finally, you might be wondering if there are any soft cheap flooring ideas for under $2 per square foot! And the answer is: yes!
Carpet tile is an ideal budget solution if you’re looking for a softer flooring option: the advantages are that not only can you find plenty of decent options for under $2 per square foot, but also that individual tiles can be easily replaced if they get to the point of being beyond repair or cleaning (note this is only true if you’ve bought more tiles than you need in order to have some spare, of course).
For example, Wayfair currently stock a number of Mohawk Flooring carpet tiles including this rather smart one from their Epsom collection for $1.85 per square foot. It’s pictured here in a bedroom, but we think it would work even better in a home office.
And one last top tip for budget flooring shopping from us: Flor, one of the most popular carpet tile manufacturers, have an outlet store that sells random pattern carpet tile for $1 per tile (each tile being just over a square foot at 19.7” square). The only catch is color and patterns are not specified online – it’s just whatever is available on their inventory at the time… worth a shot, then, if you’re going for a patchwork look like this one below.
Where to Find Cheap Flooring Bargains
Flooring styles cycle like clothing styles – full price, to sale to clearance. There are bargains to be had!
When buying cheap flooring, you’ve got familiar options – Shop locally and browse online.
Big box stores: Lowes, Home Depot, Menards, and non-chain home improvement stores mostly sell low-end to mid-range flooring.
They’re great places to pick up sale and clearance boxes of ceramic tile, luxury vinyl tile (LVT) and luxury vinyl plank (LVP), laminate, wood flooring, carpet squares and other boxed types.
Low-cost rolls of carpet and vinyl are available. The cheapest options are called remnants, meaning there’s just a little bit left of the roll, and the store wants to get rid of it. Prices are very attractive.
At Lowe’s we like the low cost carpet from Phenix flooring and you can read our review here.
If you want to see and feel the material before you buy, visit a local store. When convenience is preferred, all these stores sell a limited selection online too.
Flooring stores: Local stores stock mid-grade and premium flooring along with cheaper grades. If you are willing to pay more for better flooring but want it as cheap as possible, these are good places to search. Most have sale/discount/clearance flooring at prices 15% to 75% below MSRP.
Lumber Liquidators is a good source for discounted solid hardwood and engineered flooring in all grades. Prices start below $2.00 per square foot. The Overstock page is the best place to find bargain hardwood flooring.
Build Direct is another online seller with a huge inventory of wood, vinyl and tile flooring. Prices start at less than $1.00 per square foot.
Pro Tips for Buying Cheap Flooring
Start shopping early and check back often: Discounted, cheap flooring is priced to sell. It goes fast and rotates often. You’ll have the best shot at finding cheap flooring you really like by starting your search months early and checking the discount/clearance stock at least weekly.
Be flexible on style: The choosier you are, the less likely that you’ll find cheap flooring you’re happy to use.
Don’t get caught short: Before buying discontinued flooring, make sure there is enough of it for your job. That includes about 5% extra for waste if you’re having a pro install it and 10% extra if you’re doing it yourself. An extra box or few yards of a roll for future repairs is useful too. You know what they say. “Damage” happens!
Cheap, even free installation options are available. These tips will reduce or eliminate your labor costs.
- Remember, free installation isn’t free
“Buy three rooms of carpet, and installation is free!” That kind of deal is only available when you spend full price for flooring. It’s not a deal worth considering for seekers of cheap flooring.
- Choose DIY-friendly flooring
Floors that lock or snap together and “float” rather than being fastened down are easy to install. These include laminate, LVT, LVP and some hardwood flooring.
Mess up the trim cut on one 2’x2’ piece, and that’s all you lose. Botch a big piece of sheet vinyl or cut roll carpet short, and you’re out a lot more.
That’s why sheet/roll flooring is NOT recommended for inexperienced DIYers.
Peel and stick is another option. Don’t knock it till you see how nice some of this flooring is! The Home Depot, as one example, lists almost 200 peel and stick vinyl and carpet products.
- Get a little help from a friend
Surely someone you know (or someone they know) has installed the type flooring you plan to install. Put out the word to your network, and find experienced help. Trade their time for something you can offer in return – your time on their project, an engine tune-up, free beer and hot wings…so many options based on your skills and budget.
- Leave Challenging Installation to Pros
Pro installation is recommended for the following types, and that knocks them off the cheap flooring list.
- Ceramic tile: Preparing the subfloor, laying tiles straight, tile cutting and correctly mixing and applying grout all take experience.
- Nail-down hardwood: Skill is required for nailing without splitting the wood and blending plank lengths and hues for a balanced appearance.
Best Rooms for Cheap Flooring
If there’s room in the budget for a mix of inexpensive floors and better-grade flooring, then these tips will help you choose where going cheap is a safe bet.
The best rooms for budget flooring are:
Kids bedrooms. Kids are hard on flooring, so don’t waste money on premium material. Carpet or foam squares that they can help install are perfect. When they get a little older and more responsible, then an upgrade might be in order.
Practical, family-only rooms. Flooring in the laundry should be water-resistant, and cheap vinyl sheet flooring is fine. It doesn’t have to be pretty.
Other “out of site” rooms include the entryway from the garage, a home office, storage areas and a small guest bedroom where the floor is mostly covered by the bed, furniture and a tastefully cheap throw rug if needed.
Basements, recreation rooms and bonus rooms. If these rooms in your home are mostly used by family or kids and their friends, cheap flooring is fine. Low-cost carpet, vinyl and laminate won’t raise eyebrows.
Anywhere the price is right. If you find a great deal on LVT/LVP flooring or good-quality carpet, then make good use of it throughout the house.
Rooms you don’t want cheap flooring in are:
Areas used for entertaining. If you’re going to splurge a little, guest-friendly rooms are good places to do it.
High-traffic areas. The front entryway and hall get heavy traffic, often from people wearing shoes. Cheap flooring will show dirt and wear quickly. That’s a bad first impression on visitors and potential home buyers.
Your bedroom. Sinking your toes into plush carpet every morning or enjoying beautiful tile in the master bathroom is luxury you deserve!
About the Author:
Greca is the lead style writer at Home Flooring Pros, with a BA in Technical Art, she’s focused on flooring trends, flooring ideas, and flooring brand reviews.
“There’s nothing more satisfying than creating a home that you love. The hardest thing about this job is trying not to covet all the great floors I get to review; if I could remodel my home every month, I would!”