Sometimes you’re on a tight budget and need to put in a new floor. What are your choices in that situation? There are plenty of options – you can even get hardwood material for a low price if you’re willing to put in the work to finish it afterward. This article is all about cheap flooring, with a cost estimation for floor installation. Let’s get into it.
How Much Should I Budget for A New Floor?
Any budget for a new floor depends on what you want to do and how you want to do it. If you’re planning on putting in inexpensive peel-and-stick vinyl tiles and doing it all yourself, you’ll probably be able to get by with a couple of hundred dollars if the room is small. The cost increases for every step you need a contractor to do the work (including removing the old flooring). If you need to replace all or a section of the subfloor due to moisture or insect damage, it will cost you more. Therefore, when it comes to how much you should budget for a new floor, it depends. But you can see some price estimates for flooring materials below.
Flooring Help: Cheapest Way to Replace Flooring
The cheapest way to replace flooring is by doing it yourself with inexpensive, easy-to-use flooring materials such as peel-and-stick vinyl tiles or laminate. Even if you use the cheapest flooring material, labor costs will add up, especially if you have a large area you need to replace. Carefully preparing (by watching instructional videos and reading guides) and then doing everything yourself or with the help of volunteers is the best way to save a lot of money. With this approach, your only expenses will be on the flooring material itself as well as any tools needed to install it – unless you already have them or can borrow them.
Peel-and-stick vinyl tiles and planks are among the cheapest types of flooring and probably the easiest to install. You don’t have to do any additional gluing, simply peel the backing off and carefully lay the piece down. You can even place it directly over an old layer of vinyl or laminate, but keep in mind that it’ll conform to the shape of the floor – any unevenness, bubbles, or warping will affect the new layer.
Price: $2.00 to $3.00 per square foot
Vinyl Sheet Flooring
Vinyl sheet flooring can be even cheaper than tiles and planks, although it is a bit messier to install. You have to cut it to the dimensions of the floor area you want to cover and then roll it out, gluing it down. Seam joints also need extra gluing to prevent them from peeling.
Price: $1.00 – $2.00 per square foot
Laminate is a cheap flooring option that is different from vinyl in that it is thicker and has a fiberboard core, while vinyl is 100% synthetic. The greater thickness of the laminate allows for more “depth” of patterns and embossing. Laminate comes in tongue-and-groove boards and is slightly trickier to install than vinyl because the perimeter boards often need to be cut and shaped to size. You should do this outside to prevent sawdust from getting everywhere. Remember that laminate always requires underlayment, so factor that into your budget.
Laminate flooring: $1 to $3.00 per sq. ft.
Underlayment: $0.30 to $0.80 per sq. ft.
If you want hardwood floors but don’t want to shell out a lot of money for it, you can try going for builder-grade hardwood planks. Depending on where you are, it might also be called utility-grade or rustic hardwood. Builder-grade hardwood is unfinished. You’ll often find splinters, warping, and some that are unsuitable for flooring. You’ll have to smooth, sand, and finish the wood yourself – or get someone to do it for you. Finishing builder-grade hardwood yourself is the cheapest way to get hardwood flooring material.
Price: Varies greatly. It can start from $1 per square foot and go up. Allow for 20% unusable material in each batch.
Can I Install Flooring Myself?
Quite a few home builders, especially those on a budget, roll up their sleeves and participate in the work. Flooring installation isn’t rocket science and doesn’t require skills or knowledge to ensure a wall can support the roof’s weight, for example. Installing vinyl or laminate flooring can be quite straightforward, as long as you know and understand the principles behind it. It’s a good idea to get a cost estimation for floor installation from a contractor friend if you have one, or simply ask one or several professionals for a quote. If you can, ask them to estimate material costs. That way, you can get the opinion of a professional and work around that.
Flooring Questions: What to Ask Before Buying A New Floor
When planning to buy and install new flooring material, here are some questions you should ask yourself (in no particular order):
Is functionality more important, or do I want it to look good, too?
There’s always a balance to be struck between simple functionality and how it looks. You can install the cheapest vinyl flooring in a small storage room, but you may well want something better-looking and higher quality in a living space.
Where is the room located, and how will it be used?
You want to avoid laminate flooring in a bathroom or a room that’ll have a lot of moisture. If you choose laminate, you’ll need to make sure that the installation is watertight, as the wooden core of laminate flooring will warp and rot if moisture gets into it.
Are allergies important?
If you have a potential buyer already lined up and are doing work before selling the property to them, find out if they or anyone in their family has allergies. Carpets tend to trap dust and other allergens.
Avoid strong colors for the floor – going with more muted and neutral colors is a safer bet.
Does it fit with the rest of the flooring?
Installing cheap flooring in one section of the property that clashes strongly with the flooring in a space next to it can cost you in the long run. Ugly flooring can impact the potential price buyers are willing to pay, as they’ll be thinking about what it would cost to tear it out and adapt it to their desires.
What’s the climate like?
Synthetic flooring, for example, is popular in hot and humid places like Florida for a good reason, as wood is easily damaged by moisture, humidity, and termites that thrive in this climate.
Cost estimation for floor install
Part of installing a floor cheaply is doing your homework before starting. Consider the main costs for a floor installation. If you’re planning on doing it yourself, try to answer whether the opportunity cost – the time and effort you spend doing it yourself – is lower than the price for a professional job would be.
Cheap Flooring Ideas Over Concrete
If you have a bare concrete floor and want something cheap to put over it, here are some options to consider:
Epoxy is cheap and easy to apply – you can create a finished concrete surface over a weekend.
Carpet tiles are a great choice to place over concrete flooring as they provide some insulation from the cold if the floor isn’t heated. You can also swap out individual tiles as they wear down.
Vinyl tiles are probably the cheapest option out there.
Rubber Floor Tiles
Rubber floor tiles are a good, cheap choice that has the upside of being easy to replace. You also don’t need to cover the whole floor area. For example, if you have a basement with a concrete floor but use only a part of it, you can cover it in interlocking rubber floor tiles.
Rubber or plastic roll-out mats are a cheap temporary flooring solution. You probably won’t want to keep them for the long term, but they can be better than bare concrete and don’t require adhesive.