A Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing Flooring

Choosing new flooring for your home is an exciting process, but with so many options to consider it can also feel overwhelming. Proper flooring helps tie a room together, sets the mood, and of course has to hold up to your family’s daily wear and tear. Follow this step-by-step guide to choose the perfect floors for your lifestyle and space.

Assess Your Needs

Before even beginning to shop for flooring, take time to assess your needs and wants for each space.

Consider the following:

  • Room function – Is this a high-traffic area like a kitchen or entryway that needs durable and easy-to-clean floors? Will carpeting make more sense for bedrooms?
  • Style & aesthetic – What overall style are you going for? Modern and sleek? Traditional and cozy? Do you want light, neutral floors or rich darker tones? Look at floors as an integral design element.
  • Lifestyle factors – Do you have pets? Small children? Elderly family members? All of these may dictate needing more durable and slip-resistant floors.
  • Budget – Work out how much square footage you need to cover and get quotes on flooring types you are considering. Labor costs are a big factor too. Set a realistic budget and stick to it.
  • Timeline – Will this be a quick DIY weekend project or a longer renovation? Make sure to understand each flooring type’s installation timeline.

Once you analyze the rooms’ needs, style preferences, and lifestyle factors for all spaces, you’ll have a clearer sense of what types of floors make the most sense for your goals and budget.

Compare Major Flooring Types

The next step is researching the pros and cons of various flooring materials to narrow down your options.

Hardwood Floors

Hardwood remains one of the most popular choices for its classic beauty and resale value.


  • Natural material available in many wood species, colors, plank sizes
  • Can be refinished and lasts when properly cared for
  • Adds warmth and value to homes
  • Many installation options – nailed, floated, engineered


  • More expensive upfront cost for materials and labor
  • Can dent, scratch over time
  • Moisture sensitive, not good for basements or bathrooms
  • Requires routine cleaning and refinishing

Laminate Wood & Vinyl Plank Floors

Synthetic floors that mimic the look of real wood but with more durability and lower cost.


  • Very realistic wood looks, color/style choices
  • Lower materials and labor cost than real wood
  • Easy DIY installation with click-lock planks
  • More scratch and moisture-resistant


  • Still susceptible to dents and heavy impacts
  • Can appear fake next to real woods
  • Not easily refinished or repaired
  • Shorter lifespan, replaced every 10-15 years

Tile & Stone Floors

A classic flooring choice praised for beauty, durability, and easy maintenance.


  • Huge selection of natural stone, ceramic, porcelain
  • Can mimic wood looks for less
  • Extremely durable for high-traffic areas
  • Resists moisture, great for baths and kitchens
  • Easy to clean and sterilize


  • Hard underfoot, not ideal for standing over long periods
  • Dropped items more likely to break or chip tiles
  • Installation labor often higher
  • Grout needs periodic sealing and cleaning

Carpet Floors

Known for adding softness, comfort, and sound absorption – ideal for bedrooms.


  • Soft, warm, welcoming underfoot feel
  • Vast choices for fiber, pile height, color
  • Helps absorb sound in a room
  • Relatively affordable DIY install


  • Traps dirt, dust, allergens, hard to clean
  • Prone to staining, not moisture-friendly
  • Replacement needed more often
  • Can harbor smells over time

Luxury Vinyl Plank & Tile

A step up from standard vinyl, luxury vinyl is durable, affordable, and realistic.


  • Mimics wood and tile looks convincingly
  • Waterproof and scratch-resistant
  • Affordable, lower labor costs
  • Easy DIY click-together floating installation


  • Not as durable as natural stone or hardwoods
  • Still prone to heavy dents and furniture scratches
  • Limited refinishability and repairs
  • Shorter lifespan, replaces every 10-20 years

Order Flooring Samples

Now that you have narrowed down one or two frontrunner options, get your hands on some flooring samples. Most flooring retailers allow you to request free samples or you can purchase sample packs affordably.

With samples in hand:

  • Visually compare to current floors and decor. Do the tones complement each other?
  • Lay samples on the floor to get a sense of how lighting affects color.
  • Feel samples underfoot – test comfort, sound absorption, and warmth.
  • View samples vertically on walls to see differences in grain, texture, and dimension.
  • Check how durable and scratch-resistant the floor is.

Seeing and touching real flooring samples is the best test and often leads homeowners to a final decision. Order multiple samples if still unsure between a few options.

Ask About Warranties

An important but often overlooked step is discussing warranties before purchasing materials. Every flooring option comes with an expected lifespan and the warranty terms can give peace of mind down the road.

Key questions to ask retailers:

  • How long is the product warranty? Labor warranty?
  • Exactly what is covered if defects occur?
  • What claims would void the warranty?
  • Is normal wear and tear covered? Pet damage?
  • Who handles warranty claims if issues arise?
  • Can warranties transfer to new owners if you sell?

Pay close attention to the fine print exclusions and documentation needed for claims. A long warranty over 20 years sounds appealing but may not cover much in reality or could be difficult to make claims on. Weigh the warranty terms as part of your decision.

Decide Professionally Installed or DIY

Who will handle the physical installation is a major choice to make – do it yourself or hire professionals?

Benefits of Professionally Installed

  • No hassles of prepping or learning installation
  • Often covered by installation warranty if issues arise
  • May have more access to specialized tools and materials
  • Faster installation timeline

Benefits of DIY Install

  • Significant cost savings on labor
  • Flexibility of doing it on your own timeline
  • Learn a new skill and customize exactly how you want
  • Often reasonably easy for click-lock type floors

If going the DIY route, be sure to watch tutorial videos and have an experienced friend help out. Rushing through initial measurements and prep work can ruin the final results. For challenging rooms or expensive flooring, it can give peace of mind having experts handle the installation. Evaluate if it is worth the labor investment for your scenario.

Select Retailer and Place Order

With all the prep work done, it’s time to choose a retailer that carries your selected flooring, provides fair pricing, and offers services like professional installation if needed.

A few retailer tips:

  • Get quotes from 2-3 stores for price comparisons
  • Inquire about any current sales or discounts on materials
  • See if free design consultations are offered
  • Ask about financing options if needed
  • Confirm timeline from order to delivery to install
  • Review return policies in case any issues arise

After comparing overall value, service, and pricing, go ahead and place your flooring order!

Prep Installation Site

While waiting for delivery, start prepping the installation area. This involves:

  • Emptying room of all furniture to make space
  • Deep cleaning current floors then allowing to fully dry
  • Fixing any damaged subflooring or surfaces
  • Removing baseboards and moldings carefully
  • Ensuring room’s temperature and humidity are ideal

Any holes, cracks, or uneven areas in the subfloor must be patched, leveled, and smoothed prior to installation. For DIY projects, this is the most important prep work that can make or break the end visual appeal and durability. Rushing this step often leads to problems.

Acclimate New Flooring

Once your order arrives, do not rush to immediately install. Flooring needs proper acclimation time to adjust to your home’s temperature and humidity.

Follow the manufacturer guidelines specific to your materials, but typical acclimation steps are:

  • Keep flooring in boxes stacked neatly on a flat surface
  • Do not store outside or directly on concrete
  • Allow to sit in interior installation area for 1-2 weeks minimum
  • Open box ends to allow air circulation

Proper acclimation prevents excessive expansion and contraction of planks later on. This again is a step worth being patient on to ensure quality results for years to come.

Install Your New Floors

Installation day is here! Or start the DIY process once fully prepped.

For professionally installed floors:

  • Thoroughly clean installation space again before installers arrive
  • Be present during install to answer questions
  • Listen to any maintenance tips from installers
  • Inspect all work carefully before final payment
  • Keep pets and family out of area for 24-48 hours

For DIY installation projects:

  • Follow instructions closely and take your time
  • Use spacers properly between planks or tiles
  • Frequently check alignment and flatness
  • Tap or weigh planks down firmly to adhere
  • Clean as you go and dispose debris cleanly

Either way, the most important advice is to take your time and not rush installation. Carefully laying each plank or tile at proper alignment without gaps pays off with beautiful final results that last.

Finish with Transitions and Baseboards

Once the flooring is fully installed, you get the satisfaction of completing the final touches. This includes:

  • Reinstalling any removed baseboards and/or moldings
  • Anchoring flooring edges beneath baseboards if needed
  • Adding transition strips between flooring types or in doorways
  • Touching up any wall paint, caulk gaps, or scuffs from install
  • Cleaning floors thoroughly before furniture is moved back in
  • Waiting 1-2 weeks before wet cleaning or mopping floors

Following manufacturer’s care guidelines for your specific floors moving forward will help them last and continue looking beautiful for years of enjoyment. Just take care to avoid wet spills on wood for prolonged time and use proper cleaners.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to some commonly asked questions about choosing new floors:

What are signs that existing floors need replacement?

Some clear signals old flooring has reached the end of its lifespan and needs replacement include extensive scratches, gouges, or cracks that cannot be refinished, curling edges or seams coming apart, persistent squeaking noises when walked on, discoloration that cannot be removed with deep cleaning, evidence of moisture damage from below, and more. If the floor feels spongy or uneven underfoot, that’s also a red flag.

How much extra flooring should be ordered?

It’s smart to order 5-10% more flooring than measurements show is needed to account for mistakes in the ordering process or installation. For diagonal installations, 20% extra may be needed to account for additional waste cutting. Having leftover planks is better than coming up short halfway through!

Can I install new floors directly over old floors?

In most cases, it is not recommended to install new floors directly over old flooring, especially for products like hardwood, laminate, and vinyl planks which need flat subflooring. Old floors need to be removed completely first. Tile or stone can sometimes be installed over existing floors, but may require a plywood subfloor layer in between. Always get professional advice.

How long does flooring installation usually take?

Installation often takes 2-5 days depending on room size. Refinishing existing wood floors takes 1-3 days. Carpet installs can be quicker, sometimes even same day. Make sure your installer provides an estimated timeline so you can plan accordingly around the installation process.

Should I hire a flooring professional or DIY install?

For any intricate floor patterns, natural stone, or challenging subfloor conditions, hiring a professional installer is strongly advised. They have specialized tools and experience installing correctly on the first try. Click-together engineered floors, vinyl planks, and laminate can work for DIY projects. Get experienced help if trying to DIY more complex flooring.


Selecting new flooring for your home requires careful research and planning to make the best choice. Focus first on your needs, lifestyle, and budget. Compare different flooring materials in detail. Get hands-on with samples. Review warranties and timelines. Prep your subfloors meticulously. Allow proper acclimation time once ordered. Take care with installation. Follow this step-by-step process when choosing floors, and you will have beautiful results that suit your home perfectly. Enjoy your new floors for years to come!