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6 Cheap & Strong Hardwood Floor Alternatives

Updated July 24, 2020

The best hardwood floors are beautiful, timeless, and strong. But they can also be expensive. And occasionally, even the most durable wood flooring isn’t quite as durable as we’d like it to be (dog owners and parents of young children: you have our sympathies).

So where do you go from here? Maybe you’d love to have real hardwood floors someday, but you know that it’s not practical while you still have four kids, two cats, three dogs, and a mini-horse at home. It happens to the best of us.

Look, if you’re set on buying hardwood floors, we don’t blame you. In fact, we support you wholeheartedly. Whatever types of wood flooring you’re into, we’ve got your back. 

But if you’re looking for cheap and strong hardwood floor alternatives, read on—because we’ve got 6 amazing options to show you. 

#1. Bamboo: gorgeous, affordable, and crazy strong

Bamboo flooring is a gorgeous, affordable, and crazy strong hardwood floor alternative
Tiger strand bamboo

We know what you’re thinking. Isn’t bamboo flooring the same thing as hardwood flooring? Nope. Bamboo isn’t hardwood at all. It’s technically a grass… a really tough grass. You should contact your local flooring retailer to learn more about the best bamboo flooring options, because this stuff is seriously strong. Strand-woven bamboo flooring can hit a whopping 3000 on the Janka Hardness Scale, which is more than twice as hard as oak.

Worried about bamboo being a little too expensive? Don’t be. This hardwood floor alternative also comes as an engineered product to fit any budget. A tough and affordable engineered base with a crazy-strong bamboo veneer? Sign us up. Still have questions? Check out the pros and cons of engineered bamboo flooring.

Plus, bamboo flooring is an environmentally friendly choice, since bamboo stalks mature in just 3-5 years (compared to the decades needed for most hardwoods). And if you want to make sure your floors are as green as it gets, look for bamboo with a Forest Stewardship Council certification.

#2. Cork: comfy, durable, and eco-friendly 

Cork floors are comfy, durable, and eco-friendly
Cork bedroom flooring

Years of popping bottles might make you think cork is crumbly and weak. Not so! Cork floors are actually incredibly durable. They’re made with a mix of cork and binders that make them super resistant to wear. Plus, they’re just springy enough to absorb shock—making them great for people with back or joint problems. 

And of course, cork is super eco-friendly. It’s made out of cork bark, rather than the tree itself—meaning the same tree can be harvested again every decade or so. To that end, cork farmers are able to reuse the same trees again and again for generations. 

And you’ve got installation choices galore. The best cork flooring for your home may be cork tiles, or it may be cork planks or sheets. It doesn’t even have to look like cork! Some cork flooring options are made to look like wood or natural stone. Pretty cool! 

If you’re weighing the pros and cons of cork flooring as a hardwood floor alternative, don’t forget that cork is one of the most sustainable, renewable, and durable types of flooring around.  You can even find cork flooring at Lowe’s or Home Depot!

#3. Laminate: affordable, but more than just “fake wood”

Laminate is a low-cost, super-strong, beautiful hardwood floor alternative
Laminate flooring (courtesy of Mannington)

Back in the day, people used to think of laminate as just another type of fake wood flooring. And ok, fine, it isn’t real wood. But laminate still has a ton to offer. It’s one of the most durable flooring options around, and these days, advances in printing have made high-quality laminate almost indistinguishable from any of the different types of flooring it’s made to imitate.

Plus, laminates are made to be easy to install. Laminate click-together flooring makes the installation of a floating floor very simple. No need to glue or staple or nail; just click the edges together and go. You can read up on the advantages and disadvantages of floating floors here, but spoiler: there aren’t many disadvantages. If you’ve been put off by the high cost to replace carpet with hardwood, laminate might be a good alternative. (though the debate between carpet vs. laminate is relatively intense too).

Laminate can also be great for many creative wood floor designs. As long as you stick to a horizontal installation, you can mix and match various widths and styles to create amazing, one-of-a-kind floors for your home. Who says hardwood floor alternatives can’t be gorgeous?

How does laminate stack up against other types of flooring? Take a look at the pros and cons of tile vs. laminate or bamboo vs. laminate to learn how it measures up. 

And we have to mention: Pergo invented laminate back in the ‘70s, so check out some Pergo Extreme reviews if you want to learn more about laminate flooring from the company that knows it best. 

#4. Vinyl plank/LVT: a durable & budget-friendly hardwood alternative

Vinyl plank is durable and budget-friendly
Mixed-width vinyl plank

Vinyl plank, also called LVT (different names for the same thing—the best vinyl flooring type on the market), is the fastest-growing sector of the flooring industry for a reason. It’s ridiculously durable, it’s comfortable to walk on, it’s affordable, and it’s an entirely waterproof option.

You may think you already know everything you need to know about the pros and cons of vinyl, but today’s vinyl flooring is tougher and more versatile than ever. 3D printing and ER (embossed-in-register) techniques have made vinyl look and feel incredibly high-end, but without the price tag or the hassle of maintaining new hardwood floors.

Plus, it’s one of the best do-it-yourself flooring options around since most LVT/vinyl plank floors come as click-together flooring. As far as hardwood floor alternatives are concerned, vinyl flooring may just be the most popular in 2020. We honestly can’t say enough good things about it!

#5. Tile: not just for bathrooms and kitchens anymore

Wood-look tile floors are durable and strong
Wood-look tile

Depending on the area where you live, you might think that tile is only for certain rooms in your house. But here’s the thing: tile is having a renaissance right now—to the point where the Washington Post wrote a story about just how “in” it is. That’s some serious cred!

Sure, in tropical climates, tile is commonly used in every room of the home. But for the rest of us, tile is usually for the bathroom or kitchen. Not anymore, baby. These days, tile can go anywhere. You can even find tile that looks like wood! No more comparing tile vs. wood floors—now, you can have the best of both. A hardwood floor alternative that looks like wood but with all the perks of tile? Please and thank you.

And speaking of perks: tile can help reduce cooling costs and stands up to water and traffic. Plus, there are endless types of tile to choose from (you can even find snap-together tile flooring), so it’s easy to find the right tile to suit your taste and budget. 

#6. Concrete: a surprisingly amazing hardwood floor alternative

Concrete floors make for a durable and unusual hardwood floor alternative

Concrete floors aren’t just for garages and basements! If you haven’t checked out concrete floors lately, you are missing out. Concrete flooring that looks like wood is making a big splash inside people’s homes, too. 

Concrete floors can be stained and polished, stamped, and textured—it’s all up to you. How about a nice rich mahogany color, glossed to a high shine? How about a spot-on oak imitation with a bit of non-slip texture? When concrete is your hardwood floor alternative, the only limit is your own imagination. 

Ready to spread your wings and find your own cheap and strong hardwood floor alternative?

If you’re wondering how to replace flooring in your home, we hope you’ll consider some—or all—of these amazing hardwood floor alternatives. Wood is amazing, but there are so many other fantastic types of flooring to choose from! 

Now: ready to spread your wings and find the floor of your dreams? We thought so. Use this flooring stores near me tool to find a flooring retailer in your area. They’re the pros you’ll need to get your project started. And for more info on floors, be sure to read up on:

About The Author

Dr. Sara Austin

Best known for being “not that kind of doctor” and never knowing which fork to use, Sara is a learning designer and writer, former real estate agent, and builder with a penchant for home design and remodeling.

Show Comments (2)
  1. Hey Sara! I wanted to add a bit to your Vinyl Section, specifically in regards to Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP), which is pretty much my favorite alternative to hardwood, mainly centered around the pricing options! For the other two huge points, you mentioned: Durability and 3D printing effects.
    There’s a really cool option provided by most LVP companies called Aluminum Oxide. This is an extremely hard compound (slightly less so than diamonds) that is blended in the finish of each board. In turn, it heavily strengthens the wear layer to the point of it being nearly scratch impervious. I love the look and feel of real hardwood and Embossed in Register Technique (ER) especially makes this possible, by capturing about every grain of detail from the original sample board. It will even capture the depth and feeling of knots in the wood. With this added texture, you’ll have more grip on your floor, which will also reduce the amount of slipperyness. In addition, the water proof note you hit on was a very good point. This works well for basement floors, especially in the likely scenario if they open up to a pool area or have a kitchen area.

    • Hi Daniel,

      Samuel (FlooringStores Content Manager) jumping in for Sara here. Thank you so much for reading, and thank you even more for this awesome info! We at FlooringStores couldn’t agree more—while we try not to play favorites, we can’t help but adore LVP as a hardwood floor alternative. Like, *really* adore it. And with that ER texturing and Aluminum Oxide…oh man, it’s everything we want in a floor.

      Thanks so much again for reading and for your insightful information!

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