It depends on whether the material can be installed as a floating floor or needs to be nailed or glued in place.
With a floating floor, the pieces fit together to create a large puzzle that can be installed directly on an existing floor (assuming it is flat and smooth). The weight of the material will prevent it from shifting and the walls will hold it in place. A floating floor has the advantage of being relatively easy to remove, which is handy if you make a mistake when laying the floor or want to swap it out for something different in years to come. (We indicate which flooring can float in our extended ratings.)
This approach doesn’t work with solid wood and porcelain tile, both of which attach directly to a subfloor. (The wood is nailed or glued, and the tiles are laid in a bed of mortar.)
Below are CR’s top options for engineered wood, laminate, linoleum, prefinished solid wood, porcelain tile, and vinyl flooring, along with the finalists in each category.
We only test one color of each product; siblings of different colors should perform the same as the product tested for resistance to foot traffic, scratches, stains and dents. Keep in mind, however, that darker floors in particular may fade more noticeably due to regular exposure to sunlight.
For a full picture of what’s available in the five categories below, check out our full flooring reviews. The prices listed for each type below are per square foot.