First choice: porcelain tiles
A natural fit for high-traffic areas of the home, porcelain tile outperformed all other flooring materials we tested for scratch resistance, and it held up very well to dents from light objects like falling utensils, says Rico de Paz, the CR engineer responsible for the evaluation. ground. Porcelain tiles are available in a range of styles to suit any decor. You can get small format hex tiles for a traditional early 20th century home, for example, or 4ft reclaimed faux ash planks which, when laid tightly with matching grout, will convincingly create the look of wood. The tiles are also low maintenance, requiring nothing more than vacuuming and mopping to stay clean, and they will last a lifetime.
De Paz has a caveat about porcelain tiles: they are vulnerable to heavy objects falling on them. “It’s probably the best choice for kitchens and locker rooms, but be aware that it can crack when something heavy, like a full can of vegetables, falls on it,” he says.
Sheet vinyl floors became popular with homeowners in the 1950s (sometimes with layer upon layer as tastes changed) for several good reasons. First, it’s an affordable way to cover a large area. Of the products we tested, vinyl plank and tile cost an average of $3.42 per square foot, cheaper per square foot than porcelain tile and second in affordability only to laminates, at $2.82 per square foot. Vinyl planks and tiles are also among the easiest types of flooring to install yourself.
“Customers constantly mistake the luxury vinyl planks on my showroom floor for real wood,” says Joan Slaughterbeck, founder of Slaughterbeck Floors in Campbell, Calif., who has installed luxury vinyl planks in entire homes in Palo Alto and other upscale Bay Area communities.
Today’s vinyl products are also more durable than those of the past, but some can be prone to scratches. Keep felt bumpers on kitchen stool legs and buy an extra plank pack now to ensure you have a perfect match on the road. If any planks are damaged, you can remove them and install replacement planks as needed.