I would say anything you can install yourself would save you a lot of money. Laminate floors first come to mind because they are the easiest of floors to do-it-yourself. You can usually find them from $0.99 to $1.99 for a decent looking entry level laminate floor. You'll need underlayment which will run you about $0.15 sf to start.
Tile is a more durable choice but it is more troublesome to install. You can get a 12x12 tile starting at $0.99 sf. BUt you will need to do a backerboard subfloor. This requires 1) sanding and smoothing the base floor, 2) thinsetting and screwing down the backerboard. 3) Letting it dry over night and thinsetting your tile 4) letting it dry over night and 5) grouting and cleaning.
A tile floor could take you all weekend. While a laminate floor could take an afternoon.
Although, I did see some pretty cool painted floors on trading spaces. NO idea how durable they would be, but they looked good.
Sandy, my daughters carpet needed ripping up. So I ripped it up and took out all the staples ect. It was chipboard underneath the carpet and padding. She wanted an Oriental look to her room. So we sanded the floor really well and cleaned it. You have to mop the floor several times to get all the grit off it. Let it dry throughly. When then used a stain with a poly already together. I brushed it on and she went behind me with a cloth, to wipe some of it off. It looks great! Goes with her Oriental themed room well.
An installer told me of a woman who wanted marble flooring. She purchased three squares of marble she liked. Copied them on a copier as many times as would be needed and glued them to squares of masonite. She coated them l0 times with clear poly then laided them like they were marble tile. She took back the 3 marble tiles she copied.
It was easier to cut the paper to shape the floor than it would have been to cut the tile.
He laughed and laughed because they looked real!
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