Considering new flooring? You’ve got some decisions to make. While your grandparents might have just had the option of solid-oak strips, nailed in and finished onsite, you now can choose from myriad materials and finishes.

Choosing a flooring type is the first step. Here are some of the most popular options.

Solid wood strips or planks

Standard 3/4-inch-thick solid-wood flooring looks and feels more realistic than any engineered marvels. Plus, solid wood can be sanded and refinished three or more times, and it’s far less expensive to refinish a floor than to invest in a new one.

Solid wood is durable but not indestructible — most solid-wood flooring dents easily and wears faster than other options. It can also be discolored by sunlight and can warp and buckle in moist areas. The biggest drawback is price: Good-quality prefinished flooring costs from $8 to more than $14 per square foot, installed.

Engineered wood

Engineered-wood flooring consists of layers of wood glued together and topped with a hardwood veneer. Compared to the alternatives, engineered wood best mimics the real thing. If you can afford it, consider only flooring with veneers at least 1/8-inch thick. Engineered wood tends to dent easily and even a little moisture can cause permanent damage. But at $5 to $10 per square foot installed, engineered wood costs considerably less than solid wood.

Laminates

Made of dense fiberboard topped with a photo image protected by clear plastic, laminates can mimic nearly any type of flooring. But many laminate products use a repetitive pattern that’s a giveaway they aren’t wood. Because they resist scratching, denting and discoloration from sunlight better than other flooring, the best laminates offer great durability. But if you do have an accident, it will be hard to fix. What gives laminates an advantage is price: Good-quality flooring runs $4 to $7 per square foot, including installation.

Vinyl

Since it is plastic, vinyl isn’t affected by moisture, isn’t easily discolored by sunlight and is the easiest to clean of all the flooring options. It’s also relatively inexpensive, from $2 to $6 per square foot, installed.

Linoleum

Often confused with vinyl, most linoleum is made from natural products. It is eco-friendlier than most other flooring options—and it is durable, easy to clean and not easily damaged by moisture. Linoleum comes in rolls, tiles and planks or strips cut to look like wooden pieces. Most linoleum products are inexpensive, from $4 to $8 per square foot, including installation.

Even more options

Bamboo and cork are renewable resources that offer distinctive looks. But they’re also the priciest options.

Finish options

Once you’ve settled on a type of flooring, you’ll have to decide what you want it to look like. Do you want a natural light finish, a dark mahogany or walnut finish? For solid- or engineered-wood flooring, you’ll also have to pick a wood species.

Selecting a supplier and installer

Nonprofit Twin Cities Consumers’ Checkbook ratings show many area flooring companies consistently fail to satisfy their customers. Many of the negative comments are related to workmanship — buckling, uneven gaps between planks and other avoidable problems.

Once you’ve selected a product (or narrowed the choices), contact top-rated suppliers for prices. If your job is straightforward, you can shop by e-mail and phone, which Checkbook’s undercover shoppers did for a sample of local retailers.Specify the exact product you want. Include a description of the work areas, with measurements. Ask companies to total their prices for the entire job. Get all details in writing.

Checkbook’s undercover shoppers found you can save a lot by shopping around. To supply and install flooring for a 432-square-foot room using Mullican Muirfield solid-wood flooring, prices quoted by local suppliers ranged from $4,149 to $6,400; using the Shaw Lakeside engineered-wood flooring, prices ranged from $4,598 to $6,098.

Checkbook’s shoppers were unable directly to compare prices at Home Depot, Lowe’s and LL Flooring (Lumber Liquidators). These chains mostly sell products supplied exclusively to them, making comparisons difficult. For the closest equivalent products offered, Home Depot’s prices were consistently lower than average. But prices at Lowe’s and LL Flooring were only about average.

Twin Cities Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and Checkbook.org is a nonprofit organization supported by consumers. Star Tribune readers can access ratings of local flooring suppliers and installers free until Sept. 5 at Checkbook.org/StarTribune/Floors.

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