Traditional flooring is expensive. Tile, carpet, and even vinyl can all cost big bucks. Add in the cost of installation and you can quickly use up most of your decorating budget. If you’re strapped for cash, there are alternatives to traditional flooring. You have to be a little creative and use some DIY skills make to them work and maximize their attractiveness, but you can cover a floor for less than the cost of traditional options. Here are some ideas for alternative floor coverings.
Carpet samples. Many retailers will either give away carpet samples or charge only a nominal fee. I know people who have created very attractive area rugs (and even carpeted whole rooms) with samples. (If you want padding under the carpet, you’l still have to pay for that.) You can arrange the samples into any pattern you choose and then adhere them to the floor/pad with glue. If you want something more portable, make an area rug by adhering the samples to a sheet or drop cloth.
Random materials: I’ve seen an entryway floored with old Scrabble tiles and a bathroom done in playing cards. Almost any material that will lay flat and can be covered in sealant is fair game.
Concrete: Concrete makes a cheap and indestructible floor. You can probably do small rooms on your own with the bags of concrete you mix yourself. To jazz up boring concrete, you can stain it, create patterns in it before it dries, or place other materials such as glass, smooth stones, or tile fragments in it (just be sure to bury any sharp edges).
Samples/leftovers of hardwood or laminates: Since multi-colored hardwood floors are now trendy, just buy whatever the store has on the clearance rack and put it together in an interesting pattern.
Salvaged or clearance tiles: You can often find tiles on the clearance racks at home improvement centers or available in salvage stores. You may not get enough of one pattern to do a whole room, so buy several complimentary patterns and create your own look.
Remnant carpeting: Carpet remnants are often bigger than samples and can be used in bigger rooms. I know someone who got a large remnant and then trimmed the outside with carpet samples, making for a very interesting look.
Freecycled materials: Carpet, tile, and vinyl are often available on Freecycle. People do their own homes and then have extra that they just give away rather than throwing in the dump. As with some of the other ideas you might not get enough to do a whole room, but you can combine patterns to create your own look.
Rubber/foam fatigue mats: You’ve probably seen those anti-fatigue mats that fit together like puzzle pieces. You can get them in black/gray, or pastel and primary colors. You can even get them with roads and maps on them so kids can play with their toy cars on them. These can make a good flooring option for recreation rooms, kids’ rooms, or utility rooms. They clean up easily, can be replaced quickly, and cushion falls and drops well.
Drop cloths, quilts, or sheets: If you’re in a hurry or really on a budget, any large piece of fabric can be used as a floor covering. Just lay it out and put some anti-slip matting under it to hold it in place. If you’re artistic, you can paint your own patterns on the sheets and drop cloths.
Paint: If you’ve got a concrete or wooden subfloor and no money to cover it, you can at least pretty it up with some paint. Just be sure to put some sealant over it to keep it from chipping so fast. Paint whatever pattern you want. I know a very artistic person who used some painting and brush techniques to make her concrete floor look like tile.
Granted, most of these options are not for the person who is looking to turn their home into a designer showroom (although many of them can be very good looking if done creatively and well). However, for someone just starting out or looking to floor a vacation or rental property inexpensively, these can be good choices. They can also be good choices for non-public rooms that you don’t want to spend a fortune on such as laundry rooms or recreation rooms. If you need to stretch your decorating budget, give some of these non-traditional ideas a try.