Inexpensive Housing Materials That No Longer Look Cheap

by Holly WellesDecember 7, 2018

Linoleum, laminate, vinyl — these housing materials don’t inspire reverence in renovators. They seem like remnants of a bygone era, replaced with far better alternatives like hardwood, marble, granite and stone. Many homeowners see these materials as kitchy, something best left in the 70s.

While this perspective is a fair one, recent innovations might surprise you. Advances in linoleum, laminate, vinyl and other inexpensive housing materials have dramatically improved their appearance, and they’re no longer as cheap as they once looked. Some are virtually indistinguishable from wood and stone.

Let’s take a look at five housing materials that have undergone a massive transformation as well as some of their applications in your future designs.

1. Linoleum

Once a staple of kitchen design, linoleum has fallen out of favor with many homeowners. They’ve dispensed with a classic black-and-white checkered pattern for something a little more tasteful, often choosing hardwood for their flooring. While that’s always an option, linoleum isn’t what it once was.

Though the black-and-white checker is no longer fashionable, linoleum remains a versatile material. It’s available in a diverse range of styles and colors to perfectly complement any decor, and you can even find surfaces that simulate wood and stone. You’re not stuck with a stereotype if you go with this material.

2. Laminate

When people hear the word “laminate,” they rarely associate it with quality. It may bring to mind memories of laminate countertops from long ago, with their dappled patterns and cheap sheen. People aren’t fully aware of the impressive progress companies have made in refining the material’s appearance.

Laminate has seen remarkable progress as a flooring material, having come a long way since the 1970s. It can mimic almost any type of flooring, from hardwood to brick, using distressed finishes, grooves, textures and beveling to create an authentic imitation. And that’s saying nothing of cost comparisons.

3. Vinyl

A homeowner shopping for new siding often makes the transition from vinyl. Over time, it cracks and loosens, and the home shows its age. With the many options available today, it’s reasonable to want to explore other materials to see if wood or imitation stone would look more natural.

However, vinyl siding is common for a reason, and modern advances have only improved upon its original appeal. Today’s products are dependable, less prone to fissures and able to offer homeowners an inexpensive price point that other materials can’t match. A transition to vinyl is often the far better choice.

4. Tile

You might think of bathroom tile as cold, sterile and boring, and in many homes, that’s the case. But trends are changing every day, and though tile is available in the cold, sterile and boring colors you’ve come to expect, it’s also available in a broad spectrum of other shades that can add a little light to your living space.

Used in the proper context and with subtlety, tile has style. Like every other material on this list, its efficacy depends on how the homeowner takes advantage of its natural strengths. It’s not exactly a beginner’s project for an amateur renovator, but if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you can do the work yourself.

5. Concrete

Many homeowners are stuck in their belief that it’s hardwood or nothing. They don’t want to settle or give any ground, so to speak, because flooring is such an essential element of their home. Hardwood is impossible to ignore, from the moment you walk through the door to the moment you leave clearly impressed.

These same homeowners might just benefit from a modern touch. While many feel concrete is ugly and gray with unpleasant texturing, today’s mixing techniques allow for far greater flexibility beyond your standard utilitarian aesthetic. Its durability and low cost make it something to consider.

6. Your Home’s Perceived Value

You could invite a guest over, watch as they complement your new hardwood floors and enjoy the impressed look on their face when you reveal that it’s laminate. The perceived value of your home is what’s truly important, and though the materials in this list aren’t as expensive as their alternatives, they’re just as beautiful.

So dispense with any preconceived notions you might have about linoleum or concrete. These materials are improving all the time, and with some creativity, your home will look stellar without a prohibitive price tag.

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About The Author
Holly Welles
Holly Welles covers real estate and home improvement tips for the uninitiated homeowner. She believes in the value of making the most of any space, which is why she also runs The Estate Update. Catch her on Twitter @HollyAWelles or email her at