Trying to decide between two domestic species like Maple and Oak hardwood flooring can be difficult enough, but when you throw wood-like materials into the mix, it can become impossible to make a decision. Not everyone has time to spend the week driving to flooring stores to look at planks, which is where flooring samples come in handy.
If you’ve strolled the isles of your local big-box hardware store, you may have noticed a small section or half an aisle dedicated to free flooring samples. From carpet swatches to linoleum, the options can be overwhelming. In this guide, we’re just going to focus on hardwood and engineered flooring samples from common species along with two of the most popular wood-look flooring styles around… laminate and luxury vinyl.
Local Flooring Samples
The quickest and easiest way to acquire flooring samples of any kind is to go to a flooring store in your area. A Google search will show you a number of shops within driving distance, most of which you’ve probably never heard of. These specialty shops are where you will want to turn for brands you can’t find in stock elsewhere, and if they don’t have a sample of something you want in stock, they can probably order what you need.
If you prefer hardware stores, there are only two options in the United States that can accommodate your needs with Home Depot and Lowes. Smaller stores like Menards carries flooring, but don’t have samples online and are only located in a dozen states. Larger chains like Ace do not carry flooring at all, despite having over 4,000 locations, so here is what you can expect from the big two.
Home Depot is our top option for cheap or free samples. In the store, you will find hundreds of free samples, and if you are willing to pay and order online, there are over 1,000 options to choose from between hardwood, laminate and luxury vinyl flooring.
Finding the samples is fairly simple on Home Depot if you want laminate, LVT, or LVP flooring. At this time, there are over 100 laminate flooring samples available, and most come from the Home Decorators collection. Other brands include Pergo, TrafficMaster, Mohawk, and Hampton Bay, but only their store brands and Pergo have more than a dozen styles.
Those styles include planks that mimic Oak and Hickory along with more exotic styles like Koa or Eucalyptus. There are also a number of stone and slate-like alternatives as well. Most of their laminate boards are textured, but there are quite a few smooth finishes, and several techniques are represented, including hand-scraped and embossed.
With luxury vinyl tiles and planks, you can choose from around 150 styles. That includes subdued hues like Starry Light from LifeProof as well as the rustic-looking Heirloom Pine. There is a style, texture, and color for everyone and most of these tiles are listed as waterproof. The ones that aren’t are water-resistant, but most of the samples come from LifeProof, TrafficMaster or the Home Decorators. We found the local selection of luxury vinyl samples to be impressive with Home Depot as well.
While you can’t sort through Home Depots Take Home Samples as easily with hardwood, there are 500 styles listed online. There are still over 100 options from Home Legend, but Bruce is the leader with 166 options followed by trustworthy brands like Mohawk and Shaw. Overall, we feel they have one of the better selections of hardwood samples online, although the options are geared more towards luxury vinyl and laminates in some of the local stores we visited for this guide.
What they actually have in stock when you head to your local Home Depot will vary from what you find online. You also need to keep the “free” aspect in mind as we weren’t charged for well over a dozen samples at our local store, but online, you can expect to pay $2.99 per sample on most styles. There are also quantity restrictions on some products which are listed at 2, 3 or 10 per order while others appear to have no limitations in that regard.
Lowes isn’t far behind Home Depot in terms of their overall selection of hardwood, laminate and luxury vinyl samples. While they carry some of the same brands as their main competitor, they don’t rely on store brands as heavily with their selections.
The largest array of samples come from their luxury vinyl lineup as there are over 100 styles to choose from, whether you prefer tile or planks. They have SmartCore, which is an exclusive along with products from Mohawk, Congoleum, Shaw, StainMaster, and others. Regardless of the style, samples are only a $1.00, and they cover a number of styles from marbled tiles to samples that resemble Chestnut and Oak.
While we weren’t able to dig as deep with texturing options, we noticed several styles that resembled worn wood or “character” grade planks. Most of the colors fall into the brown range aside from the tile, which resembles wood or natural stone-like materials. Congoleum and Perfection Floor Tile have some of the more unique options when it comes to LVT.
Big brands like Mullican, Bruce, Natural Floors, Pergo, and SmartCore make up most of Lowes hardwood flooring samples, and there are around 150 engineered options along with over 70 solid hardwoods. As you would expect, Oak is the most popular material followed by Hickory and Maple. Bamboo makes up more than half of the remaining samples but isn’t technically a hardwood.
With laminate flooring, there are around 130 cheap flooring samples from Pergo, QuickStep, Allen & Roth, and Style Selections, along with a few other brands. The majority of their planks range from medium to dark on the color scale, but there are some lighter options Waterford Oak and Studio Vailmont Chestnut. All the species are domestic, with the exception of Acacia, and around 30 of them come with a pre-attached pad.
One area where Lowes has a clear advantage over Home Depot is pricing. They have samples ranging from $0.25 to $1, and we did not see anything listed higher than that for these three materials. We also didn’t see any restrictions on how many samples you can buy although some rogue listings were listed as out of stock online with shipping unavailable as well.
Online Flooring Samples
When you can’t find what you are looking for from Lowes or Home Depot or just aren’t partial to local flooring stores, you can always turn to online alternatives. Unfortunately, it is also where things can get expensive as you have shipping to consider along with restrictions.
Some companies will send you a handful of samples for free, while others will charge you far more than its worth. With that in mind, our list of the best places to get flooring samples online touches on brands that make things simple and cover a lot of ground, even if some aren’t free.
Build Direct is an excellent place to pick up building materials online if you like to do things yourself, and they also carry a nice lineup of flooring. Their sample program provides you with 5 free samples of any style you like from their catalog with free shipping. All samples are around 4” x 6,” and you can order more samples for a minimal fee if you need more than 5.
Lumber Liquidators is one of the few places on our online list where you can actually walk into a physical store for samples. While they don’t make it easy to see what they have in the store from online, you can visit your local Lumber Liquidators and pick up 3 samples for free. Online, you can get 3 for $10 with free shipping plus a $10 credit, and each additional sample will set you back $1 each.
If you’ve searched for flooring online, there’s a chance you’ve stumbled across iFloor. This massive company carries hardwood, cork, bamboo, laminate, and vinyl flooring, but you can also pick up samples as well. Currently, you can order 5 free flooring samples from their catalog express shipped to your door for free!
Using reclaimed lumber in your home is a great way to go green, and you’ll find some interesting alternatives in the process. Elmwood Reclaimed Timber is one of the best places to reclaimed hardwood flooring, and their site allows you to pick up to 4 free samples from their catalog. Shipping is free as well, and you only have to fill out a quick form to get started.
Armstrong flooring samples can be found locally from flooring stores along with Lowes and Home Depot, but you can also order directly from the company. The good news is there are hundreds of options, and their samples are generally at least 7” wide. They aren’t exactly cheap, however, as they are $5 each, and shipping starts at around $8.
If you like variety, you’ll love Shaw’s line of products, which include carpet, hardwood, luxury vinyl, and laminate flooring. You can find samples of their products through several online and local retailers, but can also pick them up directly as well. Samples from every one of Shaw’s collections are $4.99 each and come with free shipping.
If you like eco-friendly flooring, it can be hard to source locally, and finding samples is difficult. Green Building Supply has an interesting solution to that problem as they only carry eco-friendly brands and have samples of hardwood and bamboo flooring. While they don’t carry vinyl or laminates, they do have a unique Marmoleum sample box if you’re interested in the new breed of linoleum.
This large online retailer specializes in home goods and flooring, including laminate, hardwood and luxury vinyl. They have samples listed for every style of flooring we checked on their site, and all are currently listed at $0.99 per sample. Sizes will vary, but there is no maximum or minimum order. They carry more brands than other sites but keep in mind the sample pricing is subject to change.