Best flooring, countertops, siding for least $$$

Our budget is seriously depleted after splurging on a small lakefront cabin in NE Washington. We're having the cabin completely renovated and I'd appreciate suggestions on the best inexpensive flooring. We were dreaming of hardwood floor but it's just not in the budget so contractor has suggested laminate. He's allowing $8/square foot installed (and hubby doesn't want to go over that). Really appreciate suggestions and opinions. Is this a good way to go?
Also countertops: I've got a "granite taste" on a formica budget. I was looking at some laminate in Home Depot that looked like granite and was very shiney. Would that be a good compromise? How does highly shined laminate wear as opposed to a duller finish?
And siding....contractor proposes vinyl siding. (I was hoping for cedar and/or shingles but again my taste exceeded our budget). How do the various types of siding compare?
Any other cost cutting suggestions appreciated.
Thanks!
Sandy Thanks!
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I would never install laminate in any area that is really lived in. (really poor abuse factor unless you pay as much as real hardwood would cost)
But if cost is key, and this is in a cabin, why not consider cheap softwoods like pine boards, covered with a few layers of polyurethane. The grains can be beautiful, and it has a more "country" look that improves as it "wears"

Wear is not a factor between shiny and matte finishes. Shiny shows small scratches spills, and water rings faster, but looks best when clean (personal preference thing)

Cedar siding looks great but requires constant work over the years to keep it looking good. Vinyl is "no maitenance" other than a hosing once a year, and would likely be less expensive.
Mind you any of these items could always be ripped out and upgraded a few years down the road when finances allow

If money REALLY is an issue. Does it really need everything done right away ?
Can some renovations wait a year or two ? could the existing floor and counter just live with a bit of paint for now ? a bit of caulking/touchup painting in the existing siding ?
Not doing a job at all is ALWAYS the cheapest way out. <LOL>
AMUN
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if you like formica floors. it doesn't look like wood to me

granite tiles.

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For the floors go with Kahrs floating floor. It is a hardwood floor. Not solid hardwood, but it is hardwood down to the tongue and groove, so it's as good or better than solid hardwood (since you cannot sand down below the tongue and groove anyway when refinishing any floor, and Kahrs can be refinished) Karhs is a Swedish company that invented the floating floor in 1943. Their woods are all either from Sweden or Brazilian tropical woods. They are gorgeous, will last 20 years or more, and you can get the contractor grade styles for ~$4.00 - $5.00. They are easy to install, never squeak. You might want to hire a pro to help you with doing one room or so, like I did, and then you can finish up yourself. If you have a lot of cutting to do, sometimes going under door molding can be tricky.
I have it throughout my house, and I love it, it is very rich looking. I have the gunstock oak, got it for $4.00 per sq ft, had a pro help me put in the first 500 sq ft, and then I have done the rest, even in my bathroooms. Good floating floors are so much betterr than solid hardwood, they are warm, soft, no sqeaking, and look great
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Go to http://www.kahrs.com and look at their floors. I absolutely cannot say enough about how beautiful and well made these floors are. They have the best locking system in the world, finishes, wood quality, etc, etc. And their technical support is great, they have an 800 number with good people always available. They will gvie you advice on all stages of the installation, and they are people who have actually installed floor, not burger flippers.
The floating floors from Home Depot are total crap. Made in China, they have one called Universal, crappy locking system, no 800 number, no support.
If you can afford about $6.00 - $7.00 try to go with Brazilian Cherry. It's is stunning in a deep red, with gorgeous grain, and it's the hardest wood Kahrs sells, twice as hard as Oak. But the contractor styles at $4.00 per ft are great too, especially the Oaks.
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there might be a http://lumberliquidators.com near you.
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would opt for formica before having ceramic tile countertop which I have in my bathroom. Its a royal pain in the arse to clean. Have you looked at Silestone?
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Instead of laminate, you may be able to get engineered wood at about that price. IMO, it looks more natural because it is wood. www.mannington.com Laminate s very durable though and easily done at that price.

There are many good laminates that will last 20 - 30 years easily. You can always u pgrade in a few years. Formica, WilsonArt are two of the better brands.

Sure, cedar is nice, but vinyl will last you 30 years or so and be maintenance free. The good part is you can enjoy the cabin and not have to spend your vacation time doing as much upkeep.
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I favor laminates for counters. If/ when your tastes change you can change out laminates with less sticker shock than granite. If you're the type who makes a design decision and is permanently satisfied the granite will last .... well, do remember the Greek and Roman civilizations? As for the exterior, T1-11 gives your the rustic 'feel' of cedar but, like cedar, it's going to require some regular maintenance. If you're after a 'no maintenance' cabin there are cedar-like designs on vinyl sidings which look good from a distance - not so good up close but who stands close to admire a home. Amun's pine floor suggestion would be nice for a cabin since the floors won't see a lot of wear and what wear it gets will enhance its rustic beauty.
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Watch out for cheap and very thin cedar siding. Same thing with pine siding. It is garbage.

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Are you handy at all? For $8 a sq. ft, you can get almost any floor you like, barring fine mables and similar if you install them yourself. Cork, hardwood, and ceramics or porcelins are all in that range, and the floating wood floors are easy for just about anyone with a little patience and a regular circular saw to install.

A shiny top that looks like granite, but is not actually granite is going to show scraches after a couple of years, and it will look worse than a duller finish once that happens, IMO. This is the one where you can't save all that much by installing yourself, unless you happen to be pretty good at installing ceramic tiles- so formica is probably where it's at.

What is on there now? Any reason why it can't just be painted? Otherwise, I think the concrete shingles are pretty competitive with vinyl siding as far as price goes... they come in pre-primed panels, so while the materials may be a little more, the labor should be less expensive, and that's where the real cost is. Or if it can wait, you may just want to hold off until you can get something better- everyone has different tastes, of course, but I hate that plastic junk on a house.

Just figure out what you can do yourself- labor is the biggest expense by far. You might not want to mess with siding, for instance, but you can putz around with working on a floor for quite a while, and not have to worry about weather. Or, you might be able to save a lot of cash by doing the sink mounting and plumbing yourself after the counter is installed rather than having the GC subcontract a plumber. I just did that job recently, and removing a cast iron sink, cutting off the soldered water lines and installing shut-off valves, installing new sink, faucet, garbage disposal (and the electrical that goes with it) undersink water filter and reorganizing the drain pipes to accomodate all the new junk under the sink took about 5-6 hours total. Even if you're completely new to it, I couldn't see a project like that taking more than a couple of days.
Good luck, and congrats on your new cabin!
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