The Cost of Installing Hardwood Flooring

By: Laura Bullard

Though costly, hardwood flooring will pay for itself, at the very least in resale value. Realtors indicate that more than 50% of home buyers say they are willing to pay thousands of dollars more for a home with hardwood flooring. And there’s a reason you see 100+ year-old homes with original hardwood floors—they’re built to last.

Factors that affect the cost of installing hardwood floors

A few key factors including the type of wood, the layout of your room, and the duration and cost of installation materials can actually have more impact on the price of hardwood flooring.

Type of wood

If you want to install traditional hardwood flooring (solid pieces of hardwood that can be refinished numerous times), call a professional. Installation can be incredibly difficult and mistakes costly.

Engineered hardwood (a layered hardwood made of a thin piece of hardwood adhered to high-quality plywood) can be nailed, glued, or snapped together. It’s significantly easier to install yourself, but it can be more expensive. Overall, you’ll save money (but not much) by installing it yourself.

Layout of the room

Assess the layout of the room and determine whether or not it lends itself to a simple installation. If your room has a basic square or rectangular layout your installation will be much easier to plan and execute. If there are tricky angles or curves, consult a professional to avoid costly missteps.

Layout Room layout especially impacts cost if you have lots of corners or levels

Duration and cost of installation

If you’re paying a professional to install your flooring, consider the amount of time your contractors will need for installation. Basic traditional hardwood flooring can be cheaper than engineered hardwoods, but the installation takes longer.

And before you commit to installing your hardwood floors yourself, determine the costs of installation beyond the cost of the wood. At the very least, you’ll need to rent an air compressor ($100–$200 / week), a floor nailer (about $150 / week), and a compound saw ($100–$200 / week).

Unless you already own the correct tools, renting can sometimes cost more than the price of professional installation.

Cost per square foot

Let’s break down exactly how much your new hardwood floors are going to cost. Your installation (labor alone) will run you between $5 and $8 per square foot. For our estimates here, we’ll estimate a labor cost of $7 per square foot. Know that if your subflooring needs work, the price may be significantly higher.

Material Material $/sqft Installed $/sqft 12’x12′ room cost
Pine $3–6 $10–13 $1,440–1,872
Teak $5–10 $12–17 $1,728–2,448
Oak $5–10 $12–17 $1,728–2,448
Walnut $8–14 $15–21 $2,160–3,024
Mahogany $8–14 $15–21 $2,160–3,024

 

Where you should put your money

It’s likely that you’ll only ever need to install hardwood flooring in your home one time, so it’s wise to hire a professional to complete the installation.

According to Nicki Rayburn, director of PR and Communications at Shaw Floors, proper installation is crucial to ensure that your flooring performs at its best.

Depending on the environment and condition of your subfloor, you may need special applications. Further, it's important that professional installers follow the proper guidelines relevant to each product.”

You’ll save money on tool rentals, you’ll save time, and you have a better chance of avoiding any potential speed bumps caused by user error. Your wood floors are going to be with you—if properly installed and maintained—for the lifetime of your home.

Pay for the flooring that you want. It’s not worth saving a few hundred dollars if you’re going to regret your flooring choice. If you have your heart set on cherry hardwoods, don’t choose a slightly cheaper alternative (like oak or maple). Regardless of your wood choice, hardwood floors aren’t cheap. It’s better to spend the extra money to get exactly what you want.

Where to save money without sacrificing quality

The best way to save money on hardwood floor installation is to do some of the dirty work yourself before the contractors arrive. You can easily do the following yourself:

  1. Remove carpets, old hardwoods, and laminates.
  2. Temporarily relocate all of the furniture.
  3. Make sure your HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems are up to code.
  4. Test for hazards like mold, asbestos, lead, or other contaminants.

Finally (and most importantly), shop around and get estimates. Talk to at least 3–5 contractors and get quotes. Inquire about their busy and slow seasons. You may find that some contractors drop their prices in the fall and winter months.

 

DIY or Hire

Many homeowners automatically believe that if you do the installation work yourself, the overall cost of installing hardwood floors is going to be cheaper. But this isn't necessarily true. Hire a professional to properly install your hardwood floors and make sure they perform at their best.

DIY

  • While it's easier to install engineered hardwood than traditional hardwood, this option is more expensive
  • Square or rectangular rooms are much easier to navigate and plan by yourself

Hire

  • Professionals have more experience installing traditional hardwood floors
  • For rooms that have tricky angles or curves, it's best to hire an expert to navigate the space
  • Experts will have the necessary tools to efficiently complete installation of your hardwood floors
  • You'll be able to avoid potential speed bumps caused by user error if you hire a professional

Final considerations

  • If you’re doing the installation yourself, make sure you read up on hardwood expansion and contraction and how to avoid it.
  • Consider the hardness of the wood—high traffic rooms and pet-friendly homes are going to do better with harder wood.
  • Research upkeep and maintenance to keep your hardwoods in excellent condition for years to come.

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