Decorating trends come and go, but one item that always ranks high on the home design hit parade is the hardwood floor. It’s versatile, natural and works in almost any room in the house. Alas, the simple elegance and durability of hardwood doesn’t come cheap.
David Steckel, home expert at Thumbtack, the contractor/client pairing site, finds the cost to install hardwood floors in a 2,500-square-foot home runs $3,172 to $4,730. Rachel Zepernick, interior home expert at Angi, puts the typical price a tad higher: “Overall, the average project tends to total somewhere between $2,500 and $6,800.”
Though there are more affordable flooring options out there, hardwood has another rare quality: It’s one of the few home renovation projects that generates a profit. Wood floor installations recoup 118 percent of their cost, according to The National Association of Realtors/National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s “2022 Remodeling Impact Report,” while refreshing an existing hardwood floor returns a whopping 147 percent.
“Refinishing your wooden floors may be worth the investment,” Steckel says.
Those statistics suggest hardwood floors are an asset for your home. Let’s go beneath the surface to analyze hardwood floors’ cost.
What are the different types of hardwood floors?
Hardwood floors come in two general categories: engineered and solid. AKA natural or traditional, solid hardwood is what it sounds like: a piece straight from the tree. Engineered consists of a plywood core with a particular wood’s veneer wrapped around it.
“There are limitless variations of each,” Steckel says, as well as pros and cons. For example, engineered hardwood is relatively inexpensive: Steckel says it runs $4 and $9 a square foot, on average, while solid wood averages $5-$10. That said, engineered may not have the same longevity. “The investment in solid hardwood is often worth it since it can be refinished multiple times, extending its lifespan to nearly double that of engineered wood,” Angi’s Zepernick says.
If you choose solid wood floors, you need to make a second decision. You can choose between wood planks that come pre-finished or unfinished wood that is stained and sealed on site. “Unfinished woods give you the chance to stain them to the color of your choice or to match existing wood in your home, but finished [woods] make for faster, easier installation,” Zepernick says.
Beyond price, finish and wear through the years, you also need to consider the location of the hardwood floor. “In a basement, it is most common to install engineered hardwood that responds better to moisture,” Steckel says. The same goes for bathrooms.
What do different hardwood floors cost?
“On average, hardwood floors cost between $6 and $12 per square foot, including both the cost of materials and labor,” Zepernic says. “Higher-end materials, complex layouts and larger spaces might drive up the cost, with some projects looking more like $13 to $25 per square foot.”
“The range in cost depends on the type of wood you choose, the wood style, your home condition/layout and the cost of labor in your region,” she adds.
Wood prices vary, depending on the grade (quality) and thickness of the lot. Here are some of the most widely used floor species, running from common to exotic.
|Wood type||Average price per square foot||Characteristics|
|Sources: Angi, Thumbtack|
|Maple||$4-$11||Highly durable and affordable; harder to install|
|Pine||$5-$10||Warm tones and unique knotty look; affordable, but scratches/dents easily|
|Bamboo||$5-$11||Light tones, contemporary look; eco-friendly, but can be slippery|
|Hickory||$6-$13||Dense grain patterns, durable|
|Red or white oak||$8-$15||Natural color variations, long-lasting, water-resistant (white oak)|
|White ash||$9-$13||Light color, hard to stain|
|Mahogany||$14||Rich color, harder to install, water-resistant|
|Brazilian walnut||$11-$20||Dark color; exotic and expensive, but long-lasting|
What influences hardwood floor costs?
Along with the type of wood, other factors play into the cost of a hardwood floor installation project:
- Floor pattern. “The style you choose is another important factor in the cost of your hardwood flooring, with wide plank on one end, ranging from $2 to $12 per square foot, and genuine parquet on the other end, costing between $20 and $45 per square foot,” Zepernick explains. “In the middle, you’ll find wood-like tile, averaging between $15 and $20 per square foot, and herringbone patterns, averaging around $12 per square foot.” Plus, Steckel says, “Herringbone, chevron or other patterns might require more to be wasted due to offcuts and therefore require you to buy more boards to cover the same square footage.”
- The subfloor. Once your old flooring has been removed and disposed of, the floor must be prepared with a subfloor — the bottom-most layer — before mounting the hardwood to it. It’s important to factor in the cost of a new subfloor, or repairs to your current one (which can cost an additional $500 to $800, Angi says). The condition of the floor is also significant: Certain complications — like uneven flooring, pest/water damage or hard-to-remove carpeting — that require more extensive prep will impact the project too.
- Installation efforts. The difficulty (and thus the cost) of mounting the hardwood layer to the subfloor will vary depending on the wood you choose, Steckel explains. “Wide plank flooring requires both glue and nail down installation as well as a better prepared subfloor than thinner plank,” he says. Also, “there will always be species of wood or fabrication methods that add to a price.” For example, if you choose a particularly hard wood for your flooring, it will require more labor for your installation team to make the necessary cuts.
- Installation itself generally costs $3-$6 a square foot, according to Angi — unless complications ensue. In general, expect labor costs to make up about 50 percent of your total floor installation budget, according to HomeGuide.
- Species trends/availability. “Oak, maple, walnut, ash and cherry are all popular types of wood flooring. These woods are easy to find and therefore tend to be more affordable, making them good choices for projects requiring a quick turnaround,” Zepernick says. “Being easy to find also makes it easier to replace a plank or two if the flooring gets damaged down the road.” On the other hand, a particularly trendy species or style — like wide planks, chevron patterns and hand-scraped engineered hardwoods currently — often bears inflated prices, due to demand.
Final word on hardwood floors
At resale time, a hardwood floor can generate a return on investment of more than 100 percent. That assumes, though, that your floor still looks great. And that hinges on choosing the right type of floor for your space and maintaining it.
Before you pick a type of wood, research its durability and upkeep requirements. Make sure it can hold up to your lifestyle (e.g., scratch resistant if you have pets or kids, moisture resistant if it’s in a bathroom or basement or you live in a humid climate).
From the wood type to its finish and all manner of decorative detail and patterns, you have a lot to consider when it comes to choosing hardwood flooring — and that includes the contractors installing it. Hardwood requires proper handling and acclimatization time, Steckel says: “If the hardwood is being installed immediately after spending months in an outdoor facility or cold warehouse, it might have shrunk a bit. If you install it in your warm and humidity-controlled home before it acclimatizes, it might cap or crown.”
Treat your hardwood right, though, and it’ll provide you with beautiful floors for years.