Home Improvement

How to save on hardwood flooring costs

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Hardwood flooring has appeal for its durability, versatility and beauty, and it can boost the value of your home. According to the National Realtor Association’s (NAR) most recent Remodeling Impact Report, homeowners installing new wood flooring recouped 106 percent of the cost at resale. Further, new hardwood floors ranked fourth on the report’s list of projects most appealing to homebuyers.
Here we’ll go over the costs of installing hardwood flooring and ways you can save money.

How much does hardwood flooring cost?

According to home remodeling website Fixr.com, the average cost to install hardwood flooring is between $6 and $12 per square foot, labor included. That figure can vary greatly depending on the materials used and the cost of labor.

Materials

Along with your preferences, your home plays a role in what types of wood can or can’t be used. For instance, thinner pieces of wood might warp in areas of your home that are prone to having more moisture.

  • Type of wood. The stronger and more durable types of wood are more expensive. For instance, pine and acacia are on the low end, with pine averaging $1.25 to $2.10 a square foot and acacia averaging $2.90 to $5.25 a square foot for materials only. On the higher end, walnut costs $8.25 to $10.50 a square foot, while teak averages $8.75 to $12.50 a square foot.
  • Appearance. You’ll also need to look at the type of grain, texture and finishes of the wood planks. The length you choose depends on how you want your floors to look.
  • Thickness of wood planks. Certain wood can only be cut to certain thicknesses. The thicker the wood, the more expensive.
  • Quality. Will Lau, a residential Realtor based in Southern California and the founder of Will and Way Homes, suggests not to go cheap on flooring with the intention of renovating it again later. “Instead, see installing wood floors as an investment that can be enjoyed by you and your family,” he says. “It will also add value to your home, since it’s an upgraded feature that buyers will appreciate and potentially pay more for.”

Labor

The other part of hardwood flooring installation cost is labor. Here are factors that affect the price:

  • Moving furniture out of the way. The cost depends on your floor plan, how large your home is and the amount of furniture you own.
  • Demolishing the existing floor. Labor costs also include removing the old flooring.
  • Preparing the subfloor. You won’t know this cost for sure until you pull out the original flooring, Lau says. The amount of prep work depends on the size of your home, as well as the condition of your flooring. If your flooring is in less-than-stellar shape, it might require more work. “It’s definitely something you’ll have to budget extra for, and the cost can be anywhere from $250 to upwards of $1,150 or more,” he says.
  • Installing new flooring. The cost per square foot can vary and depends on factors such as the square footage and the complexity of the job.

How to save on hardwood flooring installation costs

Here are seven things you can do to cut down on the costs of hardwood flooring:

1. Refinish your existing wood floors

This is one of the most cost-effective options, Lau says. However, you can’t refinish laminate. This is only an option if you have solid wood floors or certain types of engineered wood.

2. Study up on differences in materials

Since the type of wood you use plays a large role in the cost, research the typical prices for different species, grains, lengths, and thicknesses of wood flooring.

3. Demo your old floor yourself

If you have the time and equipment to do it, demolish the existing flooring beforehand, Lau says. Removing the tile and laminate yourself can help you save on labor costs.

4. Remove your furniture

Anything you can do to make it easy for workers will save on the costs of installing hardwood floors, Lau says. Moving and covering your furniture means there’s less the installers need to handle.

5. Have the materials ready

If you purchase the materials ahead of time, the installers can get right to work. If you don’t know what type of wood flooring to get, then you might want to pay for a consultation. Otherwise, you might find yourself with materials you can’t use.

6. Decide on engineered versus solid wood

Wood for hardwood flooring comes in two main types: solid and engineered. While solid wood is a single layer of wood, engineered wood is made of several layers of plywood and hardwood. These layers of plywood are stacked in different directions.

Engineered wood is more durable and can be more expensive to buy, but it’s less expensive to install. Solid wood can be less expensive to purchase, but it’s more pricey to install.
Engineered wood also can be installed in rooms that are below grade, and it’s less prone to warping.

7. Do it yourself

You might want to do all or part of the job only if you have the experience to install hardwood floors. Otherwise, it might be more costly and time-intensive to try to do it yourself only to have to hire someone later.

Next steps

Doing your homework can give you a good idea of how much time and money it will take to purchase the materials and install hardwood flooring. Here’s how you can prepare for your project:

Get plumbing inspected

Lau recommends getting a plumbing inspection to check for issues that could damage your floors. “You want to avoid a pinhole leak from bad pipes that damages the floors,” he says. “Not only the cost of redoing it could be a headache, but also the time and effort in preparation to install and the actual work itself.”

Consider working with a consultant

Lau also recommends considering a consultant who specializes in wood flooring. A consultant can deal with factors you might not have thought of, such as where and what time of day the sun enters the house. It might seem like a minor detail, but natural light could damage the floors.

Make a savings plan

Once you’ve estimated the cost to install hardwood floors in your home, figure out how much you’ll need to save and by when. Many contractors ask for a deposit up front to cover materials, so you might need to have a portion saved up sooner than you anticipate.

Compare financing options

To cover the costs of hardwood flooring installation, consider taking out a personal loan for home improvements, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or a home equity loan. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. Compare the rates and terms of different forms of financing to see which could work best for your situation.

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Written by
Jackie Lam
Contributing writer
Jackie Lam is a contributing writer for Bankrate. Jackie writes about auto loans.
Edited by
Associate loans editor