How Much Does it Cost to Install Hardwood Floors?
Considered one of the most popular flooring options for homeowners, hardwood flooring is long-lasting and durable. Although it might seem like an expensive initial investment, it pays back over time and increases the value of a home. Homeowners have many choices when it comes to hardwood flooring materials and styles -- engineered or solid wood, oak or cherry and so forth -- so that you get the floor that perfectly matches your home. Here are some other factors that will play into the total cost of your hardwood floor installation.
National Install Wood Flooring Costs
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Table of Contents:
- Installing Your Wood Floors - Cost Factors
- Type of Wood Floor
- Size/Complexity of Job
- Average Hardwood Floor Pricing
- Additional Considerations
- DIY Considerations and Risk
Installing Your Wood Floors - Cost Factors
Installing hardwood flooring costs between $250 and $7,000, but the total price will vary depending on many factors. Some of those factors include what kind of flooring you decide to install, its quality or grade and how complex the installation job will be for a professional.
Type of Wood Floor
Hardwood flooring comes in two main types: solid hardwood or engineered wood. The type you decide to have installed will depend on your budget, the purpose of your space and your climate conditions, among other reasons.
Solid or Engineered Wood Flooring
If you decide to have a solid wood floor installed, you might pay between $3,500 and $8,000. Solid wood flooring is what the name implies: a solid piece of wood. The thickness varies, but will range in between ¾” to 5/16”. Because it’s made of real wood, solid wood flooring can be sanded and refinished many times throughout its lifetime. It can also be installed above or on grade. Some types of solid wood flooring you can choose from are:
- Red Oak: This is the most popular solid wood flooring option. It’s reddish with a coarse grain, stiff and dense to resist wear and tear.
- White Oak: White oak resists wear better than red oak since and has a brown color with a grayish overtone.
- Birch: This one can be anywhere from light yellow to dark brown/red. It’s softer but still durable.
- Beech: Beech is reddish brown, durable and handles shock well.
- Pine: Pine is yellow/brown and has the same durability as red oak.
- Cherry: Cherry is light brown and is usually used as a decorative wood because it isn’t very durable.
- Douglas Fir: Douglas fir is a yellowish tan and can dent very easily.
In comparison, the cost to install an engineered wood floor runs between $5,000 and $7,500. Engineered wood is manufactured out of wood veneer and layered. Because the grains are laid in different directions, it’s very stable and won’t contract as much in humidity or fluctuating temperatures. However, it can’t be sanded or refinished as much as real wood flooring. Some types of engineered wood flooring you can invest in are:
- Strip Flooring: Strip flooring can vary in thickness between 1.5", 2" and 2.25".
- Plank Flooring: Plank only comes in two thicknesses -- ½ or ¾ -- but its widths vary between 3" and 8".
- Parquet Flooring: Parquet is very different from other wood floors. It comes in geometric patterns made of wood slats and held in place by mechanical fasteners or adhesive.
Quality of wood flooring is not the same as the grade of the wood flooring. Grading refers to how the floor looks, whereas the quality of the floor is more about the layers and thickness of the wood. The more layers the wood has, the better off you are in the long-term with the floor. Here are some quality classes for engineered flooring:
- Good: 3-ply construction and 5 coats of finish with a 10- to 15-year warranty -- could be at least ¼ inch thick.
- Better: 5-ply construction with 7 finish coats and 15 to 25-year warranty, same thickness as good.
- Best: 7 - 9 plys and 25 year warranty at the minimum with a thickness of ⅝ to ¾ inches.
Grading is harder to determine because each manufacturer creates their own system and names for wood grades. Grading will determine the wood’s strength, durability and strength. You won’t find grading information for most engineered wood flooring. Some common grade names are:
- Clear: Few color variations or board lengths and no visible knots or pinholes.
- Select/Better: Uniform color and few knots and pinholes.
- #1 Common: More color variation, shorter board lengths and visible knots and pinholes.
- #2 Common: Natural character, shorter board length and visible knots and pinholes.
- Cabin: Rough-hewn look, unfilled knots and wormholes but no splits or loose knots.
- Shorts: Many knots, pinholes and color variations.
These can often be combined or rebranded depending on the manufacturer.
Size/Complexity of the Job
The total cost of your hardwood flooring installation will also be determined by the size or complexity of the job. Flooring contractors will always add labor charges to the price of the installation and those can range anywhere from $500 to $3,000.
This cost is determined by the:
- Type of wood
Some contractors will determine the total labor cost by the square foot. This includes prep, subfloor maintenance, molding and any demolition. Others will charge by the hour to do the same work. You might also be charged a higher rate if you have flooring installed that nailed or stapled down into place. Unfinished hardwood flooring also costs more to install because finish has to be applied to the wood.
Usually the average size to install a wood floor starts at 300sf when determining price. If you have a room that’s bigger than that, you could pay additional fees. Ask ahead of time when getting a quote so you don’t pay more than expected.
Average Hardwood Floor Pricing
The price to install hardwood flooring varies, as shown above. Depending on the species you choose, that price will vary even more. Here are some of the average material prices for different species of hardwood flooring:
- Oak: $2 - $10/sf
- White Oak: $3 - $5/sf
- Birch: $2 - $8/sf
- Red Oak: $2 - $5/sf
- Cherry: $4 - $20/sf
- Cork: $2 - $5/sf
- Bamboo: $2 - $10/sf
If you decide to install engineered hardwood flooring, species of oak, maple, cypress, acacia and hickory also run for anywhere between $2 and $6/sf.
When you have a hardwood floor installed, whether it’s solid or engineered, there are other pieces you have to consider adding onto the wood or removing/moving around during the installation. As a result, what you pay for in the end is not only the wood being installed, but other items you might not have realized you needed. These include:
- Borders & Patterns: These make the wood look more appealing but can add $150 to $300 to your total cost. It depends on how custom you make them.
- Moving Furniture: Depending on where you have the wood floor installed, flooring contractors may have to move furniture. Whether they charge for this varies from business to business. Ask ahead of time.
- Regular Maintenance: You’ll need to keep the floor in shape on a regular basis. That means spending potentially $100 - $200 on cleaning and staining, not to mention a potential $1,400 on refinishing.
- Finishes: If you install unfinished hardwood flooring, you will need to have a finish added to it. It adds color and luster to the floor. You can have a dark or light finish with high gloss. You can do it as a DIY project, but sometimes, pros can add it during the installation for a low cost -- $1.50/sf. You have two options: surface or penetrating finish.
- Surface: This requires a stain and then top coat or varnish for defending the wood. It’s easy to maintain and very durable -- good for DIYers. Four types to choose from include oil-based urethane, water-based urethane, moisture-cured urethane and conversion varnish
- Penetrating: This gets deeper into the wood and needs a wax applied after for a low-gloss appearance. You'll need to reapply the wax on a regular basis and use a wood-specific cleaner. It comes in different sheens -- high gloss, low gloss or satin -- which homeowners should choose based on how often the floor is tread upon. High gloss shows scratches easily, while low gloss and satin are good for living areas.
- Contract: A written contract should include all specific materials to be used, the work to be done, cost, dates within which the project will be completed and a payment schedule. Try for the minimum possible deposit, and tie payments to actual material deliveries and specific work done.
DIY Considerations & Risks
If you decide to install your hardwood flooring, consider that only certain types of hardwood flooring can be installed as DIY projects. Other types -- ones that need to be nailed down or glued -- require specific equipment, materials and working with the subfloor. However, if you buy click and lock floating hardwood flooring, the steps to install are:
- Glue together. Add a bead of glue to the tongue of each board and tap it into place.
- Fasten it. Rent a floor stapler and compressor and secure boards to the existing floor.
- Glue down. Lay boards in adhesive, akin to tiling.
- Click and lock. The tongues and grooves lock together. It's quick and clean.
You can also install prefinished floors because you don’t have to sand or finish. They also have a 20-year warranty so if you have problems, you can usually get help without paying a high fee. However, trying to maintain them is hard because you can’t sand them as often.
If you don’t have a click and lock floating floor though, there are a lot of risks that come with trying to install a hardwood floor on your own. Nailed down or glue-down hardwood floors are just not for DIY installers because of the mess involved, and you could accidentally put nails in the wrong place, which allows too much movement for the floor, leading to bulges or slats in between the planks. Also, if you have a concrete subfloor, trying to install a nail down or glue down floor without another subfloor is not going to go well. Some other factors that make a DIY installation risk are:
- Room Design: If your room is complex, trying to install straight planks is hard, and you can only cut them once. So if they’re too short, adding back in pieces can make it look like a shoddy job.
- Budget: While self-installation helps to save money, paying hundreds for repairs to your floor later isn’t always worth it. You also don’t want to pay to replace the floor because it’s bulging or cracking in the humidity.
Click and lock flooring isn’t for everyone, so while you might want to do a DIY installation of your floor, it’s not alway worth the pennies you save to have a less than appealing wood floor. Consult with a flooring expert on what kind of floor suits your budget and increases the appeal of your home. You can always help out and maybe save a few dollars that way.
Last updated on Mar 31, 2016
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