We’ve put together a guide to help you choose between carpet or hardwood floors, and discover the right material for your budget, lifestyle, and design dreams.

What Are Hardwood Floors?

Hardwood floors have been around for hundreds of years and today are still a gorgeous type of flooring found in both historic and new homes.

Solid hardwood flooring is made from natural wood that’s nailed together piece by piece. Its available finished or unfinished so homeowners can match their existing floors.

Another type of hardwood flooring, called engineered hardwood, is made of several layers, with only the surface and bottom made of real wood. Unlike solid hardwood, professionals can install engineered hardwood in bathrooms or basements because it handles moisture well and won’t and warp as easily as solid hardwood.

There are many types of hardwood and it can be tricky to decide on one. A few popular options include:

  • Oak: The most common wood floor in North America, Oak is a highly damage-resistant choice with a lovely grain pattern and plenty of finishing options.
  • Pine: You’ll find lovely knots and pinholes in pinewood, giving your floors rustic character.
  • Mahogany: Timeless and warm, Mahogany floors are durable and water-resistant.
  • Bamboo: For a more modern vibe, Bamboo floors are a great choice that come from an environmentally friendly source.

With numerous varieties and price points, you’re bound to find a hardwood that fits your home perfectly. Plus, you can refinish hardwood floors to change their style over the years, too.

Why Choose Hardwood Floors?

Solid hardwood floors are a top-of-the-line choice and are a huge selling point for prospective homebuyers. When installed well by a professional, hardwood looks sophisticated and classic. It will always be an in-style option that increases the resale value of your home. Setting aside serious water damage, these floors can last a lifetime, and if damage does happen you can usually refinish hardwood floors rather than replace them.

You can switch the feel of your hardwood floors at any time by adding area rugs. Plus, there’s no need to worry about dust and other allergens making their way deep into your floor.

What Is Carpet?

Cozy, warm, and plush, carpet is a soft flooring material installed over a carpet pad. It can be made of synthetic materials like nylon or polyester or natural materials like wool. Though it’s a complicated process, manufacturers make most carpets by tightly pulling tiny loops of fibers through a carpet backing over and over with rapid fire machines.

There are two main types of carpet: loop pile carpets and cut pile carpets. For loop pile carpets, the carpet is finished when the automated machines finish looping the tiny fibers through the carpet backing, giving it a soft feel. Meanwhile, cut pile carpets go through a final step where the loops are pulled over sharp knives, giving it a rougher, flatter feel according to How Stuff Works.

The quality of carpet ranges widely. One way to gauge quality is carpet face weight, which is how much the carpet pile weighs per square yard. A general rule of thumb is the higher the better, but that’s only when the carpets you’re comparing are made of the same fibers.

There are four main types of carpet fibers:

Nylon - Perfect for heavy traffic areas or homes with kids and pets, nylon is a durable and stain resistant carpet fiber.

Polyester - Carpet made from polyester fiber won’t be as durable or stain resistant as nylon fibers, but it’s less expensive.

Olefin - Olefin isn’t the best for durability or longevity, but dries quickly and is resistant to mold, making it a good choice for basements or other damp areas. You’ll usually find it’s the least expensive carpet fiber.

Wool - The most high-end carpet fiber, wool carpets are prized for their warmth, softness, and natural stain-resistant properties. You’ll want to avoid using it in any rooms that may be prone to moisture, as well as surfaces that get a lot of sunlight, as wool can fade over time.

Why Choose Carpet?

When you get out of bed in the morning, there’s nothing cozier than carpeting beneath your feet. Carpet gives a room a softer, warmer vibe than hardwood floors, and is especially popular in places that need to be quieter, like bedrooms or offices. While it’s not the most in-demand flooring material at the moment, sometimes there’s just no replacement for a comfy, warm surface.

Carpet is also a good insulator, especially with the right padding materials installed beneath it. This can potentially save you money on your utility bills since it helps your home retain heat.

When deciding between hardwood floors vs carpet, many people’s biggest concern is damage. You can protect your carpets by choosing stain-resistant materials, darker colors, or very low-pile carpet.

Carpet vs Hardwood Cost

There’s a big difference in the cost of hardwood floors vs carpet, and the specific quality of wood or carpet can change the cost dramatically. Below is a carpet vs hardwood cost comparison so you’ll know the right questions to ask when you get a quote from a professional.

Carpet

Hardwood

National Price Range

Most homeowners spend between $168 and $2,299.

Most homeowners spend between $2,952 to $4,646.

Average Cost

$1,628

$4,113

Labor Cost

$3 - $6 per yard

$500 to $3,000

Material Cost

Ranges from $.75 per square foot for some textured carpets up to $7/sf for the highest-end carpets. Wool usually starts at around $4.50/sf and can go upwards to $10/sf.

As low as $6 per square foot for woods like red and white oak, up to $14 per square foot for woods like maple or solid oak.

There are many factors go into final flooring costs, including the cost to remove your old floors, relocate furniture, redo trim and more. These costs add up quickly, so make sure each quote you compare includes the exact same materials and services so you get the full picture to make an educated decision.

You can start by getting free estimates from contractors in your area, who can guide you through all the details of installing beautiful new floors.