On this page:
- What Should I Expect When Pricing a Hardwood Flooring Installation?
- Should I Install Hardwood Floors?
- What Drives the Cost of the Job?
- How Will My Project Measure Up?
- Planning for a Hardwood Flooring Installation
- Cost Comparisons
- Level of Difficulty
Wood flooring provides a classic and timeless finish to almost any décor and offers several practical advantages over other types of flooring, such as longevity and ease of care. Hardwood is a great choice for many types of rooms, and can be installed in both new construction and remodel settings. A proper installation of wood flooring requires skill and experience, so be sure to carefully consider your flooring options and the characteristics of the installation site when deciding whether to hire a pro and while budgeting for the job since there are a few variables that will affect the cost to install hardwood flooring.
What Should I Expect When Pricing a Hardwood Flooring Installation?
How Do Pros Price the Work?
Like many types of flooring, hardwood installations are typically priced by the square foot for both materials and labor. Your choice of flooring materials and the features of the installation site can have a lot of influence on the unit price though; the quality of the flooring, the level of preparation required, and the complexity of the room and the flooring layout all influence the cost of installation. It is customary to order about ten percent more material than required to cover the area of the installation site to allow for cuts, waste, and damaged product.
What Are My Options?
The term “hardwood flooring” has come to represent a few different materials in recent years, so it’s important to make the distinction so you can know what you are shopping for and make sure installers are bidding your project on the same basis. Though many varieties of wood are used, traditional solid wood flooring is cut from solid pieces of timber, whether true hardwoods or softwood species. The modern counterpart, engineered wood flooring, has a thin layer of solid wood adhered to a base or core of manufactured wood layers. Engineered flooring and some types of solid wood flooring are sold prefinished and are ready for use as soon as they are fastened to the subfloor, while unfinished solid wood flooring is stained and sealed in place after installation. Each type of flooring has its merits, just be sure to discuss your options with your installer so you can choose a product that fits your application, preferences, and budget.
Should I Install Hardwood Floors?
Always an Upgrade
Though the availability and affordability of hardwood flooring has improved, it retains its status as an “upgraded” flooring choice in most places. Installing hardwood in many areas of a home can improve its desirability and value, but if you are considering making the upgrade to hardwood for the purposes of selling, be sure to do some homework to see if the investment is worthwhile. The love of hardwood is a matter of preference for some potential buyers, but it is an attractive feature in most cases and can help your home sell a little faster. Whether or not you will see a return or profit on the investment really depends on your market, your timeline for selling, and the price range of both your flooring and your home, so be sure to check with a local real estate pro before taking the plunge.
Though modern laminates offer attractive and affordable alternatives, some would argue that there is nothing like the warmth and style of true wood flooring. Whether classic and traditional or modern and customized, countless options for combining wood species, stain colors, finish sheen, and even board width and texture give you the chance to get the trademark character of wood while complementing any design style. The ability to refinish solid wood flooring and some engineered wood flooring adds flexibility to change the character of a wood floor without replacing it altogether.
Installing and finishing wood flooring is a bit of an art form that calls for a few specialized tools and considerable carpentry skills. An experienced homeowner can certainly rent a flooring nailer and complete the job without the help of a pro, but for those who aren’t sure if they are up to the task, investing in a professional installation will yield the best results. A professional installation could cost more than twice as much as a DIY job, but is generally a worthwhile investment.
What Drives the Cost of Installing Hardwood Flooring?
With such a wide array of flooring options available, choosing the flooring material for your project can be the most difficult and significant step in pricing the job. Prices for material can vary by type, species, width, and finish, and there are not any hard and fast rules when it comes to comparing the price of solid wood and engineered flooring. Wood flooring typically ranges from as little as $2 per square foot for unfinished solid wood to $8 or more per square foot for high-quality, sandable engineered products or prefinished solid wood.
The Scope of the Job
The nature and extent of the work involved in your flooring project will have considerable influence on the cost of labor, and even on your choice of flooring. If your project requires extensive prep work or site-finishing of the floor, the labor costs of the job will be higher than for one that a pro can complete in one shot, such as the installation of a prefinished floor in a new construction setting. Prep and finishing can also add materials expenses to the job, since subfloor, underlayment, trim, stain, and polyurethane are added to the basic cost of the flooring material and fasteners or adhesive.
Labor and Location
The cost of labor for most types of home repair and improvement varies by location, so the cost of living in your area will have direct bearing on the price of a flooring job. It is common for labor and materials expenses to be about equal for a wood flooring project, though the balance on your installation really depends on the flooring you choose and the features of the job.
How Will My Project Measure Up?
Materials and Methods
In addition to the number of choices available for actual flooring products, a few variations of installation methods exist as well. The combination that suits your application could call for traditional nailed or stapled-down fastening or a glue-down or floating installation in certain settings. Since floating a floor requires no mechanical fasteners it is often the simplest and least expensive method of installation, but isn’t an option for solid wood floor. The preferred method of fastening a wood floor for most pros is with staples or nails, so it is often less costly than using glue, which is typically reserved for installations over concrete, where engineered flooring is often best.
Unless your installation site is newly constructed, chances are there will be some level of preparation required to get the subfloor in good shape to support your new flooring. This could involve stripping the existing flooring, removing base trim, trimming case moulding, and repairing, replacing, or leveling the subfloor. If substantial work is required to get your floors in shape for new hardwood, the labor for the job could cost nearly twice as much as in a prepared and leveled site.
Design and Complexity
If your installation site is more complex than a simple rectangle, if you plan to have your floor boards installed in a custom design, or if the quarters are tight for staging materials and tools, the labor end of the job will likely cost more than on a more straightforward project. The effort involved in measuring and laying out a complex footprint or design can add quite a bit of time to the job, and the skill needed to install an intricate pattern typically comes at a premium. Additionally, laying the flooring in a pattern (or even on a diagonal angle) results in more cuts and waste, so requires more material to work with.
Planning for a Hardwood Flooring Installation
The options for hardwood flooring material and finishes can seem overwhelming, but it’s important to take the time to choose the best materials for your application and usage. Be sure to consider the frequency with which you may need to refinish the floors and how well suited the material is for the room in which you intend to place it. Solid hardwood and high-quality engineered wood flooring with an adequate wear layer can last many decades with proper care, but if your flooring is subjected to high traffic, pets, kids, or any other influence that will wear on the finish, be sure to choose a product you can sand down and refinish at least once, or that you will be able to afford to replace down the road.
Solid wood flooring products require an acclimation period of up to several weeks, so you may need to free up some space inside your home and plan ahead for scheduling the job. Allowing the material to sit in the room where it will be installed improves the quality of the installation by giving the wood time to adjust to the temperature and humidity in your home. Engineered flooring doesn’t typically require as lengthy an acclimation period, if any, so if space or time are limited, it may be a more practical option.
Even if you don’t want to take on the installation or finishing of your new floor, you still may be able to save on labor costs by handling some of the prep work. Check with your installer to see what will be involved, but removing baseboard trim, pulling up old flooring, and making basic repairs to the subfloor are projects that even beginners can manage.
|$1,000 - $1,400||$1,550 - $2,600||$2,450 - $4,500|
It can be challenging to predict the cost of a flooring installation without having all the details, but comparing your project to a few examples may help you see how the features of your job will affect its cost. In our scenarios below, new hardwood flooring is fastened with nails or staples in a 200 square foot room with standard angles and no closets.
DIY Makeover: $1,000 - $1,400
- • Materials: Engineered flooring is a good choice for a DIY application. In our example, the flooring itself costs about $4 per square foot and underlayment and staples add between $20 and $50 to the job.
- • Preparation: A simple prep job keeps the materials budget low. Removing a carpet to reveal a solid and level subfloor makes for the best-case scenario, though disposal costs for the old flooring may increase the bottom line.
- • Skills and Labor: Installing a nail or staple-down floor requires skill and care, but choosing a prefinished product limits the learning curve to installation, since staining and sealing is not required. The job requires a specialized flooring nailer or stapler though, so renting the right nailer and an air compressor could add $50 to $100 for a single day’s work.
Easy Does It: $1,550 - $2,600
- • Materials: Though this project includes prefinished solid hardwood, the price per square foot is comparable to an engineered product at $4 to $6. Basic supplies such as underlayment and staples are also about the same and only add $50 or so to the job.
- • Preparation: On a totally pro job, the contractor handles removal and disposal of the existing flooring, as well as a minor repairs to the subfloor. Disposal, material, and labor costs add $170 to $350 to the bottom line.
- • Skills and Labor: Basic labor for the installation of this flooring product runs from $3 to $5 per square foot since finishing is not required.
Custom Finish All the Way: $2,450 - $4,500
- • Materials: In order to fully customize this floor, unfinished solid hardwood is used. The material often has a lower price than prefinished options, but ranges from as little as $2 per square foot to as much as $6 for common choices.
- • Preparation: Basic preparation keeps the scope of this project comparable to a standard job.
- • Skills and Labor: Taking things up a notch with a custom layout such as a herringbone, picture frame, or even a diagonal pattern calls for more time and materials to get the job done. The supplies and time required to stain and seal the floor bring the total labor costs to between $8 and $12 per square foot.
Level of Difficulty
A basic installation of solid or engineered wood flooring requires an intermediate to advanced level of skill, as well as a few tools that either simplify the job or are necessary to secure the floor. Installing a customized pattern and finishing the surface of raw wood call for an extra level of care and expertise, raising the difficulty level to advanced or specialized. Professional wood flooring installers have the skills and equipment needed to handle any type of installation and all the prep and finish work that go along with it. So if you aren’t sure if you have the skills for the job, get in touch with a few local pros to see what’s involved and what materials and services will fit in your budget.