When it comes to choosing the perfect flooring for a home, hardwood is often the first choice for many homeowners. While it is far from the cheapest option on the market, with the average homeowner spending about $4,396 to install wood floors, it’s popular for its classic and warm appearance, durability and versatility. They can add value to your home when it comes time to sell, and this material can make any space look more appealing.
With the extensive number of wood flooring options available, ranging from traditional hardwood to engineered hardwood floors, you must do your research to find the right option for your home. Additionally, installation can be a big job and it’s one that most homeowners need to hire professionals to complete. Use this cost guide to get a better understanding of the various expenses associated with installing hardwood floors in your home.
Cost Per Square Foot
When it comes to budgeting for this project, you have many factors to consider. Two of the largest considerations include the cost per square foot of the materials and the cost per square foot for installation. To help you understand the potential costs of installing hardwood, we researched the average cost per square foot for traditional and engineered flooring at three different price points.
Traditional Wood Flooring
Traditional wood flooring typically comes in narrow boards that are 3 inches wide or less, or planks that measure 7 inches or more. The cost you can expect to pay depends mainly on the type of wood you choose. The planks tend to fall into distinct pricing groups. For example:
Low: Soft woods, such as pine, typically cost $3 to $6 per square foot for the flooring, and another $3 to $5 per square foot for installation.
Mid: Some of the most popular flooring options include mid-priced varieties such as teak, American cherry and oak, which costs $5 to $10 per square foot for materials and another $4 to $8 per square foot for installation.
High: Some of the most expensive wood floors are made of exotic woods such as Brazilian walnut, tigerwood, mahogany and cypress. Costs tally $8 to $14 per square foot on average, with installation costs running around $4 to $8 per square foot.
Engineered Wood Flooring
This type of flooring has a real wood veneer bonded to multiple layers of lower-cost wood backing. With the variety of engineered hardwoods available now, you can enjoy greater options in where you install — even below ground level. This versatile, resilient option offers greater moisture and heat resistance than solid hardwoods do.
Low: Basic engineered hardwood has three core layers topped with a layer of wood veneer between 1/16- to 1/12-inch thick. It costs an average of $3 to $5 per square foot, with installation costs running between $3 and $10 per square foot depending on the complexity of the layout.
Mid: Upgraded mid-range options usually have a thicker veneer and a five-layer core. This type costs an average of $5 to $10 per square foot, with installation costs running $3 to $10 per square foot.
High: Some of the top-of-the-line engineered hardwood products have seven or more core layers with a top veneer that's around 1/6-inch thick, often made of exotic wood. These cost around $8 to $13 per square foot, with another $3 to $10 per square foot in installation costs.
Installation Cost Considerations
The amount you pay for installation depends on a variety of factors, including where you live and the intricacy of your project. For example, furniture removal and replacement, repairing the subfloor and removing and disposing of the old floor all bump up the overall cost of the project more than simply having an installer come in and lay the flooring does. To illustrate, some installers charge 20 cents per square foot for ripping up and removing carpeting or moving furniture. Others may charge a per-appliance fee for moving appliances.
Hardwood floors are not the best option if you have pets, although some options are still more durable than others if you want solid wood. When it comes to spills and accidents, you must clean them up quickly to avoid damaging the wood.
Although many people speak about hardwood floors as a single building material, it’s important to understand that they can be made from dozens of different tree varieties, and each has a different color, price and durability. Here are a few of the most popular hardwood flooring options, along with some unique characteristics of each and average pricing:
Maple: Very hard and dent-resistant, making it appropriate for high-traffic areas; creamy white to pale red in color; can be hard to work with ($3.50–$6/sq. ft.)
Pine: Rustic knot patterns and warm tones ranging from light beige to rich golden-amber; vulnerable to scratches and dents ($1.50–$4/sq. ft.)
Bamboo: Sustainably grown with interesting striations and a wide range of colors; strand bamboo floors are the hardest, most durable options ($2–$4/sq. ft.)
White Ash: Creamy color ranging from soft, light tan to pale gray with visible knots; durable and hard to stain ($5–$6/sq. ft.)
Hickory: Exceptional color variation with dramatic grain patterns; hard density that works well in high-traffic areas ($3–$6/sq. ft.)
Red Oak: Reddish, tight but visible grain; durable; most red oaks seem to glow in the light, which creates a warm ambience ($2–$6/sq. ft.)
Brazilian Walnut: Exotic hardwood in varying shades of brown; extremely hard and durable against pet scratching ($5–$9/sq. ft.)
You can choose from a variety of options. Popular places to shop include:
Online: Vendors such as iFloor and HoskingHardwood.com specialize in hardwoods and carry a variety of hardwood flooring options.
Local Retailers: Local home improvement stores often carry a variety of in-stock options. Additionally, local flooring stores are often fantastic resources because they typically offer samples that let you see how the floor will look in your home. They also can give you on-site estimates to provide a good idea of how much the project costs.
Discount Options: If you’re looking to stay on a budget, you can consult lower-priced retail options such as Lumber Liquidators or Overstock.com to find a bargain.
With their increased durability and moisture resistance, engineered wood floors are a better option than traditional hardwoods if you have pets or spill-prone kids. Additionally, you can install engineered wood flooring in places that hardwoods typically can't go, including basements, kitchens and summer homes in high-humidity climates. This type of flooring is available in a variety of widths, colors and styles, including glue-down and floating floors.
All varieties provide increased durability over traditional wood, but buying engineered wood with more core layers and a thicker veneer offers the most durability. Engineered flooring is available in a wide range of woods, colors and finishes. Here are a few of the most popular engineered flooring options, along with some unique characteristics of each and average pricing:
Maple: Colors range from creamy white to rich red; can be fastened, glued down or glued together ($10–$11/sq.ft.)
Heart Pine: With nail holes, gouges and attractive knots, this engineered floor has vintage charm ($10–$11/sq. ft)
White Ash: A variation of colors and grain patterns give this flooring interesting character that hides imperfections well ($12–$13/sq. ft.)
Brazilian Cherry: Exotic wood with warm red-brown tones and rich hues ($3–$6/sq. ft)
Brazilian Koa: A distinct orange color with rich, dark brown striping makes this a standout option if you want a bold look ($5–$7/sq. ft.)
Acacia: Attractive contrasts of medium brown colors and interesting graining makes this a popular option if you’re searching for a rustic, Colonial look ($4-$5/sq. ft.)
You have many plenty of different resources to rely on for buying engineered floors. Popular places to shop include:
Online: Vendors such as BuildDirect.com and HoskingHardwood.com offer a variety of engineered wood options. BuildDirect.com also lets you order flooring samples so you can see how your preferred options look in your home.
Local Retailers: Local home improvement stores often carry a number of engineered wood flooring products in stock. Additionally, local flooring stores can provide samples that let you see how the color and style of the engineered floor will look in your home. Either option may offer you an on-site estimate to give you a better idea about what your project could cost.
Discount Options: Start your search with Lumber Liquidators or Wayfair.com to keep prices down. Lumber Liquidators has a vast selection of engineered wood flooring to choose from.
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Additional Cost Considerations
No matter which type of flooring you choose, if the subfloor, joists or other structural elements need work, you can expect to pay considerably more in both labor and materials. Plywood for the subflooring averages $22 for each 4-foot by 8-foot sheet. For a 12-foot by 12-foot room, you’d need five sheets of plywood, which increases the cost by $110. Additionally, carpenters often charge $20 to $35 per hour to install new floor joists and subfloors. For laying a hardwood floor over concrete, it's best to use a floating floor system where the floor is not glued to the concrete. Wood flooring is a major investment, so always have the concrete checked for moisture prior to installation.
One way you can trim your budget is to buy the wood flooring yourself, pick it up and bring it home so that the installation company only needs to install the flooring. If you want intricate details such as borders or inlaid patterns, you can expect to pay more. Keep the layout simple and you can save $1 to $2 per square foot in extra installation costs. Other ways to keep costs down include:
Shopping Around: Once you find a wood type, style and color that you like, price similar options online, at local retailers and at discount flooring stores to get the most competitive pricing for your budget.
Getting Multiple Estimates: Installation is a considerable cost for this project. Get estimates from two to three licensed, insured installation contractors to get the best prices.
Saving on Labor Costs: Removing and disposing of the old flooring, moving furniture to another room and prepping the area can help reduce the amount you pay for the extra fees or rates that most pros charge for these tasks.