Carpet or Hardwood Floors for Bedrooms, Living Rooms and More

By HomeAdvisor

Updated January 21, 2021

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What’s the Difference Between Carpeting & Wooden Flooring?

Carpet comes in a great variety of colors, styles, textures and thickness. It is a good insulator and even muffles sound, which is why many homeowners and renters still prefer it in their bedrooms.

Hardwood is usually ¾ inches thick and there are many species available for different budgets and aesthetic tastes. It is also a good insulator and is very low-maintenance.

Types of Carpet

Not only is it available in a variety of colors; carpet comes with options for fiber or pile so you can zero in on the most appropriate type for your home.

colored carpet display in cabinet

Carpet Material Options
Fiber Type Cost per Square Foot Description
NYLON $1.00 – $6.50
  • Most common
  • Durable
  • Not typically stain-resistant
  • Use in: general home
WOOL $4.50 – $10.00
  • Natural fiber
  • Durable
  • Stain-resistant
  • Easy to clean
  • Use in: medium-traffic areas
OLEFIN $1.50 – $2.25
  • Durable.
  • Moisture-resistant.
  • Stain-resistant.
  • Sensitive to high heat.
  • Use in: basement, exterior, low-traffic areas
POLYESTER $0.25 – $4.50
  • Stain-resistant
  • Less variety to design and color options
  • Use in: low-traffic areas, bedrooms
Carpet Style Options
Pile Cost per Square Foot Description
CUT PILE PLUSH $3.50 – $4.50
  • Soft and smooth
  • Shows imprints and dirt easily
  • Use in: formal rooms
CUT PILE SAXONY $2.00 – $7.00
  • Twisted pile
  • Smooth
  • Hides imprints easily
  • Use in: medium-traffic areas
CUT PILE TEXTURED $0.75 – $2.00
  • Soft
  • Resists soiling
  • Two-toned
  • Use in: general home
CUT PILE FRIEZE $1.00 – $4.00
  • Twisted pile
  • Hides imprints easily
  • Use in: high-traffic areas
CUT AND LOOP $1.00 – $6.00
  • Incorporates both cut and loop pile
  • Hides dirt
  • Use in: high-traffic areas
MULTI-LEVEL LOOP $1.30 – $4.00
  • Hides dirt
  • Pet paws could get caught in loops
  • Use in: high-traffic areas
LEVEL LOOP $1.50 – $8.50
  • Berber is a type of level loop
  • Pet paws could get caught in loops
  • Use in: high-traffic areas
Need to find a pro for your flooring & carpet installation?

Wood Floors

These options range greatly in hardness, grain, color and price.

Species Cost per Square Foot Description
MAPLE $3.50 – $6.00
  • One of the most common options
  • Very hard
  • Resists stains
OAK $4.50 – $7.00
  • One of the most common options
  • Very durable
  • Dark grain
PINE $3.50 – $7.00
  • One of the most common options
  • Considered a softwood
ASH $5.00 – $9.00
  • Very hard
  • Light-colored
CORK $3.00 – $8.00
  • Environmentally-friendly
  • Durable
  • Cushioned feel
  • Not moisture-resistant
BAMBOO $2.00 – $4.00
  • Not a true hardwood, but it is just as hard
  • Moisture-resistant
  • Sustainable
HICKORY $3.00 – $6.00
  • Very hard
  • Durable
BRAZILIAN CHERRY $4.00 – $9.00
  • Also known as Jatoba
  • Very hard
  • Burgundy
BRAZILIAN WALNUT $5.00 – $9.00
  • Also known as Ipe
  • Durable
  • Very hard
  • Dark-colored

Cost Comparison


Carpet as a material costs as little as $1 – $2 per square foot and as much as $9 – $11 per square foot. For an average 12’ by 12’ space, you could pay $150 to $1,500 for the material alone.


Hardwood as a material costs as little as $3 – $6 per square foot and as much as $8 – $14 per square foot. For an average 12’ by 12’ space, you could pay $450 to $2,000 for hardwood alone.

Lowest Material Cost: Carpet

Which is Cheaper to Install with a Pro?


Carpet installation costs homeowners an average of $1,600, and most stay within a range of $700 and $2,500. Labor tends to run $0.50 – $1.00 per square foot, and additional services like furniture removal and specialty cuts can add $0.50 – $2.00 per square foot. Installation is often easier than with hardwood. The main determining price factors are the fibers, type of pile and square footage involved.


The average cost to install hardwood flooring is $4,400 with a typical range of $2,500 to $6,500. Labor makes up between $3 and $8 per square foot of this total price. This flooring needs more detail-oriented installation, and cost will vary depending on the type of species and amount of floor space involved.

Lowest Installation Cost: Carpet

DIY Ease of Installation

If you’re thinking of tackling your project without a pro, there are several factors to consider.


  • Save $0.50 – $1.00 per square foot on labor.
  • Simple and less time-consuming than wood.


  • Can be difficult if working with multiple rooms, poor subfloor conditions or oddly shaped spaces.
  • Must rent tools like stretcher and knee-kicker.


  • Save $3 – $8 per square foot on labor.


  • Cost of renting tools is higher than with carpet.
  • Complicated and time-consuming installation.
  • Must acclimate wood for several days.

Best for DIY: Carpet

Resale Value

If you’re planning to sell within the next 10 years, resale value can play a big role in your decision.


This option hasn’t completely lost favor with home buyers and is still king with older generations. New installations do not tend to affect resale value either way, but homes with old carpet will certainly suffer in the market.


According to the Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of Realtors, 21% of realtors would advise their clients to get hardwood flooring before selling their home. The report also estimates that this project has an average return on investment of 91 percent.

Best Choice for Resale Value: Hardwood


If you’re looking for the longest-term investment and you’re not interested in replacing your flooring within the next 20 years, there is a clear winner in the durability category.

  • Not very durable
  • Needs replacement every 5–15 years
  • No standardized ratings (rating is not an indicator of durability)

  • Extremely durable
  • Often lasts for over 50 years

Longest Life Expectancy: Hardwood

Moisture Resistance


  • This material is a bit more breathable and can withstand a certain level of moisture.


  • Fibers can trap and grow mold if left moist for prolonged periods.



  • It is very susceptible to moisture and could warp from exposure. It can also grow mold. As a result, only install it on the ground floor and upper levels as opposed to the basement.

Most Moisture-Resistant: Neither


In general, floor repairs cost around $200 to $500. The cost of carpet repairs ranges from $75 to $450, while the price to repair hardwood flooring goes from $150 to $2,600.


  • Repairs are relatively affordable, with an average cost of $200.


  • More difficult to maintain because it shows dirt and stains easily. Needs a deep clean every couple of years to maintain peak appearance. Professional cleaning costs $125 to $225 on average.


  • Easy to clean, maintain and repair. Some repairs are simple enough that you can sand them out and refinish them affordably.


  • More significant hardwood damage, like buckled planks and mold damage, can raise repair costs significantly.

Simplest Repair and Maintenance: Hardwood

Environmentally Friendly

Growing options for renewable and sustainable remodeling materials, help make our homes greener and more environmentally friendly. If sustainable choices are your priority, which material should you choose?

Carpet is usually made from petroleum and is not considered environmentally-friendly. In fact, as it breaks down, it tends to release volatile organic compounds. Wool is a natural fiber option that is more sustainable.

Hardwood options are renewable and sustainable. They are made from trees and are biodegradable. The Forest Stewardship Council oversees the harvesting practices and environmental impact of lumber producers in the United States and Canada. Look for the FSC certification when purchasing products.

Most Renewable: Hardwood

Dogs & Cats

If your pets are like your children, you’re probably thinking of them as you peruse your options. See if one pairs and fairs better with pets.


  • It is soft and comfortable for pets to lay on.


  • Looped piles can snag your pet’s nails. Stains, dirt and pet dander will be prevalent, obvious and difficult to clean. If your pet has issues urinating inside, you’ll have to stay ontop of pet odors.


  • The most durable types, like maple and oak, do not scratch easily. They will be easier to clean and won’t capture pet dander.


  • Softer species, like pine, will scratch easily. They are generally susceptible to water damage and staining. You’ll need to take proactive steps to maintain hardwood with pets in the home.

Best for Four-Legged Friends: Tie


Are allergens a major concern for you and your family members? You should definitely consider this category while shopping for materials.

Carpet is not the best choice for those with sensitive allergies. It grips onto dust, mildew and pet dander, and you’ll need to deep-clean more regularly if allergies are an issue.

Hardwood is better for those with allergies because it is easy to clean and doesn’t grab onto allergens.

Best for Allergy Sufferers: Hardwood

Radiant Heating

Radiant heating costs an average of $3,600 to install. It can be a great home modification, but which material works best, and which potentially negates its effectiveness?

  • Carpet is an insulator and may negate a portion of system’s effects.
  • Can’t install if there is a glue component attaching carpet to subfloor.
  • May not need radiant heating because carpet is inherently warm.

  • Works well over radiant heating systems.
  • Soft and dense boards not good over radiant heating because temperature changes cause them to fluctuate (expand, contract).
  • Best results with narrow, 3/4” thick boards.

Most Compatible with Radiant Heating: Hardwood

Need to find a pro for your flooring & carpet installation?

Hardwood or Carpet – Which is Best?

Carpet is best for… Hardwood is best for…
DIY Installers Resale Value
Smaller Budgets Durability
Bedrooms Radiant Heating
Low-Traffic Rooms Sustainability
Muffling Sound Living Rooms
Those who prefer soft flooring Maintenance & Repair

Bedrooms/the Master Bedroom

Carpet is usually the best choice for bedrooms and master bedrooms because it is soft and cozy. It is warm and can reduce sound, versus hardwood, which helps sound resonate and makes bedrooms feel cold.

Living & Family Rooms

Hardwood is the best option for living rooms and family rooms for many reasons. First, they are easier to clean—a great trait for some of the busiest rooms in the home. Second, these are the rooms where buyers want to see that in-demand material and where it can greatly help your resale value.

Hallways & Stairs

Hallways and stairs benefit from either option. Hardwood is a good because high-traffic throughways would benefit from a durable, low-maintenance flooring. Carpet, on the other hand, would muffle those high-traffic sounds and make for a safer stairway. If you do have hardwood stairs, you may want to consider a runner to increase safety.


Carpet works better when it comes to basement flooring. It is a good basement insulator. Some fiber materials perform better in basements than others, however, and you must take care to choose the right type for your basement. You or your professional should also be sure to prep the subfloor (concrete) in order to minimize moisture.

Kitchens & Bathrooms

Carpet does not fare well in bathrooms or kitchens. It traps moisture, dirt and spills and will be difficult to maintain. Hardwood doesn’t do well in bathrooms either because it is so responsive to moisture. You can install hardwood in the kitchen, but it must have a sealant that protects it against the moisture in the space.

Need to find a pro for your flooring & carpet installation?

Wood vs. Carpet vs. Laminate

The cost to install laminate flooring averages $2,750, compared to hardwood’s average of $4,400 and carpet’s average of $1,600. Laminate is more DIY-friendly and moisture-resistant than both wood and carpet. It also beats out both of them as an ideal material for pets. If these are your priorities, you’ll want to learn more about hardwood vs. laminate.


How Much Does It Cost to Replace Carpeting with Hardwood Floors?

Removal costs $0.20 – $3.00 per square foot. Installation and material costs for hardwood range from $6 to $22 per square foot, for a total of $6.20 to $25 per square foot. As you work with professionals, be sure to discuss whether or not they have included removal in their total quote.

Is There a Carpet that Looks Like Wood?

Yes. They are available in tiles that look like wooden planks and create a unique aesthetic, and there are larger “photorealistic” wood options as well. In fact, photorealistic options are available in looks like tile, rocks and stones as well.

How Much Is It to Install Carpeting Over Wood?

If you do not want to remove your wood flooring before installation, you stand to save $0.50 – $2.00 per square foot on removal and disposal costs. Expect to pay closer to $2 – $12 per square foot for professional installation and materials.

Can You Put Wood Over Carpeting?

Experts do not recommend this. You must fully remove the old flooring for the best results. Laminate, on the other hand, is a more feasible option for installing as a floating option. Many renters are interested in this option, as they can easily remove the product when their lease is up.

How Does Carpet and Wood Compare to Tile Flooring?


  • Cheaper than hardwood and can be lower in cost vs. carpet at $1,600 for ceramic and porcelain tile installation and about $1,800 for natural stone tile.
  • Available in a variety of styles and materials, from ceramic to slate.
  • Extremely durable
  • Low-maintenance
  • Can be installed in moist places, which gives it an advantage over wood and carpet.
  • Stands up well to foot traffic
  • Works over radiant heating


  • Slippery when wet
  • Can be very cold underfoot; isn’t preferable in bedrooms and living rooms
  • Home buyers continue to favor hardwood over tile
  • Lower ROI for sellers

If you’re updating your flooring for yourself, ceramic tiles are a great economic option. If you’re upgrading to sell, hardwood will have a greater chance with buyers.

Need to find a pro for your flooring & carpet installation?


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