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Hardwood flooring is both durable and sophisticated. Read on to learn how much it costs to install.
Reviews by This Old House Reviews Team 08/08/2022 1:00 pm
In This Guide: Average Costs | Cost Factors | Types of Hardwood Flooring | Pros and Cons | DIY vs. Professional Installation | How To Save | How To Install | How To Hire a Pro | Conclusion | FAQs
Hardwood is a popular flooring material that can increase the value of your home. While it’s extremely durable and sophisticated, it comes with high up-front installation costs. Below, we outline the cost to install several different types of hardwood floors, plus list the pros and cons of this type of flooring.
Average Hardwood Flooring Cost
The average cost of installing hardwood floors is $3–$10 per square foot for materials and $3–$8 per square foot for labor, totaling $6–$18 per square foot. A single 200-square-foot room might cost $1,200–$3,600, while a 2,000-square-foot house could cost $12,000–$36,000. Wood quality influences price, with high-end flooring costing up to $25 per square foot. Square footage is the greatest determinant of price. Still, the following factors also come into play:
- Type of flooring: Solid hardwood is traditional, but you can also opt for engineered hardwood or parquet.
- Tree species: The more durable and less common the wood type, the more it costs.
- Thickness: Thicker boards can withstand more refinishing and therefore cost more.
- Grade: High-quality boards cost more than low-grade ones.
- Cut/grain: The way the boards are cut from the tree can mean more or less labor and waste.
Hardwood Flooring Cost by Type of Hardwood
Hardwood flooring cost varies based on the price of the material and the labor involved in installation. Traditional solid hardwood flooring consists of real wood planks cut from trees, which are installed end-to-end. Engineered wood flooring, which has a real wood veneer attached to a plywood base, may be slightly less expensive. Parquet flooring uses smaller pieces of real wood to create geometric designs, such as a herringbone pattern, making it the most expensive to install. Prefabricated, parquet-like tiles are a lower-cost alternative that give the appearance of parquet but are easier to install.
|Type||Material Costs||Installation Costs||Total Cost per Sq. Ft.|
Hardwood Flooring Cost by Tree Species
Tree species greatly influences the cost of traditional hardwood. There are several types of wood to choose from that vary in appearance and performance. Some tree species are more durable than others or better suited to certain types of climates. Generally, the harder and more durable the wood is, the more expensive it is.
|Species||Cost per Sq. Ft.|
Hardwood Flooring Cost by Thickness
Traditionally, hardwood floorboards are three-quarters of an inch thick. Thinner boards—down to five-sixteenths of an inch thick—are less expensive, but you won’t be able to sand and refinish them as many times.
|Thickness||Cost per Sq. Ft.|
Hardwood Flooring Cost by Grade
Solid hardwood flooring comes from living trees, so it’s not as standardized in quality as factory-made flooring material. Different vendors have different standards for grading their products’ quality; for example, some grades refer to grain pattern, texture, or appearance rather than durability. In general, hardwood boards of the same species and cut have three tiers of quality that determine their cost:
|Grade||Cost per Sq. Ft.|
Hardwood Flooring Cost by Cut and Grain
The way wood is cut creates its grain pattern, which can play into price relative to the species of tree. Plain-sawn or flat-sawn planks are cut parallel to the tree’s growth rings to create a wave or flame-like grain pattern. Quarter-sawn planks, on the other hand, are cut at a 60–90 degree angle from growth rings for a straighter grain pattern. Flat-sawn boards are more common and therefore less expensive, while quarter-sawn boards are pricier but wear more evenly. The rarest and most expensive are rift-sawn boards, which have the most linear grain pattern but create the most waste.
To estimate how much your flooring will cost, use the equation below, as illustrated in our Complete Guide to Hardwood Flooring article.
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Hardwood Flooring Cost Factors
Beyond the type of wood, here are some factors that contribute to the total cost of hardwood flooring installation:
- Alternative flooring options
- Floor joist repairs
- Finish and coating
- Installation and labor
- Repair, replacement, and refinishing
Alternative Flooring Options
If you love the look of solid wood flooring but traditional or engineered hardwood is beyond your budget, there are alternative flooring options that mimic the appearance of wood. Vinyl or laminate flooring and porcelain tiles can be manufactured to look like wood for a fraction of the cost. Alternative real wood options, such as floating floors and click-and-lock paneling, can help you save money on installation.
Floor Joist Repairs
When you replace your existing flooring, you may discover that the subfloor or joists have mold, insect, or water damage. In this case, you’ll need to have the joists repaired for an average cost of $2,000–$5,000 before any work can be completed.
Finishing and Coating
When installing new hardwood floors, you have two choices: boards that have been prefinished at the factory or unfinished boards that are finished with sealant following installation. Unfinished boards are less expensive but come with higher labor costs, since the finishing must be done on-site. Additionally, different types of finish have different costs, with polyurethane on the low end and penetrating resin finish on the high end.
Installation and Labor
Hard and exotic woods have higher material and installation costs, while softwoods like pine are easier to work with and cheaper to install. Parquet and small wood tiles with intricate patterns are pricier to install, as is flooring in rooms with unusual layouts or staircases.
Repair, Replacement, or Refinishing
Hardwood flooring may be expensive to install, but you can easily refinish it. A professional sanding and floor refinishing project costs $3–$8 per square foot and will get rid of dents, dings, and even gouges. You may even refinish your floors yourself. Replacing individual boards will cost more, but it will still be just a fraction of the overall cost of having new floors installed.
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Types of Hardwood Flooring
One of the most important decisions you’ll make when installing new hardwood floors is choosing the wood type. Here are some of the most common types of wood flooring and their characteristics:
- Maple: Light coloring, medium density, good for high-traffic areas
- Pine: Low cost, very soft, prone to dents, difficult to refinish
- Bamboo: Durable, shows few scratches, termite-resistant
- White ash: Light color, bold grain, medium density
- Hickory: High density and hardness, variable in color
- Red oak: Consistent color and finish, high durability, medium price
- White oak: More water-resistant than red oak, lighter color
- Brazilian walnut: Rich color, high durability
- Cypress: Moderate durability, termite-resistant
- Cherry: Rich color, soft, best for bedrooms and low-traffic areas
- Teak: High price, very hard, scratch-resistant
- Mahogany: Dark color, ages well, medium price
Pros and Cons of Hardwood Flooring
Below, we outline the benefits and drawbacks of installing this type of flooring.
Pros of Hardwood Flooring
Durability and value are among the top benefits of hardwood flooring. Some other pros include the following:
- Long-lasting with a 50- to 100-year lifespan
- Good for increasing resale value
- Easy to repair and refinish
- Relatively low-maintenance
- Versatile in appearance
- Less allergenic than carpeting
Cons of Hardwood Flooring
There are several cons to consider before installing hardwood flooring:
- Expensive to install
- Prone to scratches and gouges
- Susceptible to humidity and moisture damage
- Noisy when walked on, as they tap and creak
- Difficult for people and pets with mobility problems
DIY vs. Professional Hardwood Flooring Cost
Installation and labor are two of the most expensive aspects of installing hardwood flooring. To cut down on costs, homeowners may be tempted to take on the project themselves. There are some types of wood flooring, like click-and-lock wood tiles and floating flooring, that experienced DIYers may be able to install themselves. When it comes to traditional hardwood plank flooring, however, the job is best left to the professionals.
Flooring contractors don’t necessarily have to be licensed, but it takes ample training and experience to properly account for variables such as changing temperatures, humidity, and moisture protection. Improperly installed wood floors are prone to cracking, bowing, and warping over time, so if you’re investing in hardwood flooring, we strongly recommend you have it professionally installed.
Free Quote:Get your hardwood flooring quote from pros near you today
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How To Save on Hardwood Flooring Costs
Here are a few ways to save money on the overall project cost without having to do the work yourself.
Prioritize Savings Over Appearance
Think about wood flooring materials beyond just the color and finish. Look for a less expensive grain (plain-sawn), type of hardwood (pine, red oak, bamboo), and thickness (5/16”). You’ll also pay less for boards with more “character,” i.e., knots, varied colors, etc.
Consider Engineered Wood
It can cost more to install, but you can often save money by opting for engineered wood with non-exotic veneers. Depending on the type of panels, you may even be able to install it by yourself.
Whenever Possible, Refinish
If you already have hardwood floors, refinishing the old flooring will cost much less than installing new wood. Unless there are deep gouges or the floors have significant moisture damage, refinishing is usually the way to go.
How To Install Hardwood Floors
Installing hardwood flooring is a complicated process, but here are the basic steps. You can learn more in our comprehensive guide to hardwood floor installation.
- Let the flooring material acclimate to the home’s temperature and humidity. Check for warps or other damage to the material.
- Remove the old flooring and clean and prepare the subfloor.
- Lay and install the boards while staggering the gaps, leaving room for expansion and using boards from different boxes.
- Cut any excess underlayment, then sand and stain the boards.
- Add thresholds.
How To Hire a Professional
When choosing a flooring contractor, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Make sure the company is fully licensed, bonded, and insured.
- Find out which contractor or sub-contractor will perform the work.
- Ask for references from past clients and view samples of the company’s previous work.
- Read customer reviews on sites such as Yelp, TrustPilot, and Google Reviews.
- Check the company’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating and accreditation status.
- Get every estimate and warranty in writing.
- Examine at least three companies before making your choice.
Free Quote:Get your hardwood flooring quote from pros near you today
Hardwood flooring costs are substantial, and no flooring material is perfect. Still, hardwood floors have a lot of benefits, including a high return on investment. You also have more options than just installing wide planks in the traditional manner. Take some time to explore your wood flooring options and how they fit into your budget to determine whether hardwood floors are the right choice for your home.
FAQs About Hardwood Flooring
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