How much should you spend on new hardwood flooring?
BY JOHN KOLBASKA, OWNER
Who said shopping for hardwood flooring was fun? There are so many factors involved, it’s overwhelming trying to figure out where to begin.
- What kind of wood do I want?
- What color?
- Do I want prefinished or unfinished?
- Should I do the dining room and kitchen?
- But can I really afford to do both?
- Is it worth investing in hardwood or should I go with laminate?
Step number one is understanding the options. There are two types of hardwood floors you can put in your home — prefinished or unfinished. Prefinished hardwood floors are more common these days because they’re site finished at the manufacturer. The manufacturer mills the product, makes the boards, sprays a stain and then a finish, packages it, and ships it out to the store where it can be purchased, installed and you can walk on it right away. Nothing further is needed.
Unfinished hardwood flooring is installed the same way as prefinished, the only difference being after the boards are laid, the floor has to be sanded, stained and finished on site — around 3 to 4 coats. Because of this, the floor isn’t ready to walk on right away. Some people like this method as it adds a more traditional look, so if you don’t mind waiting a few extra days, then go for it.
Prefinished and Unfinished Costs With Installation
There are no dramatic cost differences between the two options, it’s really up to preference, but you will pay more for the materials for prefinished hardwood flooring since the finish is already applied by the manufacturer.
For good prefinished hardwood flooring you’re going to pay anywhere in the $4 per square foot range on the low-end up to $12 on average. There are also some high-end manufacturers that are manufacturing reclaimed prefinished products including wide plank boards for $15-$20 per square foot.
Keep in mind, the wider the board, the more money you’re going to dish out, and when you go over 5 inches in width, the installer should glue and nail down the boards into a plywood subfloor, which is an added cost.
For unfinished, the material is generally cheaper. Oak, for example, can cost between $3-$5 per square foot. You’re just going to pay for the site finishing, which can range from $2.50-$3.50 per square foot on top of material and installation.
Many things can add to the cost. If you have existing carpet, hardwood flooring or tile that has to be torn up, that’s more money. Hauling away of the materials is extra as well as the moldings and transitional pieces, which most forget. Sometimes the subfloor has to be prepared. If it’s not flat or leveled properly, proper steps must be taken to make sure it’s up to the manufacturer’s standards in order to be installed. That being said, subfloor prep usually ads $3-$5 per square on top of the project.
Beware of $0.99-$1.99 per square foot hardwood flooring deals
Just like anything else, there are retailers that will advertise ridiculously low prices, but it doesn’t mean that you’re getting a deal. You’ll see $0.99-$1.99 per square foot in say, a circular, so you go racing over to the store to see what’s left and that’s one of the problems. Is there enough left?
“What you find from those retailers is they’ll buy these off good products from a manufacturer that closed and have 20,000 square feet of it,” said The Men With Tools Owner John Kolbaska. “They purchase a large quantity and then sell out within a day or two. They advertise these ridiculous prices to lure you into their store only to find it’s been sold out”.
“If you do find these products available, you have to keep in mind that the original manufacturer has sold this product off to the retailer because there are defects in the finish and materials. Typically, if you’re paying less than $4 per square foot for solid prefinished hardwood, there’s usually a very good reason for it.”
Proper Installation Is Just As Important As The Material You Select
Most flooring contractors these days, don’t take the necessary precautions and acclimate the floor properly before installation begins. An experienced contractor will use a hygrometer and moisture meter to measure the moisture content in the air and percentage of water that’s in the subfloor before agreeing to install anything.
The type of flooring you choose depends on these moisture and humidity readings. A good flooring installer will help guide you in the right direction because wood is very sensitive to moisture. Too much of it and you’ll find your floor expanding, buckling all over the place. Too little and you’ll find gaps between the boards.
What you also need to understand is the proper way to acclimate a floor before the installation begins.
Ask the person working in the flooring department at your local big box retailer and they’ll tell you to let the boards sit for a week and open the ends of each box, but is that really right? Do all floors acclimate the same way? Do all homes have the same moisture and humidity conditions?
Common sense would tell you no, but unfortunately most people in this business don’t understand that the “one week acclimation time” is just a recomendation by the national wood flooring association. Dig deeper into their installation guidelines and you’ll find specific instructions on RH and moisture content readings.
A lot of the times, that new flooring you just purchased is coming from a hot, humid warehouse, so the boards are full of humidity. Guess what happens if you install that material in a dry space? (GAPS EVERYWHERE) It could take weeks or even a month for the materials to dry out in this scenario and if your installer isn’t testing before installation they’re just laying and praying, leaving you a nightmare to deal with in the future.
That’s why it’s important to get these readings, that way, if something does happen even after the flooring was properly acclimated and installed, if the defect is in the product, you’ll be able to claim it under your warranty and not get the runaround with everyone pointing fingers at each other.
What happens if you don’t have these readings? You’ll have to pay an independent flooring inspector to come into your home and test the flooring. They’ll begin by asking you for these readings. If you don’t have them the inspector can turn around and say that it’s a site condition that’s causing the issues, so it’s your fault. And guess what? You have to rip up the flooring and start over again. Who likes throwing money away?
Hardwood Flooring Should Last a Lifetime
A wood floor that is installed properly will last 100 years or more. It can be repurposed and resanded multiple times to look brand new. There’s no reason for you to be replacing your hardwood flooring, unless you really want to switch out the previous owner’s oak for bamboo or something like that. That’s why wood floors are a great investment unlike carpet, which has to be replaced depending on your living habits. You also can’t do that with laminate or tile.
“We see floors that were installed correctly 100 to 200 years old here in Staten Island and New Jersey all the time” John said. “There’s no reason why a wood floor should be ripped up after 10, 20 or 30 years. That’s ridiculous. A wood floor should easily outlive you and the time you spend in your home.”
Are you in the market for wood flooring? Check out The Men With Tools who won’t lay and pray and will give you a fair price. Call us today at 347-815-4151 for a free estimate.
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