Finding Flooring: How to Do Hardwood Flooring on a Budget

Saving money on flooring, installation, and maintenance.

a bicycle against a white wall in a home with hardwood floor
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Grace Cooper


Jan 21, 2021

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Whether you’re looking to buy or sell your home, chances are you’ve given some thought to hardwood flooring. Hardwood floors are a great feature for any home—and a great way to improve your home value—but it often can come at a steep price. Here are some tips for finding the flooring that is affordable for you.

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hardwood floor and brick wall

What kind of wood should I get?

Hardwood flooring is a really great way to tie together a space, but it takes a little more than one decision to make it happen. There are actually many different types of wood a homeowner can have installed. When choosing a type of hardwood, there are two major categories: solid wood and engineered wood. Solid wood is exactly what it sounds like—a thick slab of solid wood. Engineered wood is a little different (and cheaper). It’s a plank layered with wood and other fibers. From the top it will appear as a normal piece of wood, but the layering will allow for expansion and contraction of the wood, making it especially good for rooms that collect heat and moisture.

After deciding on solid or engineered, you can then begin choosing the type of wood you want installed (e.g., the type of tree, such as oak, hickory, walnut, pine, etc.). Generally hardwood prices will range anywhere from 3 to 20 dollars per square foot, depending on the type and quality. The cheapest option is usually bamboo, at about two to seven dollars per square foot. Despite being a grass, bamboo is actually quite strong and dense, in addition to being environmentally friendly. Once you decide on a type of wood there are a lot of other stylistic choices to be made, such as finish, grain pattern, and plank width.

nice kitchen with hardwood floors and granite counter tops

There are also many hardwood floor substitutes, if you’re looking for something cheaper or more durable than real wood. For instance, many homeowners install porcelain tile that is textured to look like wood. Although it may not be an exact match, tile is a great option for certain rooms in the house, such as the bathroom, because it is more stain resistant and easy to clean. Others opt for vinyl flooring, which is cheaper than real wood and can also be used in all rooms of the house, including the bathroom or kitchen. Laminate floors are another hardwood substitute. Although laminate should not be installed in rooms with a lot of moisture, each plank has a protective layer on top that can guard against scratches and other surface damage.

nice kitchen with hardwood floor

How do I save money on installment?

When calculating your budget for hardwood flooring, it’s important to consider not only the price of the wood but also the price of installment. The price of labor for installment is dependent on many factors. Often you’ll be charged per square foot to install hardwood, but there may be other added charges, such as for ripping up previous flooring or moving furniture.

If you’re really looking for ways to save money, you can always install the hardwood flooring yourself. Just keep in mind that this is a very labor-intensive process and may be difficult if you don’t have previous construction experience. But, if you do have the time and skill, you could save a good chunk of money on your renovation! If you plan on installing the flooring yourself, you may have an easier time with engineered wood as that can actually be glued directly onto a concrete or wood subfloor, making installation a little easier and less labor-intensive than solid wood. Laminate and vinyl installation is typically cheaper than wood, and vinyl can sometimes actually be click-in-place, which is very easy to do at home yourself.

living room with couches and a rug on hardwood floor

How do I make sure my flooring lasts?

Once your flooring is installed and ready to go, all you need to know is how to maintain it. Cleaning your hardwood floors may be a longer process than the other surfaces in your house but definitely worth it. A good place to start is just making sure that you’re sweeping or vacuuming your floors regularly. If you prefer vacuuming, make sure that the wheels and attachments on your vacuum are gentle to avoid scratching the floor. Also make sure to avoid dragging furniture across the floor and clean up any spills as soon as possible.

If your hardwood flooring begins to get scuffed, it’s not uncommon to have the floor sanded and refinished, especially if you’re looking to sell your home. But be careful—because engineered wood only looks like wood on its top layer, it can’t be sanded down like solid wood. Additionally, homeowners who install bamboo, should keep in mind that it is easily scratched and take all precautions to protect their floors.

August 27, 2018
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