Hardwood flooring looks beautiful – but it's an expensive look. If you're thinking of replacing your carpet or tile or even updating your old hardwood floors, you'll want to do a fair amount of research. In other words, don't make any sudden moves if you don't want to blow up your bank account.
After all, you have a lot of things to consider, from the cost of labor and installation to the price of materials. You might spend anywhere from $3 to $14 per square foot, just for the materials, and another $3 to $8 per square foot to have somebody install your hardwood flooring. That adds up. Hardwood flooring can cost thousands of dollars, depending on whether you're having one room or multiple rooms done. The price also goes up depending on the type of wood. Brazilian walnut and mahogany, for instance, are typically three or four times more expensive than pine flooring.
How to Save on Hardwood Flooring Costs
There are several strategies you can take to save on hardwood flooring costs.
- Comparison shop.
- Buy the materials – and then hire the contractor.
- Offer to pay cash.
- Do it yourself – if you know what you're doing.
- Read the fine print.
Yes, comparison shopping can be a hassle, but you aren't going to know what's out there unless you talk to several contractors or more than one home improvement store.
As for finding a contractor, consult your friends and family and see who recommends whom. Read contractor reviews, but take them with a grain of salt, recommends Beth Seeber, marketing manager for GoodGuyFlooring, an online flooring company.
"Keep in mind that many times people will not review a company unless things went remarkably well or tragically awful for them," Seeber says.
She advises looking to see how the reviews trend. Are there more positive reviews than negative ones? And if the company responds in a polite and professional manner, that's probably a good sign, according to Seeber.
Of course, you could just go to a home improvement chain and let them do all of the work – but many home experts say that's costly.
"I would not go (to a) big box store unless you want to pay for the assurance of additional warranties on your hardwood product or installation services," says Jonathan Faccone, founder of Halo Homebuyers LLC, a New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania real estate development and investment company.
"The box stores will basically do the same thing that you would do, which is to have their third-party flooring subcontractors complete the install," he adds.
That said, if you do hire someone on your own to put in your hardwood flooring, make sure you've vetted the person carefully. There are many horror stories of homeowners hiring bad contractors. As Faccone notes, "There is a saying in the residential development space when it comes to choosing subcontractors: 'Price, quality and speed is what we are after, but you have to choose two.'"
Buy the Materials – and Then Hire the Contractor
That's a possible strategy if you want to save money, according to Faccone. "There are many online dealers that offer very good prices compared to retail stores. My suggestion then is to find and purchase the material yourself – and then hire a flooring subcontractor to do the install," he says.
If you take that approach, Faccone adds, "To begin the job, most contractors will ask for some type of deposit. However, since you are purchasing the material directly from the supplier, I would keep the deposit as small as possible. There is no need to pay an installer a large deposit when they are not shelving out much of their own money for materials."
That's one way to do it. For some people, it may be another argument to go to a big-box store, so they can do everything and hold your hand throughout the process. But, again, you probably won't save money.
Offer to Pay Cash
Doug Mitchell, a financial advisor and owner of Ogletree Financial Services in Auburn, Alabama, says that a few years ago he and his spouse decided to have all of their floors redone, including three bedrooms that had carpet changed out to hardwood. "A pretty expensive venture," Mitchell says.
But after all of the negotiating was done and the price was agreed upon, Mitchell asked the contractor if the price would come down if he paid cash – instead of using a credit card, which charges fees to the merchant.
The contractor agreed. Mitchell ended up saving $2,000.
That said, some industry experts argue that you're better off paying by credit or debit card since you're establishing a firm paper trail that you paid the contractor – and something could always go wrong with the project later.
Do It Yourself – If You Know What You're Doing
"Installing hardwood floors is a relatively simple do-it-yourself project," Seeber says.
That is, it's relatively easy if you're skilled at DIY projects. If high school woodshop was one of your least favorite classes, don't do this yourself.
"Installing hardwood floors isn't as easy as it looks," says Connie Heintz, a real estate agent in Toronto. "It involves a lot of filling cracks, shellacking and sanding. The sanding part is the hardest. If you're not a whiz with a belt sander, you could end up sanding too much and creating bumps and divots on your floor."
Do that, Heintz adds, and you could pay for it even more someday when you try to sell the house, and prospective buyers aren't too keen on buying a house with uneven floors.
Read the Fine Print
Make sure you understand the contract you're signing, and that there aren't any surprise fees. For instance, will the flooring installer move your furniture? And is there a charge for that?
You also want to be certain that the floors will be installed within the budget you have mapped out.
"A good flooring expert can lay down hardwood floors with as little waste as possible. And they'll have the job done fast, so you don't have to worry about paying extra for labor," Heintz says.
But if you hire the wrong person to install your hardwood floors? You might end up being floored. "You could end up with a surprise bill later on," Heintz says. "I've seen it happen over and over, where someone thinks they're paying a certain price and then it turns out to be way more."
Renovation options that aren't overly pricey.
Your house may be due for an update, but that doesn’t mean you have the cash on hand for the necessary renovations. A complete room remodel or significant addition to a home can cost well over $10,000, but you don’t have to spend every penny to make a difference. Whether you’re looking to save up for a larger renovation down the line or simply want to make a big impact with as little money as possible, here’s what you can do with a $5,000 budget.
(The following information is based on national averages and could vary based on the cost of skilled labor where you live.)Exterior paint
For an exterior refresh, a new coat of paint on your house can yield a major transformation for a relatively small price. Even if you don’t select a new color, repainting your siding and trim can make your home's exterior look newer and stand out among other properties in your neighborhood. HomeAdvisor reports that the national average to paint a home exterior is just $2,802. The cost of this project may increase slightly if the type of siding on your home requires additional coats of paint or special materials, but homes two stories or less can likely be painted within a $5,000 budget.Patio
You want the luxury of outdoor living, but you don’t necessarily have the budget for it. A wooden deck, complete with installation and finishing, will likely cost more than $10,000, according to home cost comparison site Fixr. But a patio is a simpler option that can achieve a similar look and feel for a fraction of the cost. Fixr reports that a 12-foot-by-16-foot patio costs, on average, $2,000. Patios are often built with brick, pavers, stone or concrete, depending on personal preference and the optimal material for your local climate and soil.Interior paint
Paint is widely considered an inexpensive way to give a home a new look, so why not refresh every room? HomeAdvisor notes that the cost to have the average 10-foot-by-12-foot room painted professionally ranges from $380 to $790. Even at that maximum price, you could cover three bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room and living room within the $5,000 budget. Of course, painting the interior of a home is an easy task for some homeowners. The average cost to paint a home's interior is well within budget at $1,755, according to HomeAdvisor, in part because so many homeowners opt to make the relatively simple project a DIY task. Combined with rearranged furniture and a few new pieces of decor, fresh paint can give the house a completely different feel.Hardwood floors
Hardwood floors can increase your home's value and are a desirable feature for many homeowners. While hardwood floors may be a pricier alternative to laminate or carpeting, installing them is feasible on a budget. HomeAdvisor reports the national average cost to install new wood flooring is $4,386. Of course, the final cost depends on the size of your home or the space you’re planning to renovate and the flooring material you choose. High-end wood flooring throughout a large floor plan can cost upwards of $10,000, according to HomeAdvisor.Built-in bookshelves
Sprucing up a living room or home office can be a much simpler task than dealing with the plumbing or major appliances you’ll find in a kitchen or bathroom. But if you want to invest in a new focal point for the room you hang out in the most, consider built-in bookshelves. HomeAdvisor reports built-in shelves or cabinets cost, on average, $2,307, with custom design and installation reaching up to about $5,000. Bookcases offer an organization solution while also adding a desirable feature for your home’s future sale.Kitchen appliances
If you’re hoping to renovate your kitchen, be aware that a complete overhaul will likely be well beyond a $5,000 budget. The 2019 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, released in January, reports homeowners plan to spend a national median of $11,000 on a kitchen renovation alone. You can, however, tackle the parts of your kitchen that can make a major impact for a cheaper price. For better efficiency, consider new appliances throughout your kitchen. Luxury models can climb in price, but midrange kitchen suites that include a new refrigerator, range, dishwasher and microwave fall under a total of $5,000 for brands such as GE, Samsung, LG and Maytag at Home Depot, before installation and sales tax.Kitchen countertops
Another option for refreshing your kitchen for less is replacing your countertops, which can transform the look of the room. According to the Houzz Kitchen Trends study, 93 percent of respondents plan for new countertops in a kitchen remodel, making them the most popular feature to replace. Of course, if you’re looking to install rare Italian marble countertops, you may find yourself with a big bill. But butcher block, engineered quartz, stainless steel, laminate and some types of granite and marble can all be purchased and installed for less than $5,000 for 50 square feet. On average, new countertop installation costs $2,300, according to HomeAdvisor.Shower or tub replacement
Shower or tub replacement
Like in the kitchen, a full bathroom remodel will likely exhaust an entire $5,000 budget and more, but a smaller-scale change may give the bathroom a new look that allows you to enjoy it more. Consider replacing your old shower or tub with a new one, which can cost between $400 and $4,500 on average, according to Fixr. Opting to move the location of the shower or purchasing a luxury tub could take you over budget, but a replacement shower with new fixtures and subway tiles could make the bathroom look new again without requiring a deep dive into your savings.Open floor plan
Open floor plan
A major change with a high price tag may not be in the cards, but you can achieve maximum impact for less if you decide to embrace the ever-popular open floor plan. The cost to remove a wall varies if it involves electrical or plumbing or if the wall is load-bearing, meaning it’s vital to the structure of your home. Removal of a load-bearing wall in a single-story house averages between $1,200 and $3,000, according to HomeAdvisor, and falls within your $5,000 budget with money left over to even out the flooring and repaint. A load-bearing wall in a two-story house may get more expensive, however, reaching as much as $10,000 on average.Closet system
A new organization system for your closet can make life much easier, and with a clean closet you’re able to splurge and budget on what works best for you. Home improvement professionals network Thumbtack reports a custom closet installation typically costs between $2,000 and $6,000. The type of construction or closet brand you choose can help keep your total bill below $5,000. The Elfa brand from The Container Store, for example, offers custom-design options with pricing based on the cost of each individual piece. You can also choose existing closet designs, such as the Platinum Elfa Walk-In Closet, which is about $2,500 at full price with installation included, based on a 6-foot-by-8-foot closet.Cost-effective home renovations
Cost-effective home renovations
Improve your home with these renovation projects for under $5,000:
- Exterior paint.
- Interior paint.
- Hardwood floors.
- Built-in bookshelves.
- Kitchen appliances.
- Kitchen countertops.
- Shower or tub replacement.
- Open floor plan.
- Closet system.
Williams got his start working in entertainment reporting in 1993, as an associate editor at "BOP," a teen entertainment magazine, and freelancing for publications, including Entertainment Weekly. He later moved to Ohio and worked for several years as a part-time features reporter at The Cincinnati Post and continued freelancing. His articles have been featured in outlets such as Life magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, Cincinnati Magazine and Ohio Magazine.
For the past 15 years, Williams has specialized in personal finance and small business issues. His articles on personal finance and business have appeared in CNNMoney.com, The Washington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes.com and American Express OPEN Forum. Williams is also the author of several books, including "Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America's Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever" and "C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America"
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Williams lives in Loveland, Ohio, with his two teenage daughters and is a graduate of Indiana University. To learn more about Geoff Williams, you can connect with him on LinkedIn or follow his Twitter page.