The Cost of Hardwood Floor Installation: Budgeting and Planning Tips

The Cost of Hardwood Floor Installation_ Budgeting and Planning Tips - blog

Installing hardwood floors is a popular home improvement project that can add beauty, warmth, and value to your home. However, it also represents a significant investment. Understanding the costs involved and planning your budget accordingly is crucial to ensuring a successful installation. This comprehensive guide will explore the factors that influence the cost of hardwood floor installation, offer budgeting tips, and provide planning advice to help you make informed decisions.

Factors Influencing the Cost of Hardwood Floor Installation

The cost of hardwood floor installation can vary widely based on several factors.  Our fellow flooring expert friends at AA Floors & More LTD., have provided us with several cost factors to consider before your hardwood floor installation.

1. Type of Hardwood

The type of hardwood you choose has a significant impact on the overall cost. Common types of hardwood flooring include:

  • Oak: Durable and versatile, oak is a popular choice that ranges from $3 to $10 per square foot.
  • Maple: Known for its smooth grain, maple costs between $6 and $14 per square foot.
  • Cherry: With a rich, deep color, cherry ranges from $5 to $15 per square foot.
  • Walnut: A luxurious option, walnut costs between $8 and $15 per square foot.
  • Exotic Woods: Species like Brazilian cherry and teak can cost $10 to $20 or more per square foot.

2. Grade of Wood

Hardwood comes in various grades, affecting both appearance and price:

  • Clear Grade: The highest quality with minimal imperfections, clear grade wood is the most expensive.
  • Select and Better: Slightly more imperfections than clear grade, but still high quality.
  • Common Grades (No. 1 and No. 2): More knots and color variations, offering a more rustic look and lower cost.

3. Width and Length of Planks

Wider and longer planks tend to be more expensive than narrower and shorter ones. Wide planks (over 5 inches) and long lengths (over 6 feet) provide a more modern and luxurious appearance but come at a higher cost.

4. Finish

Prefinished hardwood floors come with a factory-applied finish, making installation quicker and often more cost-effective. Unfinished hardwood requires sanding, staining, and finishing on-site, which adds to labor costs. Prefinished floors typically cost $2 to $5 more per square foot than unfinished ones.

5. Installation Method

The installation method affects labor costs:

  • Nail-Down: Requires nailing each plank to the subfloor, suitable for solid hardwood and more labor-intensive.
  • Staple-Down: Uses staples instead of nails, slightly faster but still labor-intensive.
  • Glue-Down: This involves gluing the wood directly to the subfloor, commonly used for engineered hardwood.
  • Floating: The easiest and least labor-intensive, where planks are not attached to the subfloor but rather locked together.

6. Condition of Subfloor

If your subfloor is uneven or damaged, it may need repair or replacement before hardwood installation. Subfloor preparation can add $1 to $3 per square foot to the total cost.

7. Geographic Location

Labor costs vary by region. Urban areas with a higher cost of living typically have higher labor rates than rural areas.

8. Additional Costs

  • Removing Old Flooring: Costs $1 to $3 per square foot.
  • Baseboards and Trim: Installing or replacing baseboards and trim adds to the cost.
  • Underlayment: Moisture barriers or soundproofing underlayment can add $0.50 to $2 per square foot.

Budgeting Tips for Hardwood Floor Installation

1. Get Multiple Quotes

Obtain quotes from several reputable contractors to compare prices and services. Ensure the quotes include all potential costs, such as materials, labor, subfloor preparation, and additional charges.

2. Consider DIY Options

If you have experience with home improvement projects, you might save on labor costs by installing the floor yourself. However, ensure you understand the complexity of the task before committing, as improper installation can lead to costly repairs.

3. Choose the Right Wood

Selecting a wood type that fits your budget is crucial. While exotic woods and clear grades offer a premium look, many mid-range options provide excellent durability and appearance at a lower cost.

4. Plan for Additional Costs

Budget for potential additional costs, such as subfloor repairs, removing old flooring, and purchasing underlayment or trim. It’s better to overestimate and come under budget than to be caught off guard by unexpected expenses.

5. Time Your Purchase

Look for sales or discounts on hardwood flooring, particularly during off-peak seasons. Purchasing materials during a sale can significantly reduce costs.

6. Consider Long-Term Value

While higher-quality materials and professional installation may have a higher upfront cost, they often provide better durability and a longer lifespan, reducing long-term maintenance and replacement costs.

Planning Your Hardwood Floor Installation

1. Measure Your Space Accurately

Accurate measurements are crucial for estimating material costs. Measure the length and width of each room and multiply to get the square footage. Add 10% to account for waste and cutting errors.

2. Choose the Right Time

Plan your installation during a period when you can vacate the space if necessary. Hardwood installation can be noisy and disruptive, and some finishes may emit strong odors.

3. Prepare the Area

Clear the area of furniture, rugs, and personal items before the installers arrive. Ensure the subfloor is clean and dry to avoid delays.

4. Communicate with Your Contractor

Discuss your expectations and any specific requirements with your contractor. Clear communication helps ensure the project goes smoothly and meets your standards.

5. Plan for Acclimation

Hardwood flooring needs to acclimate to your home’s environment before installation to prevent expansion or contraction after installation. Plan for the wood to be delivered a few days before installation so it can adjust to the humidity and temperature of your home.

6. Post-Installation Care

After installation, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning and maintenance to keep your hardwood floors looking their best. Regular cleaning and occasional refinishing will extend the life of your floors.


Installing hardwood floors is a significant investment that can enhance the beauty and value of your home. By understanding the factors that influence the cost, budgeting effectively, and planning carefully, you can ensure a successful installation that meets your needs and budget. Whether you choose to hire professionals or take on the project yourself, careful preparation and attention to detail will result in beautiful, durable floors that you can enjoy for years to come.

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