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Know Before You Buy – The Biggest Mistake Homeowners Make When Buying New Floors

The biggest mistake homeowners make when buying new floors is that they treat them like they are a simple, retail product.

When it comes down to it, floors are more like sports cars than Snickers bars. There are loads of manufacturers. And each one has several models to choose from  – from the bare bones and inexpensive Honda of floors to the fully-loaded Ferrari of floors. There are also a fair amount of costs beyond the flooring itself, some obvious and some not-so-obvious. Just like walking onto a car lot, you should have a general understanding of what pricing looks like BEFORE you enter a flooring showroom.

In general, there three key parts to floors:

  • Materials
  • Installation
  • Costs specific to your project

Average Cost of Flooring

As mentioned earlier, every flooring type (from vinyl plank to hardwood) offers a broad range of quality levels, designs and mills. In general, though, some flooring materials tend to be less expensive, while others cost more. It’s important to note that sometime what you save on materials costs on a particular flooring type may be lost to installation costs (more about this later). Choose your flooring carefully.

PRO TIP: What you save on materials costs for a particular flooring type may be lost to installation costs — so choose your flooring carefully. 

Below is a summary of how the different flooring materials stack up against each other:

  • Laminate, linoleum and luxury vinyl tend to be more affordable
  • Stone, tile and cork land in the middle
  • Hardwood and wool rugs/carpets tend to be more expensive
  • Synthetic carpet and rugs can run the gambit when it comes to pricing

Estimating the Cost of Flooring 

The costs listed below are based on a 500 square foot space – for materials and installation. It has been updated from the original story as it appeared in Forbes Magazine to reflect 2024 pricing in N. California today. Costs will vary by area  of the country. And materials costs will almost certainly increase from year to year for every region.

These pricing ranges are based on good to excellent quality materials. You can certainly find low grade products for less, and very, very high-end products that cost much more – especially when it comes to stone and hardwood.

Flooring Cost Estimator

What is Included in Flooring Installation

For the average homeowner, installation costs may be the greatest unknown. Installation consists of three key things:

  • Subfloor preparation – to create a smooth surface to place the new flooring on
  • Installation – layout, cut in and install of the new flooring
  • Clean up – cleaning up an messes from install, but also replacing baseboards

Biggest Mistake Homeowners Make When Buying New Floors, Floortex Design

What is Not Included in Flooring Installation

Demolition of the previous floor is not usually part of install. It varies widely from one project to the next, as you would expect, and it is typically done by a third party (not your installer). So be sure you get a clear estimate for demolition, along the tasks listed below, and ask your sales person or project consultant if there are any variables that could increase the price – before they start work.

  • Moving furniture
  • Tear out of old floor
  • Hauling away old material

PRO TIP: When choosing an installer, remember that the cheapest may not the best.

When choosing an installer, remember that the cheapest is often not the best. The truth is, if your project is simple and straightforward, you may not need the best. But if your space has stairs, or lots of corners, or a failing subfloor – look for an installation team with at least 10 years in the business and a proven reputation.

Biggest Mistake Homeowners Make When Buying New Floors, Floortex Design

Summary of Flooring Costs

Reputable flooring providers will spell out all materials and installation costs, as well as other issues and options   that may increase fees (such as a severely damaged subfloor or a custom color for hardwood). There should never be a miscellaneous line item with a large fee associated with it. If you find this in your estimate, buyer beware!

Also, as mentioned earlier, the cost in labor to install your flooring may eat up what you saved in materials. For example, the cost of hardwood is generally higher than that of laminate or carpet. But there is a big difference in underlayment costs. Hardwood’s is next to nothing, while laminate, luxury vinyl plank and cork can be as much as $3.50 per square foot. So be sure to consider all costs before making your decision.

The table below is a breakdown of costs typical to installing new floors, when using a professional installation crew. This is an average range of costs for Northern California in 2024, and it includes flooring material, installation and underlayment/carpet pad.

Regardless of what flooring you choose, be sure to check out your consultant and installer ahead of time, and get a clear itemized estimate that includes:

  • Materials
  • Installation
  • Underlayment
  • Demolition
  • Moving Furniture
  • Potential cost adders

Biggest Mistake Homeowners Make When Buying New Floors, Floortex Design

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Enjoy your new floors!

 

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