Budget Basics: Wood Flooring Costs

Renovating can be a lot of work – Sweeten makes it easier to nail down scope and find the best design and construction experts for your project. Read on for an insider’s look at the costs of re-doing or re-finishing your floors! For some wood flooring inspiration, check out a range of these gorgeous floors chosen by Sweeten homeowners.


Straightforward Costs

Refinish existing floors or install new floors?

First things first, you need to decide if you will be putting in new floors or re-finishing your existing floors. So many New York apartments have original floors that are worth reviving, but floors can reach an end point in their re-finish capacity – if your floors have already been re-finished numerous times, you might not have enough surface depth to sand down, and you can risk exposing nail heads, which will damage the sanding equipment. If you decide your existing floors still have life in them, you can switch over to more eco-friendly stain and finish materials. These new products help minimize fumes and are more environmentally-friendly, but you may need to work with your contractor to ensure that you can successfully bond newer products to older floors for an even finish.

How much do you want to spend on materials?

If you have crumbling parquet or inherited linoleum from another era: new floors for you, my friend! There are endless options for flooring materials, starting at under $1 per square foot for laminate options, under $2 per square foot for engineered wood options, and under $6 per square foot for hardwood options. National retailers have dozens and dozens of options in these ranges, and are a good starting point for sorting through color and texture choices. There are also a number of higher-end boutique flooring retailers that offer engineered and hardwood materials, starting at $12 per square foot and going up to $35 and beyond for custom, reclaimed, and bespoke materials. You might also opt for bamboo, cork, concrete, or tile flooring. For the purposes of this post, we’ll look mainly at wood flooring.

How much should you order?

Before you finalize your order, talk to your contractor or supplier about quantity. You will probably need to slightly over-order to make sure that you have enough materials to cover the full square footage of your space as pieces are cut down and customized. For my 340 square foot home, I needed to order 375 square feet of wood. I was not super psyched about paying for that extra phantom wood, but it was necessary and ended up being used. In addition to padding your total order with extra material, don’t forget to add tax and shipping to your budget. Very inexpensive and very expensive materials ironically weigh about the same, so be prepared for approximately $2 per square foot in freight costs, regardless of whether you go for bargain or luxe floors.

To stay focused on cost here, I will have to let you do your research on wood source and finish options, but I will note two discoveries I made while shopping around. First, wide plank floors have an incredible visual impact and can lengthen and widen a room. Don’t order your wood material without giving some thought to the width of the planks. Second, matte or natural-oiled wood floors have a striking effect and are becoming increasingly common. They can make a room feel more relaxed, or even slightly gritty.

wide plank wood flooring

Behind-the-Scenes Costs

Most contractors will assess labor costs for a flooring project on an hourly basis or on a per-day basis. To arrive at an actual quote, a contractor needs to account for labor fees for the team that will be doing the work along with the complexity of the project. Maddeningly, you may see wide variation in hourly rates; particularly low hourly rates (under $50 an hour) may signal that a contractor is not insured. The requirements of individual buildings can play a significant role in dictating design and budget needs. Contractors that can afford to work in buildings with more extensive requirements tend to have higher operating costs that meet higher insurance requirements.

You should also be aware that re-finishing floors requires fewer license and certification steps than installing floors. Many general contractors can re-finish floors; those that install new floors have to go through more rigorous licensing and certification hoops. You may see the effects of those costs in the hourly rates that you are quoted.

Certification and insurance coverage aside, you might see a quote that sets an hourly rate of $100-$200 for a worker. On straightforward projects with standard materials, that rate might be absolutely reasonable, but if you are planning to work with specialty materials, or lay floors around particularly fine or high-end finishes, that rate might actually not be high enough to get the kind of specialized labor you need for a more complex project. Talk to your contractor about the rates in the quote so that you can get a feel for what they think is needed and why.

For a quick rundown on costs so far, let’s assume you have 800 square feet to re-do. If you pick an engineered or hardwood material between $5 and $15 per square foot, you will spend between $4,500 and $13,000 on materials and up to $1,600 on freight. You will likely have a crew of 2-4 workers, working 7 hours a day, totaling between $1,500 and $3,000 per day. If your home is clear of furniture and nothing unexpected arises, the crew can tear through the work in 4-6 days, putting you at $6,000 to $10,000 on labor. All in, to start, you’re in the $12,000 to $24,000 range, though most of that variation is related to your initial pick for materials.

wood floors renovation

More Project Variables

Your contractor will be looking at a long list of variables to assess the scope and complexity of your project and arrive at a total cost:

How accessible is your neighborhood, building, and unit? Contractors need to cover daily travel costs, parking time and fees, and time and effort spent getting in and out of your home, particularly if stairs are involved.

Will you need help moving furniture? Depending on the specifics of your project, you may decide to pay your contractors (by the hour) to move furniture as the floors progress, or you might decide to move furniture into storage until work is done.

Does your home have a variety of “transitions” or unique spaces between rooms or entryways? With a flooring project, your contractors may need to spend extra time manually sloping the wood so that it meets a particularly low-slung door or so that it transitions seamlessly to a marble bathroom entry or closet area. These sections of the floor require more careful attention and custom labor.

Does your home have baseboard and molding detail? In many cases, installing new floors will require that you rip out existing baseboard and molding detail so that the floor planks can be laid under the molding. New baseboards and molding need to be installed after the floors go down, and then need to be painstakingly painted.

–  Are you planning any intricate details? If you are looking to frame a room with border work or inlays, or play up the texture of the material with a herringbone, basketweave, or parquet design, you will need to build in more hours to cut and install the wood in accordance with these precise patterns. You may also find that you need more materials overall to make sure you have enough wood as many small pieces are cut and positioned.

How much clean up are you willing to do? New floors create an incredible amount of dust. Most contractors will offer various solutions for managing the dust, including HEPA vacuum and air-filter set-ups. The more comprehensive the cleaning, the more expensive for you.

Will you encounter any lead paint? The minute lead paint comes into the picture, the requirements and costs change. If you are tearing up old floors that were built before lead paint restrictions were enacted, you will probably need to work with your contractor to decide whether you can safely remove and discard the debris, or whether you need to float your new floors on top of the old floors to avoid circulating lead paint dust during the project.

As you can tell, there are a lot of variables and unknowns here; you will need to choose a contractor with the right expertise to assess the complexity of your project and discuss your budget goals.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.