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Hardwood Flooring Prices: The Cost per Square Foot

Updated on December 16, 2010

It is the budget that kills remodeling projects, right? Nothing new here. It is no secret that installing hardwood floors can be tough on the pocket book. The reality is that it will typically exceed a thousand dollars just for a single room and could be tens of thousands for an entire hardwood floor install in the house. But does it really have to cost that much? In this series of articles, I ask the tough questions; Should you buy your hardwood flooring online to save a few dollars? What about discounted flooring or discontinued wood flooring? Is there such a thing as cheap hardwood floors that are quality made?

Labor Costs for installing and refinishing a hardwood floor will vary from city to city and sometimes from regions in the city.

While I wish that I could give a blanket cost of labor for hardwood floor installations, understand that the prices can vary depending on a number of factors. For instance, chances are if you live in Beverly Hills or Manhatten, the price of an installation will likely be much higher than if you live 15 miles away in another suburb. The labor costs will reflect the going rates and what people are willing to pay in the area. Because of this, the prices will range from less than the going rate on this page to as much as double what you see here.

Also, if this is your first time looking at hardwood floor prices, then you will be surprised that purchasing the actual wood will likely be the least expensive of the process. There are many hidden costs that will drive a $4.00 per square foot pallet of oak hardwood all the way up to as much as $15 per square foot.

You can alleviate some of the costs yourself by doing things like removing the existing flooring, moving appliances out of the way, removing the shoe molding, ect. ect. but you won’t be able to scrimp on some of the other “extras” that come with installing a hard wood floor such as glue, staples, underlayment, t-molding and other things.

Even if you install the hardwood floor yourself, you should typically add at least another $1.00 per s/f to the cost to get a more realistic perspective. Are hardwood floors worth the cost?

If you are having a professional install it for you, double the number and add another dollar or two to the equation for a more real world cost of installing the hardwood floor.

There are two costs that are typically involved when looking at hardwood floors-

  1. The cost of the hardwood- This price will vary widely according to the species of wood you choose and the manufacturer you will wind up going with. If you choose a big box retailer such as Lowe’s or Home depot or a speciality store like Lumber Liquidator’s, the cost you will see will just be the price of the wood. Depending on what you choose, you can expect to pay $2 per square foot (for unfinished wood or clearance flooring) to as much as $10-20 per square foot (there are other hardwood species that are more expensive but typically a consumer will stick to the $2-20 range.)
  2. The cost of “other” things- This is what will elevate the costs. In a lot of cases the “other” expenses can be more expensive than the wood itself. Labor costs, removal costs, glue, finishing, leveling the subfloor and many other things can take a $4 per square foot hardwood product and elevate the cost to $10 per square foot.

Also, labor costs are regional in nature and a lot the actual cost of installing a hardwood floor will depend on a host of factors. You can take care of a lot of the costs simply by doing a few things before the installers get there.

Below is a run down of what you can expect to pay if:

  • Hardwood Floors- The price will vary according to what you you choose but you can expect to pay between $2 (for low end or discounted flooring) to $10 per square foot on average. The flooring will come in bundles and you will want to allow at least 10% wastage in your results. In other words, if you have to buy 1,000 square foot of hardwood, you will want to buy an extra 100 square foot. If you are planning on using a pattern or have an oddly shaped room, you will want to add 20% for potential waste.
  • Carpet Removal- If you have existing carpet on your floors, you will need to have it removed. You can do it yourself or have it done for you. A typical price for removal is .25 per square foot. This will include the tack and pad.
  • Moving Appliances- This is primarily for the kitchen but can include a great room if furniture need to be removed before the install. Most hardwood installers will have an allowance in which they will move a couple pieces for free. After that the price can vary. Appliances are another thing altogether. Most hardwood installers will charge between $15-30 ($30 being the average rate) per appliance.
  • Floor Prep- Typically, this has to do with the condition of the subfloor as well as cleaning it before the hardwood installation happens. In the 80’s, when contractors were throwing together subdivisions, a lot of times the subfloor was an afterthought. If the subfloor isn’t level, expect some additional costs. Floor Preparations average $60 per hour.
  • Shoe or Base Removal and reinstall- Expect to pay around $2.50 per lineal foot. The same applies for a baseboard installation ($2.00 per lineal foot) and installing the shoe molding or quarter round ($1.25 per lineal foot)
  • Install a moisture barrier- $1.25 per square foot. A trowel spread will not only help be a buffer between potential moisure on the subfloor and the hardwood, it will also help to dampen sound. Most installers use a foam based underlayment.
  • Nail Down Wood Floors/Glue Down Wood Floors- Depending on where you go, the actual hardwood installation could be as little as $3.00 per square foot, with a big box retailer being a little more. The prices vary but you can expect the $3.00-5.00 range.
  • Laminate installations- Laminate is cheaper both in terms of cost and labor. You can expect to pay around $1-2 less than a regular hardwood install. LumberLiquidator’s and Lowe’s both currently charge $1.99 a square foot.
  • Plywood installation on Concrete- If your subfloor is a slab and you are going with naildown floors, your installer will likely need to add plywood to the subfloor. The cost of this is usually half the price of the actual hardwood install. In other words, expect to pay $1.50-2.00 per square foot. Of course, if this is the case, you can always forgo this expense by choosing a free floating floor or glue down floor.
  • Sound Control- In some cases and especially in high rises, it may be necessary to install a sound barrier as well. Typically, the cost is the same as installing a moisture barrier (partly because the install is the same). Expect to pay $1.25 per square foot.
  • Weather Stripping- In a lot of cases, your installer may have to cut your door to fit the floor in. If this is the case, you will likely have to call a door professional to add a weather stripping to your door. Expect to pay $150-300 per door.

In addition to this, there are costs to staining and finishing your hardwood floor if you have bought unfinished wood and want to have it done onsite. Additionally, in some cases, refinishing a floor could be regarded as a maintenance issue as well, to lengthen the life and make it more aethetically pleasing. If you have professional do it for you, the costs will vary according to region (in line with the cost of living in your area).

  • Labor costs to refinish wood floors or parquet floors- they range but you can expect to pay about the same as you would to have them installed. $3.25 per square foot is the starting range.
  • Cost to stain your floors- The prices vary but generally they will be in the $4.00 s/f range
  • Cost to Screen and coat- Otherwise known as buffing the floors and adding a top coat, general costs are around $1.25 per square foot.

Floor Covering Removal Costs

This will range widely according to region but ultimately you can expect to pay more for removal of harder to remove floor coverings like tile and glue down floors (which typically range in the $3.00-4.50 per s/f range). Floating floors will be the least expensive at $1.00-1.50 per square foot with nail down flooring being somewhere in between.

In addition to this, expect more costs in the floor prep time.


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      carpet cleaning Everett 7 years ago

      Hardwood flooring is truly good. Some of us, in order to maintain its beauty, they put carpets on it in order to avoid scratches. Since carpet can absorb dirt or dust, you must give it proper maintenance. Before cleaning it, better define the fabric so you'll be able to know the proper cleaning for it.