My handyman customers often want help installing a new floor. Sometimes the first question is whether they should go with a laminate floor, pre-finished hardwood or the traditional approach where you install the hardwood and finish (stain and coat with polyurethane) the floors after installation. For these customers, I'm able to recommend a flooring store where homeowners can review all sorts of flooring and get answers from an expert.
Other customers aren't so lucky. They've already purchased the flooring and after a few failed attempts, call for help because it's a bit more difficult than they were told. The worst scenario is a homeowner who thought they'd done a great job installing their floors but now find the floors buckling. Most often they didn't do enough research to learn you need to leave room for the wood to expand and contract as the weather changes.
How Many Wood Choices?
Hardwood floors were a major component of our condo renovation project. The client wanted to replace all the carpeting which meant 2 sets of stairs, the second floor hallway and 3 bedrooms on the upper floors. This was a large and fairly expensive undertaking, so I wanted to be sure the customer understood their options, including product and installation costs.
We started the project by taking measurements and providing the owner with preliminary estimates for different types of wood flooring (excluding stairs). Using a “relative cost” comparison:
- Laminate flooring – labor plus materials $1,000 (baseline)
- Pre-finished hardwood – labor plus materials roughly 35% over laminate baseline or $1,350
- Hardwood flooring – labor (install and finish) plus materials roughly 60% over laminate baseline or $1,600. In addition to the added cost over pre-finished wood, you also need to consider the dust factor when finishing hardwood in an occupied home.
The Flooring Decision
So you're wondering what we decided? We went with the pre-finished hardwood to save money. We had provided the owner with an estimate for the bathrooms, flooring and extensive punchlist. Looking at the overall budget made the savings attractive, plus pre-finished flooring is actually harder which makes sense for any type of rental property.
We partnered with B & C Flooring in Portsmouth, NH and their expertise really helped. They verified measurements (our 10% contingency was right on target), recommended manufacturers and made samples available for us to review with our busy customer, who wouldn't be able to get to their store during normal business hours. Throughout the process, from early recommendations and pricing into to the final walk through after the floors were installed, they were terrific and answered a flurry of questions throughout the process.