How much does flooring cost? Which types cost more? Which cost less?

Now, of course, these are loaded questions. I always hesitate to give per square foot prices because they vary so much and for so many different reasons…as you’ll see.

So, for example, taking hardwood flooring – the cost depends on what species and grade of hardwood. It depends on whether it’s solid or engineered. It depends on how wide the planks are. It can vary based on installation method (nailed vs. glued vs. floated as well as whether it’s prefinished or unfinished hardwood). The cost depends on whether or not you have plywood subfloor. It depends if we need to do rip up and what surface we are ripping up (carpet or hardwood or tile). It depends if your floor is level and whether we need to do floor prep. Further, prices can vary on whether it’s a small, mid or large size area.

In addition, I don’t like giving per sq ft prices because customers will measure their room and do the multiplication and think that’s the price. But, they don’t realize that they need to account for many other factors including waste, acclimation delivery, transition pieces, whether we replace the base molding on the walls or just add shoe molding. As you can see there are MANY factors.


Also, many customers can be misled when they go to a store as they just see the cost for the materials. These prices do not include the labor nor the other factors I just mentioned above. So, I have many customers that mistakenly think some surfaces cost less. Please bear in mind that these are generalities, so it does depend on which item you select and the conditions of your floors. Also, this can vary a bit based on geography. But, for the most part, these generalities should hold for Northeast, Mid Atlantic, Mid West. It is likely that the prices for tile are a bit lower in some of the warmer climates.


So, from least expensive to most expensive – factoring in labor + material:

Carpet: In general, carpet is the least expensive surface. So, if you really need to save money, this is the way to go. The labor on carpet is lower and you can certainly find some less expensive carpets, especially when it comes to basement carpet.


That being said, carpet more than any other surface varies the most in price. As you get into much softer nylons, or multi-colored carpets or wool carpets, the prices increase and are sometimes even more expensive than hardwoods. But, as a general rule, carpet will usually cost you less than any other hard surface.


Laminate – Laminate flooring is usually more expensive than carpet but less expensive than hardwood. The materials for laminate are less expensive and labor is lower. In addition, pending on the conditions of the current floor, sometimes, you can install laminate directly on top of what’s this reduces cost of rip up and haul away.


Hardwood – I really do prefer hardwood flooring to laminate, but it does cost more. (It’s usually worth it since in the long run, it will usually last longer). Oak and bamboo tend to be the lower cost hardwoods. Adding hardwood to your home not only looks great (and most people prefer), but it also improves the value of your home, so it is a great investment. Oh, and it’s easier (and less expensive) to clean and maintain.


Tile – In general, tile is the most expensive surface to install. That’s because it’s the most labor intensive. This is often a surprise to customers because they’ll see tile in Home Depot and think, wow, this is less expensive than I thought…and, that’s true…the material is not that expensive…it’s the labor that drives the price on this one.


So don’t be fooled by looking at the material cost. It takes much longer to lay tile and it’s rip it out and haul it away. When it comes to bathrooms, there are a whole slew of other costs that come along with this. Usually when you tear up the walls, you need to resheet rock (and/or add durarock for the showers). Often a mud job is needed for the floor and the shower. Oh, and don’t forget about the cost of a licensed plumber for toilet & sink removal as well as replacement of the shower pan.


So, the costs for tile flooring really do add up. Tile is clearly the best choice for the bathroom, but just be aware that there are a lot of costs there. For regular floors (such as kitchens and entryways), tile will usually cost more. In warmer climates, tile is more popular, so the labor costs are a bit lower – same amount of labor – just more competitive rates.


I hope this is helpful in providing some guidelines. As I mentioned, the prices will vary based on your circumstances and which material you are evaluating. This is another reason I like to go to customer’s homes. When I do, I can give them the prices for many different items and different surfaces so they can see the full price difference among their choices.

4 thoughts on “How much does flooring cost? Which types cost more? Which cost less?”

  1. Thanks for sharing this Jane, I get a lot of questions about this myself, and it’s hard to explain in a way that people can understand. Here in Tennessee, we tend to have Hardwoods and carpet in most of the living areas and tile in the bathrooms is preferred. Sometime I show homes with carpet in the bathrooms and most people can’t believe it. We have tile or hardwoods in most nice kitchens here, and both seem to work well. Thanks for the post, I’ll pass it along to others.

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