There’s nothing like hardwood flooring. Durable and beautiful, it’s the ideal choice for both new construction and existing homes. If you’re considering hardwood floors, you’ve likely admired the many styles available and done some preliminary calculations to set your flooring budget. You may have even thought about whether you can install your own hardwood floors.
No doubt installing your own hardwood flooring is an intense do-it-yourself project. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to rule it out if you enjoy completing home improvement projects. Here’s what you need to know about the ins and outs of installing hardwood floors. Use this guide to determine if installing your own hardwood is really worth it or if you should call in professionals to do it instead.
Installing Hardwood Floors: What You Need to Know
The first step you’ll need to take in determining if hardwood flooring installation is right for you is to honestly evaluate your carpentry and home improvement skills. If you’ve never tackled a home DIY project, installing hardwood floors in a large area of your home probably isn’t an option. If you live in an older home or know that your subfloor has suffered damage, you may want to forego DIY installation in favor of hiring flooring installation professionals who can ensure structural integrity and hardwood longevity. You’ll need basic measuring and carpentry skills to lay a floor.
You’ll also need to determine the exact type of flooring product that you’ll use. Hardwood flooring is available in both natural and engineered designs. Engineered hardwood is made up of multiple layers of wood that are positioned in different directions for enhanced strength and resistance to warping. Natural hardwood flooring is made up of solid planks of wood cut and sanded to a uniform size. Solid planks are generally attached to the flooring surface with glue or a pneumatic nailer. You’ll likely need a circular saw, jigsaw, chalk line and basic hand tools to finish the job.
Engineered hardwood flooring is generally easier to install. Engineered options are designed to work as floating flooring, or flooring that is locked together via special grooves and then glued down to an underlayment. You’ll need a circular saw, measuring tape, hammer, chalk line and tapping block. The glue used to attach engineered hardwood flooring isn’t as messy as the products used for solid hardwood floors. Engineered flooring is a great choice if you want to install floors on your own but are intimidated by natural wood.
Before you shop for hardwood floors, you’ll also need to determine if you want to use prefinished or unfinished flooring. Prefinished flooring will save on installation time. It can also help you avoid one of the most difficult steps in installing a hardwood floor, the final sanding. This step in the process is done with a drum sander. It can be hard to achieve a great result if you’ve never used this type of sander on a floor before. Sanding is one portion of the installation process that you might want to contract out to a professional even if you decide to lay and finish the floor yourself.
Calculating Installation Time
It’s important to know that installing hardwood floors involves taxing physical labor. You’ll spend a great deal of time either on your hands and knees or hunched over the floor. You might not want to tackle installation if you’re in poor health or have back problems. Wood will also need to acclimate to your home before it’s installed, which generally takes three to five days. If you’re installing floors in a new home, you can count this as project downtime.
If you’re installing floors in an existing home, use the acclimation days to demolish your old flooring and prepare the subfloor for hardwood installation. Expect installation to take anywhere from one to five days depending on the size of the project and your work speed. Professional installers can generally finish about 1,000 square feet of flooring per day, but you may not be able to work that quickly. If you’re using solid, unfinished hardwood flooring, you’ll also need to factor in extra time for sanding and finishing the floors. Installing hardwood floors isn’t an overnight project, but remember that the hard work you put in can add significant value to your home.
Estimating Cost Savings
Installation represents a significant portion of the cost for hardwood flooring installation. Many homeowners are interested in installing hardwood themselves because installation costs can make this an unaffordable flooring option. After all, installing hardwood floors costs an average of $4 per square foot nationwide. Of course, installation costs vary based on the flooring company you work with. Ask about average installation costs when you visit flooring showrooms. Knowing how much money you stand to save by tackling installation yourself may help you decide if you want to go DIY or pay a pro.
To calculate your approximate cost savings, determine the square footage of the area where you’ll be laying flooring. Multiple this number by the average per-square-foot installation cost quoted by flooring companies you’ve spoken with. If you don’t know what local companies charge, multiply it by four. The answer represents the approximate total cost of having hardwood flooring professionally installed. This is the amount you will save by installing the flooring yourself.
How to Get Started
You’re up to the challenge of installing hardwood floors, and you’re eager to get going. Start by researching the various flooring styles and finishes that you love online. You can find information about flooring trends in design blogs and on home improvement sites. You should also visit local flooring showrooms to see hardwood options in real life. Ask if you can speak to an installer about the best underlayment, glue or tools that can be used with the product that you select. Home improvement websites and YouTube boast dozens of tutorials about installing hardwood floors on your own. Look up tutorials and videos, and follow the one that makes the most sense to you.
Whether you’d like to buy flooring and install it yourself or plan on hiring a professional, the friendly staff at Austin’s Floor Store can help. Stop by, call or visit our website to chat with us online during store hours. We’d love to talk to you about your hardwood needs. Our flooring pros can also answer your questions about installation and help you decide if it’s really a job that you want to tackle on your own.