Hardwood floors are one of the most desired home improvement projects across U.S. the country. However, the
options to for hardwood flooring are enormous, making it important to know exactly what you want. For example,
the average cost of hardwood floors can vary widely depending on the material you choose. The hardwood floor
cost per square foot can range from $0.39/sq ft. for Basswood and to $150.00/sq ft. for exotic woods like, zebra wood,
Brazilian walnut, and others.
Types of Materials
Type of wood
The cost of hardwood flooring is reflected by dollars per square foot, which is determined by the type of wood that is used to produce the floor planks. The type of wood you select will determine the look and strength of your hardwood floors and, at the same time, will directly affect the hardwood flooring cost per square foot. Although there are almost endless options for color, size and finishes for hardwood planks, these options have less to do with the cost for hardwood floors than the type of wood you choose, which is the largest determiner in your hardwood floor cost.
Almost as important as wood type is finding out how much does hardwood floor cost is where your wood originates. Most of the species of wood used to manufacture hardwood floor planks originated in America, with about 23 species to choose from (Alder, Ash, Aspen, Basswood, Beech, Black Walnut, Cherry, Cottonwood, Cypress, Gum, Hackberry, Hard Maple, Hickory/Pecan, Pacific Coast Maple, Poplar, Sassafras, Soft Maple, Sycamore, Red, Elm Red Oak, White Oak, Willow, Yellow Birch). Those are the more common and affordable hardwood types. More exotic hardwood floor planks are manufactured from selected tree species from different countries like Brazil, Australia, France, and Africa, among many others. The variations in climate from country to country, coupled with different wood species, produce different hardwood tree characteristics such as size, color, texture and, most importantly, strength. Though different hardwood colors can be found almost in every country, hardwood strength is determined by location, with the top three strong hardwoods, known as Ironwood, originating in Australia (Australian Buloke), Brazil (Schinopsis brasiliensis) and Argentina (Schinopsis balansae).
Hardwood strength is in direct correlation with the hardwood flooring costs, with the average cost to install hardwood floors rising with the more expensive wood types. Strength, density and toughness will determine the ideal use of the wood for specific projects. The industry standard is to measure the hardwood strength by the Janka hardness scale for wood, also known as the Side Hardness Chart, which is measured by pound force per square foot (lbf). The more dense the hardwood, the stronger the hardwood floor, but at the same time manufacturing the hardwood floors from those types of wood makes the hardwood floor costs more expensive.
* Disclaimer: Maple hardwood floor, in some cases, is softer than Oak hardwood floors. Pay attention to the particular hardwood source and finish in order to assure the strength grade.
** Exotic hardwood disclaimer: all exotic hardwood floors are sensitive to humidity, and might shrink and expand due to changes in humidity and temperature. It is best to talk to professional experienced installer that has experience with the particular exotic hardwood floor you choose.
Selecting the right hardwood type and strength depends on what you are planning to do with your new floors. For instance, you may want to consider a stronger hardwood type if you are planning to install hardwood floors for durability and long term use, if extra strength is needed because of intentional intensive use of the floors, or if the hardwood floor is outdoors and the weather conditions are harsh. However, if you are looking for aesthetic pleasure rather than bullet proof hardwood floors - you want to look for options on the less strong side of the Janka hardness scale, placing emphasis on the color and texture of the hardwood floors slightly behind the price of the planks.
Selecting your the color of your hardwood floors can be a real challenge, due to the amount of variety you have to choose from. Color has a significant impact on your home´s style and your day to day mood. The hardwood color does affect the cost of hardwood floor, though less significantly than hardwood strength. These are the main things to consider when thinking about hardwood floor color selection:
Prefinished Hardwood Floor Color: The cost of pre-finished hardwood floors is usually the same across colors due to the fact that the wood has its natural color and does not require additional manufacturing or hardwood floors refinishing cost to adjust the color. In other words, if you select prefinished hardwood floors, the price will be dependent on the tree breed rather than color.
Unfinished Hardwood Floor Color: Unfinished hardwood floors can be coated with variety of colors, and due to the fact that additional materials and labor are needed to bring the unfinished hardwood planks to the desired color - the cost to finish hardwood floors is usually higher compared to prefinished hardwood floors.
Refinishing Hardwood Floor Color: If you are refinishing existing hardwood floors, using natural colors will generally reduce the cost of hardwood floor refinishing. For example, if you are upgrading to "white ash" or "gray stains", the prices will be higher due to the more complicated finishing process involved. Cost of sanding and refinishing hardwood floors per square feet depends solely on the finish you select.
Solid v.s. Engineered hardwood floor color: If there is a particular color you desire that does not exist in solid hardwood planks, or if the cost of solid hardwood is out of you budget, you might want to consider engineered hardwood floors. Where exotic or rare hardwood colors are expensive, the cost of engineered hardwood floors is much lower, requiring just a thin slice of the desired wood.
Rare Colors: The rarer the wood types and colors you select for your floor, the more expensive the cost of hardwood floor per square foot due to high demand versus limited resources. If you want to reduce the cost to install hardwood flooring, select the wood type first, and then examine the available colors. If you have not found the color you want with prefinished planks, try and see what would it cost you to buy unfinished or engineered hardwood planks, as the cost to have hardwood floors refinished and engineered hardwood floors cost are often much lower than the cost of prefinished hardwood flooring.
Color highlights: Oak and maple are some of the most popular hardwood floors in the U.S. because the affordable oak hardwood flooring cost and high quality material deliver the best value for homeowners. Due to their popularity, it is reasonable to pay attention to the specifics of those floors, like:
— Maple / Oak Hardwood Natural Color: If those floors are installed where there is exposure to a lot of natural light, the natural color will fade and the floor will get "yellowish". If the color is not natural, then the color will get "burned" by the sun beams and get darker over time.
Similar to hardwood color, there are dozens of hardwood textures to choose from. From honey maple light grain hardwood flooring texture, to old hardwood texture and onto weathered wood texture, the variety is almost endless. Because patterns of hardwood floors are not consistent (each tree is different), unless you have very particular texture in mind, and unlimited budget, it is better start with the needed strength and color for your home, and then examine the available options for textures.
Hardwood floor planks come in many sizes and shapes. Manufacturing larger size planks takes more time, effort, and leaves more wood leftovers - therefore the general rule is that the larger the planks, the higher the hardwood flooring cost per sq ft.
The most common hardwood floor planks are usually finished Hardwood stripes 3/4" thick and 2 1/4" wide. The stripes can be up to 6 inches wide and custom planks can be even larger, and the cost of hardwood floors per square foot consequently higher.
For pre-finished hardwood stripes the thickness is the name of the game, and it can be from 5/16" - 3/4" thick. The price is lower comparing to pre-finished planks, however will require more effort and cost in installation.
Selecting the length of the stripes depends on your preferences and budget, resting on what pattern you wish to install the new hardwood floors in: decking, herringbone, swallowtail, cubical, mosaic, alternating, or any other pattern. In terms of price, assuming the same wood type, smaller size planks are cheaper and larger are more expensive.
Prefinished VS. Unfinished Hardwood Floor Size: The size of the plank has to do with whether it is pre-finished or unfinished hardwood floor, when the latter has more thickness, margins and the stripes length can range from 12" to 84" long. If cost is your concern, it is better to go with a standard size. However, it is worth checking the available inventory around your area to examine the available options and estimate how much cost of hardwood flooring installation will be.
Solid vs. Engineered Hardwood Floor Size: If you desire large size hardwood planks, and solid hardwood is too expensive, larger size engineered hardwood planks will be your best alternative, as the cost of installing engineered hardwood floors is generally lower
How to Optimize Hardwood Floor Planks Cost
Here are the steps to optimize your average cost of hardwood flooring:
List the Rooms and Spaces You Plan to Install In:
For example, the kitchen, bathroom, living room, porch, kids´ bedroom, stairs, etc. For each space, specify the amount of square feet required to determine exactly how much would it cost to install hardwood floors.
Identify What Hardwood Strength is Essential for Your Use:
Since hardwood strength is the most significant factor in the cost of real hardwood floors, selecting the right species of wood will save you thousands of dollars in your hardwood floor installation costs. You may want to use different strengths and colors for different rooms, or you may want to have unified floors around the house. Remember, you know best what's right for your home.
Check What Hardwood Colors, Textures, and Sizes Are Available at the Vendors Near You:
If you pick a color from a design catalogue but there is no available inventory nearby, you may have to pay extra for delivering the exact color you like. Luckily, there are a great assortment of hardwood colors available for any hardwood strength, and if you know what strength you need, a short search for color availability at local hardwood floor vendors will help you to optimize the cost of putting in hardwood floors.