Hardwood Floors, DIY or Professional

Hardwood Floors: DIY or Professional installation 

Your realtor tells you hardwood floors increase your home’s value.  Your pet-loving neighbor recommends hardwood floors for easy cleaning.  Your DIY friend assures you the installation of natural finish oak floors was a breeze.

You’re ready to make the commitment to hardwood floors. Do you do the project yourself or hire a professional?  What’s the real investment for a DIY installation?

Here are some considerations as you decide about installing hardwood floors DIY or professional.

Installing Hardwood Floors Yourself – Considering Each Type of Hardwood Floor

Your choice of hardwood flooring will determine how many episodes of your favorite show you’ll need to DVR or how many football games you’ll miss.

Laminate flooring, made from compressed layers of fiberboard overlaid with a photographic image of wood grain and a protective coating, is available in easy click-and-lock styles.  You’ll need to unpack the flooring and acclimate it for about three days in the room where you plan to install it.  This prevents expansion of the moisture-sensitive particle board.  You can use this time to clean, level uneven areas of the sub-floor and lay a plastic, paper or foil vapor barrier.  After acclimation, allow three to four hours for completing the installation in a 12 x 16 bedroom or living area.

Engineered hardwood is made from compressed layers of multiple woods or wood veneers.  Its construction adds stability, making it less susceptible to expansion, so you may not need to acclimate it like laminate. You’ll still need to spend time prepping the floor. For our 12 x 16 room, plan on at least two working days to complete the install.  And you won’t be able to walk on the new flooring for 24 hours after installation.

Solid hardwood flooring is available in finished or unfinished formats.  Maple, oak, and cherry are among the more widely available hardwoods.  Exotic hardwoods like Brazilian cherry, rosewood and bamboo are durable options becoming more popular because they have more unique appearances than traditional hardwoods.  Allow at least three days to acclimate solid hardwood flooring prior to installation. The exotic woods may need to acclimate for up to seven days.  Plan to commit two days to installation.  With a finished solid hardwood, you can use the room after completing touch-up work.  Unfinished solid hardwoods need to acclimate for up to two weeks after installation prior to sanding. Applying a polyurethane finish and allowing it to set requires three to five more days.

Average Labor Cost for Installing Hardwood Floors

With a rough idea of the time you’ll invest, you need to consider potential dollars you could save by installing hardwood floors DIY or professional.

The professional installation costs associated with hardwood floors vary by floor type.  Industry labor rates to install laminates range from $2 to $8 per square foot, depending on the complexity of the room and prep required.  Engineered hardwoods cost $3 to $10 per square foot.  Finished solid hardwood installation averages $3 to $6 per square foot, with unfinished rates at $4 to $8 per square foot.

If bragging rights and dollars saved are worthy trade-offs for some possible frustration and missed games, then consider the DIY option.  But if the investment with a professional seems reasonable, then make the call and save your time.