How Much Does it Cost to Install Hardwood Floors?
$4.50 – $7.00 Per Sq/Ft
The average labor costs to install hardwood is between $3 and $4 per sq/ft, but depending on factors like your location, the condition of your subfloor, the complexity of the project and the reputation of the installer this average baseline rate increases to $4.50-$7.00 per sq/ft. In this post we will compare the factors that affect installation prices and estimate the installation cost of your wood floor project.
We’ve had a few emails recently asking for more in-depth analysis of the exact cost to install hardwood floors so in this Home Flooring Pros guide we will drill down and focus exclusively on hardwood floor installation cost and how you can calculate a reliable estimate for your own project before you start getting quotes from local contractors.
To be clear, our focus here is exclusively solid hardwood installation, for more info on engineered wood floor installation prices please visit this price guide.
The standard hardwood floor installation cost is between $3 and $4 per square foot, but let’s be clear this is just the baseline cost.
Calculating your own hardwood installation prices is not straightforward, proper consideration of many factors is necessary to get an accurate estimate of the total cost to install hardwood flooring.
Here we explain each factor, with pricing, and summarize installation costs in a convenient table below.
Calculating Reasonable Hardwood Flooring Cost Estimates
Hardwood flooring installers expect homeowners to get a wood floor installation estimate from several companies, so they aim for a price point which will be as competitive as possible while allowing them to cover their expenses and make a fair profit.
In the US, most flooring contractors make a total net profit—the profit after all expenses including taxes – of 3 to 7 percent. Those that make less typically can’t stay in business. A few contractors make more, usually because their reputation for quality work is so outstanding that homeowners are willing to pay more for their services.
With that in mind here are all the hardwood flooring costs that a contractor will factor into their quote, including materials and installation. We end this guide with suggestions for saving money on your flooring project.
Subfloor Installation Cost
Installing a proper subfloor is an investment in the durability and performance of the hardwood flooring you’ve chosen. It will help to prevent squeaks, board separation and uneven floors that can be unsightly and a trip hazard.
This is a relatively inexpensive step that shouldn’t be ignored. Cutting costs here will likely make the finished job far less satisfactory. Indeed, some installers won’t install flooring, or at least won’t warranty their work, when the homeowner opposes subflooring installation.
Plywood average cost is $20-$22 per 4’x8’ sheet depending on the thickness chosen, or roughly $0.65 per square foot.
There is a slight additional cost for fasteners and glue. Installation costs average $25-$30 per hour. Since subfloor installation can be done quite quickly, this equates to +/- $0.55 per square foot:
- Subfloor material & installation cost: $1.20-$1.40 per square foot
Hardwood Installation Cost Factors
Most flooring installers start with a base price in mind, typically $3.00-$4.00 per square foot.
The base price from one installer to the next will vary based on:
- Home values and cost of living in the immediate area
- Supply-and-demand for quality installation services
When the flooring installation company’s representative comes to your home or office, he or she will survey the work with an eye trained to look for factors that will increase their cost.
The price might then be adjusted upwards based on the size of the job and any non-standard complexities expected to add time and/or expense to the work. Here is an overview of the factors considered:
Solid hardwood vs. engineered hardwood
Some installers make a basic distinction in installation cost between the two. When this is the case, solid hardwood flooring costs more to install. How much more depends on how hard the wood is.
A few examples from the Janka Hardness Scale will help make the point. Here are woods used in flooring with their Janka Scale rating. The higher the number, the harder the wood: Southern yellow pine (850), red maple (950), red oak (1290), hard maple (1450), acacia (2250), Brazilian redwood (3190) and ipe/Brazilian walnut (3680).
When very hard flooring is installed, more equipment and more labor is involved. This can raise the cost of installation by $0.50-$1.50 per square foot.
The amount of flooring
Each job includes certain fixed costs, namely the cost of fuel required to get to the jobsite and wages that are being paid while the crew is traveling, setting up and taking down equipment and returning.
The larger the job, the more these fixed costs are spread out. In other words, the more flooring to be installed, the lower the price per square foot will be, all else being equal.
Larger rooms require less time spent trimming and fewer transitions per the amount of flooring installed. Therefore, installing 500 square feet, for example, in one large room will cost less than installing the flooring in a hallway and several small rooms.
Doorways, pillars, fireplace hearths, cabinetry, fixtures, built-in bookshelves and other obstacles require time-consuming trimming and piecing, so they raise the estimates per square foot.
Two flooring types joining each other require the installation of a transition piece. Transition installations might be included in the total per-foot estimate or priced separately at $2-$4 lineal foot.
Installing hardwood flooring typically takes between 10-15 days depending on these factors and more.
Flooring Installation Cost Extremes and Averages
If the jobsite is nearby, a good quantity of flooring is to be installed, the wood isn’t exceptionally hard and the layout of the room or rooms requires little extra labor, the base price of $3-$4 per square foot might hold.
The price increases as the number of factors increases, so the top end of the scale can be as high as $10 per square foot.
While the spectrum ranges from $3 to $10, most hardwood flooring installation estimates fall in the range of $4.50-$7.00 per square foot.
Installing Hardwood on Stairs
The cost of installing hardwood on stairs is typically estimated separately. Stairs take time, and time is money. Standard 36” steps are priced at $40-$75 per stair.
If there are railing spindles and banister posts to trim around or if hardwood is being installed on both treads and risers, the cost will increase. A three-step set of stairs often costs $200 or more while a 13-step stairway costs $650-$900.
Extra Costs Associated with Hardwood Flooring Estimates
So far, our discussion has been about floors that have the proper subfloor and are ready to be covered with hardwood. That is the ideal situation, but most jobs require additional preparation. Let’s look at those costs.
Removing existing flooring
Removing flooring can be hard work, but it isn’t complicated. The goal is to remove the old material along with all adhesive and/or fasteners without damaging the subfloor.
DIY flooring removal can save you $200-$350 per 1,000 square yards of flooring, but if the flooring contractor must repair damage that could have been avoided, it will reduce or eliminate your cost savings.
- Old flooring removal cost: $0.20-$0.35 per square foot
- Disposal of old flooring: Up to $0.20 per square foot
Moving furniture and appliances
If the rooms where the flooring is to be installed are not cleared, costs might be added to the estimate. How much furniture must be moved will determine the estimated charges.
- Moving furniture and appliances: $20-$150 per room
- Appliance connections: $15-$30 per appliance
Hardwood Flooring Installation Cost Table
This table summarizes all the hardwood flooring installation costs discussed here and the factors affecting the price.
|Subfloor installation||$1.20-$1.40/sq. ft.||Joist/substrate repair, amount of trimming|
|Hardwood flooring installation||$3.00-$4.00/sq. ft.||See factors listed above|
|Transitions||$2.00-$4.00/linear ft.||Materials being joined, straight vs. curved|
|Stairs||$40-$75/stair||Width, posts, straight v. winding, turns, landings|
|Old flooring removal cost||$0.20-$0.35 per square foot||Type of flooring, how it is fastened|
|Disposal of old flooring||Up to $0.20 per square foot||Local waste management costs|
|Moving furniture/appliances||$20-$150 per room||Number, weight and delicacy of pieces|
|Appliance connections||$15-$30 per appliance||Type (electric or gas), weight|
Saving Money on Hardwood Flooring Installation Costs
If you’re planning a home and want to reduce all future flooring installation costs, create a floor plan with open spaces and larger rooms. While some might prefer an open floor plan anyway, it’s probably not worth making design changes if you’ve got other ideas for your home.
In existing homes, the easiest ways to reduce your outlay is to remove any old flooring yourself. If you do, take care to wear protection for hands, knees and eyes. If the work is dusty, don a dust mask too.
Homeowners save the most money by getting written estimates from several flooring contractors that know they are competing for the work. When you do this, keep in mind the importance of proper installation.
Work badly done will reduce the looks and performance of the flooring and might ultimately cost you more money than you save. Therefore, as you evaluate estimates, consider the experience of the contractor and the crew that will do the work, not just its cost.
It is worth paying a bit more to get a crew with proven workmanship and the higher compensation that goes along with quality installation.