If you have carpeting covering up your hardwood floors, consider ripping it up before selling it. And if you don’t have wood floors, installing them might be a smart move.
That’s because most buyers today want them — and they might be more likely to pass up homes with wall-to-wall carpet, said Leslie Piper, a San Francisco-based real-estate agent and Realtor.com’s consumer housing specialist. In fact, she recently helped facilitate a great deal on a home that was overlooked by many people, partially because of its jarring green carpet. The buyers are ripping up the carpet to expose the boards underneath.
What home inspectors don’t tell you
A home inspection should be an objective analysis of the condition of a home that hopefully minimizes surprises or big repair bills for both sides down the line. In reality, it’s one of the most nerve-wracking experiences in the real estate process.
“A majority of home buyers in the marketplace really are looking for, or expecting to find, hardwood floors,” Piper said. As a result, many sellers who have them will point out the feature in the listing details or will make sure any pictures flaunt their floors, she said.
Everyone who grew up in a home with shag carpeting knows hardwood wasn’t always in vogue.
Once upon a time, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development once required wood floors in the homes with mortgages they backed because they contributed to the structural integrity of the home, said Anita Howard, chief operating officer of the National Wood Flooring Association. But in the mid-1960s, the rules were changed, allowing for carpet over a wood subfloor. Carpet was cheaper, and offered a new look customers wanted, she said.
It’s easy to understand why hardwood has emerged as such a strong consumer preference over the last few decades. Homeowners prefer wood flooring for its clean look, Piper said. It also doesn’t trap allergens the way carpeting does. And in the kitchen, wood floors are softer than tile and, therefore, easier to stand on for long periods of time, said Denis Buch, president of Boone Creek Cabinet & Design in McHenry, Ill.
Before proceeding with a job to install or restore wood flooring, it’s important to know your options, weigh their costs and consider your return on investment. And if you’re a home buyer, it pays to know what floors you’ll be dealing with when you take the keys.
True hardwood floors will often cost from $3.50 up to and above $12.95 per square foot, plus installation costs of between $2.75 to $6.75 per square foot, Buch said.
The wider the planks, the more costly the flooring. Also more expensive: refurbished or reclaimed wood, which people often choose for conservation reasons or to achieve a more unique look, said Elizabeth Dodson, co-founder of HomeZada, a website that helps consumers manage and budget for home improvement and maintenance projects.
One big upside to using hardwood floors is that they can be sanded and refinished a number of times, unlike man-made flooring varieties.
When making the investment, pick a classic wood; white oak, hickory and walnut tend to be popular choices, said Chris Sy, vice president of contractor sales and development for Carlisle Wide Plank Floors. Lighter woods that take stains easily are ideal for those who may want to change the look of the floor down the line. Many homeowners today are staining their floors in whitewashes and shades of gray—and these trends are making a home’s floors more of a design element, Sy said.
An engineered wood floor is a composite of several layers of wood; the top layer is a hardwood veneer. It is normally prefinished, unlike most traditional hardwood planks, which can be either prefinished or finished on the job, Buch said.
Considering both materials and labor, you may save $2 to $3 a square foot by using prefinished, engineered wood flooring, Buch said. Another upside: Some varieties can so closely resemble hardwood planks that they’re difficult for even a trained eye to see the difference. Also, engineered wood flooring can often be used in high moisture areas, since it is less likely to warp.
“Engineered floors are an interesting category and are growing rapidly. They used to be really inexpensive and low quality, but the [quality] has improved dramatically,” Sy said.
The downside: You won’t likely be able to refinish engineered wood floors many times, if at all. “Some veneers out there are so thin, they’re not recommended to be sanded,” Buch said. Other floors might be able to withstand one sanding and refinishing, he added.
The economy-priced solution to wood flooring is laminate, which could cost between $1.20 and $3 a square foot for material, plus $1.25 to $1.50 per square foot for installation, Buch said. Laminate isn’t wood at all, it just looks like it.
Laminate may be a good choice for those looking for temporary flooring; perhaps you know you will be replacing all the floors in your home at some point in the future but one room needs the update now. Or laminate might be appropriate if you’re replacing a floor immediately before putting a home up for sale and don’t want to make a huge investment.
A note on restoring existing floors
Refinishing existing wood floors may cost between $2.75 and $4 a square foot, depending on what is chosen for the final finish used to seal the wood, Buch said.
But you also may be paying for a hotel room to stay in while they dry.
“When the final finishes are applied to the floors, the fumes emitted from the finishes, until they flash off, require you to not be in the home for sometimes as long as 36 hours,” Buch said.