Home flooring takes a beating every day while tasked with a monumental responsibility: setting the design tone for your entire house. The picture-perfect pages of your Pottery Barn catalog don’t reflect the pet shedding settled deep into your living room carpet fibers or the normal wear-and-tear of your wood floors.
You can bet, though, that buyers who come through your house for showings have those magazine images in mind. They not only want floors in good condition, but materials that match the purpose of each room and look like a million bucks.
“Flooring, in my opinion, is always a low-cost expense, yet you get a higher return on your investment,” said Leighann Russell, a real estate agent in the Atlanta area who’s got 329 transactions under her belt to date.
“So, if your carpet needs to be replaced, you can spend a few thousand dollars, especially if you have pets, and it goes a long way.”
We did all the ROI research around different types of floors and found out out what’s trending (spoiler: hardwood’s still king), plus talked to an interior designer with 30 years of experience who has her own line of hardwood flooring.
So the short answer to “does new flooring increase home value?” is yes—if you’re smart about your selections. The right upgrades also make your house move faster on the market. Follow these 5 pro tips to get the most out of this wise home investment.
1. Go with hardwood flooring to get the biggest bang for your buck at resale
Sometimes you can’t beat a classic. And when it comes to homes and the type of flooring buyers love, hardwood floors have stood the test of time.
Throughout the 18th century, wood floors evolved from bare lumber, to checkerboard or geometric painted planks to match the ornamental interior design of the times. In the late 1800s, the polished hardwood floors so popular in American homes today started being produced in mass.
Now, any buyer who walks into a home will no doubt gush over the gorgeous hardwood floors if your home can offer it.
54% of home buyers are willing to pay more for hardwood floors when buying a house—about $2,080 extra, according to data from the National Association of Realtors.
And showing that hardwood floors aren’t just popular among luxury home buyers, a 2017 study from the National Association of Home Builders found that 87% percent of buyers in the $100,000 to $149,999 price range want hardwood flooring.
Both timeless and versatile, hardwood is also more durable over the long haul than carpet, which ideally should be replaced about every 10 years. Recoating hardwood floors every three to five years or refinishing them every 8 to 10 years can make them last for the long haul.
What should you expect to pay for the total package that is hardwood flooring?
Installing about 300 square feet of prefinished hardwood flooring costs an average of about $2,700 to $3,800 nationwide, including materials and labor. (By comparison, installing the same amount of carpeting costs a national average of about $1,300 to $1,800.)
Prices vary by location and company, of course. The best way to find out how much the job would cost you is to collect a few estimates from local contractors.
But to get a range for your area, Porch (which has data on over half a million projects) provides this Hardwood Floor Install Cost Calculator that gives you a price range customized to your ZIP code.
How do the different types of hardwood vary in cost?
Even among wood floors, there are different cuts, degrees of thickness, and wood types that affect price:
- Stained red oak
The most common wood-strip flooring nationwide, stained red oak costs about $3.30 per square foot.
- Black cherry
Black cherry, which has a natural cinnamon tint that darkens with age, costs about $4.90 per square foot.
- Rusty-hued heart pine
Popular in Southern homes since colonial days, rusty-hued heart pine falls in between at about $4 per square foot.
- White ash
Lighter in color but sturdier, white ash costs about $5.60 per square foot.
2. You can do wood—and floors that mimic the look—on a budget
If you love the look of hardwood but need to upgrade your flooring on a budget, you’ve got various options at your disposal.
Carpets and vibrant rugs remain popular, and eco-friendly and organic materials and innovative designs mean that homeowners have more flooring choices than ever.
- Vinyl: Versatile but not as durable
Long-inexpensive sheet vinyl flooring comes in a range of contemporary designs like faux hexagon marble mosaic tile, porcelain, and even stained and distressed reclaimed wood. Although it won’t boost your home’s value as well as true wood flooring because it’s not as durable, sheets of vinyl flooring only cost from $0.75 to $4 per square foot, plus installation, and can last from 10-20 years. Vinyl planks and tiles cost about $5 per square foot, but homeowners typically can install those themselves.
- Linoleum for the long haul
Linoleum is another long-wearing yet versatile option, running about $4 to $6 per square foot for sheets and tiles, and about $7 to $9 for click-together pieces, plus installation.It’s made from renewable materials, recyclable, and naturally antistatic and antimicrobial, although not waterproof. It also needs resealing every five years or so. Installing about 300 square feet costs an average of about $1,100 to $1,400 nationwide.
- Pick hardwood with personality
Hardwood flooring also comes in different “grades” which refers to the specific characteristics of the material. Wood is naturally occuring in nature, after all, and bound to have some character! Some lumber yards advertise cheaper oak flooring, with more variation in color, knots, and streaks. You can get “rustic” or “utility” grade wood with more blemishes and imperfections—or some might say personality—for a bargain. In the right space, sheets of 2×4-foot plywood that are stained and sealed as floor planks can produce a rustic look for a fraction of the price, about $0.70 per square foot.
- Grab a paintbrush for a fast makeover
Other budget-friendly options for new flooring include carpet tiles, which cost under $2 per square foot in a variety of shades and designs; and painting the floor. Yes, paint can cover wood, cement, tile, or linoleum floors that have seen better days, and there are specialty products that make the prep and finish beautiful. Nationwide, the average cost of painting 300 square feet of floor ranges from about $400 to $900. Get inspired by these 22 painted floor designs from Home Flooring Pros, which offers in-depth consumer guides on home flooring.
3. Pick floors that make sense for the room’s everyday traffic
Looks matter when it comes to floors, but so does basic everyday use.
However, solid wood flooring is a poor choice for a basement, where high humidity can warp the wood. (An engineered wood floor is more stable).
Because of humidity and water, a solid wood floor also is a poor choice for bathrooms. (Check out this guide from the National Wood Flooring Association for more tips about choosing types of wood flooring and finishes.)
The flooring’s foundation also will influence your budget and flooring choice. For instance, if you rip out carpeting to find concrete or tile underneath, your new flooring needs to be a click-together floating option or flooring that can be glued down—nothing that requires nails.
4. Choose colors with wide appeal that fit your home’s style
Russell said she’s noticed that a lot of buyers tend to want “tile in the bathrooms; hardwoods in the main” part of the house—but that doesn’t mean you’re limited to the shade of brown.
For hardwood floors, some color palettes and textures expected to be popular in 2019 are neutrals derived from nature, said Emily Morrow Finkell, a Georgia interior designer with 30 years of experience who sells hardwood floors through the Emily Morrow Home Collection.
- Dark charcoal black that results in a matte, velvety appearance
- Rich brown, especially in walnut hardwoods
- Bermuda stone gray, a go-to backdrop that bridges other colors and design styles easily
- Off-white similar to French limestone
- Matte off-white similar to gesso and plaster
Interior design junkies: keep an eye on these trends. And for sellers, find something that’s en vogue but also fits with your house and appeals to a wide range of buyers.
Russell added that buyers like flooring with gray and brown tones because of the upkeep factor. “People aren’t going as dark because it shows everything,” she said.
5. Be mindful of the flow between rooms
If you do choose to replace your floors to boost your home’s value, be sure to keep an eye on the big picture—how well the flooring flows from room to room. Buyers don’t like any floors that meet in a patchwork of colors and finishes.
A professional flooring company will look at your home’s floor plan to check that each transition between rooms looks right—which with hardwood, for instance, might involve sanding and refinishing surfaces so that they’re level and the color matches well.
“You definitely don’t want to walk into the foyer that’s a cherry color, and then your dining room and your living room off to the left and the right are three shades lighter,” Russell said. “You want to match it to what you already have as best as you can so that you get that flow feeling when the buyer first walks in the door.”
Invest in flooring as the ‘canvas’ of the home
As Morrow Finkell describes on her website:
“Home interior design begins with the floor. The floor is your blank canvas and it determines every design decision you’ll make once it’s down.”
Not every home buyer is a design aficionado, but regardless, your floors are one of the first things they’ll comment on when they walk into your home because it sets the whole tone. Choose your materials based on durability and style, and it will be an investment you won’t regret.