Installation Economics

Installation Economics

Bargain hunting for flooring installation can cost more in the long run

Q. I thought I was getting a great deal on the prefinished, FSC-certified hardwood floor I want to put in my family room and kitchen, until the salesperson figured in installation. This added about $3 per square foot to the total, and the space is about 700 square feet.

In today’s economy, combined with the fact that I waited for the slow winter months, I thought I could do better, but I have now checked with three different contractors with very little difference.  With the number of people out there who are in need of work, would it make sense for me to keep shopping?

A. What you should be asking is what the experience level of the installer is, and what type of warranty you will get on the work. You are correct that in this economy, fewer installations are being done, and installers need the work.  But what this also means is that the most experienced installers should be available to do the work.

There are many keys to installing a wood floor correctly. They include checking for correct moisture levels in the subfloor and flooring, leaving recommended expansion space, proper underlayment installation if you’ve chosen an engineered floor, correct positioning of the flooring in relation to the joists and proper nail/cleat length and spacing, if they are nailing versus gluing,  the floor down.

Having all of these things done properly – and guaranteed by the contractor — for $3 a square foot is reasonable. Not having to worry that the floor will contract or expand excessively, or move and creak when walked on, are just a few of the benefits.

Installation costs vary by geographical region and with size and other considerations of the job, but the national average for prefinished hardwood is about $3 a square foot. In checking with some of our members, we found a range of $2.50 to $4 per square foot.

All flooring, from cork to carpet, benefits from being installed by someone who has the experience to know the traits of each floor and how to install them in a manner that prevents future problems. This experience is critical to how your floor will perform over time. And it might not be what you get from the lowest bidder.©

— Nancy Kibbee is editor at www.naturalinteriors.com

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