Hardwood Installation: Compare DIY vs. Hiring a Professional

Hardwood installation is a great choice. The next big decision is: are you going for DIY hardwood flooring or will you hire a professional?

Here are some things to think about when it comes to deciding which option is best for you: cost, time, tools, level of difficulty and convenience.
COST OF HARDWOOD INSTALLATION

For many homeowners, do it yourself hardwood flooring comes down to cost. In most cases it’s more expensive to hire a professional contractor to install your floors but there are factors to consider other than just the overall price.

 

First, many contractors get much better deals on hardwood flooring materials from suppliers and manufacturers. You may find that the cost to buy materials yourself and the cost for tools isn’t that much different to what a contractor would charge you. Then, if you factor in the possibility that you make costly mistakes it might be worth going with to use an experienced installer instead (if you are not confident that you will not make those mistakes).
TIME FOR HARDWOOD INSTALLATION

From start to finish, hardwood floor installation can be long and tedious with many steps. If you’re going to do it you want to do it right! This is an investment and you’ll be looking at it day after day for years to come.

It can take many hours to prep your subsubfloor, lay underlay, set out your boards, cut and scribe them where necessary, lay the floor and make the all important finishing touches. For unfinished installations there is sanding and finishing to do as well. So, if you do not have a fair amount of time to devote to the hardwood installation project you might want to hire a contractor instead of attempting a DIY job.
TOOLS FOR HARDWOOD INSTALLATION

While most of the tools you will need to install hardwood are probably already in your garage (or cheap and easy to buy at the hardware store) there are some tools, like a hardwood floor nailer or sander, that can be costly to buy or rent.

If you are not going to use those tools again or a not confident in how to use them, it may be wiser to choose a professional to install your hardwood floor.
LEVEL OF HARDWOOD INSTALLATION DIFFICULTY

These days, with prefinished and engineered hardwood flooring options on the market, installing a simple hardwood floor yourself is less difficult than ever before. Some manufacturers even rate their products on DIY hardwood flooring level so you can choose the best product for your experience. It’s becoming more and more common for people to install their own laminate floors.

 

A simple laminate is incomparable to a solid, site-finished hardwood floor but you may not care about top quality for certain types of installations. If you are renovating a rental property you might just want a decent looking, low-maintenance, low-cost floor option – laminate flooring might be a good choice.

You will need to bear in mind that if you go for detailing like inlays or borders or you want a particularly technical finish on your hardwood floor, like pickling or antiquing, it’s best left to someone with experience! Unless of course you like a good challenge.

You also might look to get help if you need to install hardwood floors in more tricky rooms with lots of closets or a strange shape, on stairs, or on a subsurface that is less than ideal.
CONVENIENCE OF HARDWOOD INSTALLATION

Let us face it – most of us have busy lives with work, family, social lives and other commitments. If you choose to install hardwood flooring yourself, you will have to set aside at least a weekend for the job even for the easiest of installations. If you do not have the time for that, it is probably just more convenient to pay for someone else’s time. Not to mention that time is money! If you can be using your time to make money – maybe you have to take time from work for the flooring project – you can weigh the financial implications.
How to Choose a Hardwood Flooring Contractor

If you have weighed the cost, effort, time and difficulty of hardwood installation in your home and decided that it is best for you to get a professional, then the next question is to decide who to use.

One of the best ways to choose a hardwood installation contractor is to get word of mouth recommendations from people you know who have used a particular flooring contractor. You can also see the results first hand if you opt for this route. Online reviews can also be helpful. See the ‘Reviews’ section of this website to get the scoop on retailers and manufacturers before you buy.

Get estimates from local contractors and compare. You can have several contractors in your area visit your home, assess your needs, and a quote on the same products and the same installation. That way, you can ‘compare apples with apples’ and choose the contractors who provide you with the best value for money.

This means getting to know a bit about what you want first. Check out the ‘Types of Wood’ and ‘Types of Flooring’ pages to see what’s on the market.

Some of the questions you could ask to an installer:

  • What types of floors do you install usually?
  • Have you done this type of installation before?
  • What was the last project you completed?
  • How long have you been installing floors for?
  • Are there any potential problems with this installation?
    Look for honesty here. Point out anything you think they should be mentioning if they don’t and judge the confidence and detail in their response.
  • When could you start and how long would this project take?
    Some (good) installers are booked up months in advance. Think ahead and don’t expect immediate action.
  • What do you need from me to get started – is there a deposit?
    To order the wood the installer is making a financial investment and may require funds from you in case you decided not to follow through. This shouldn’t be paid on the first visit for the estimate though.
  • Do you provide any type of guarantee?
    The answer is most likely no but they should take some responsibility for their work and warn you about and possible pitfalls with your particular floor.

You could ask contractors for contactable references and ask that they provide you with pictures of their past installations. Seeing these first hand should give you a good idea of what they offer. You could call a few of their past clients too.

Remember that it is not only the price that matters! A cheaper quote could indicate someone just wanting to get the job, who doesn’t care too much about quality. Good installers are probably not the cheapest – I can vouch for that. Quality products and installation do cost a bit more and good installers won’t undervalue themselves.

Quality is important when you install hardwood flooring since the floor will be with you, under your feet and part of your decor for many years to come. It’s also an investment if you ever want to sell your home. With a good background knowledge from this site you should be able to find a good contractor who will install hardwood flooring in your home at a reasonable rate, and do a great job!

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