Doing It Yourself: Installing Hardwood Floors On A Budget


I’m a low-income parent with no real budget for replacing my carpets with floor, but I’m going to give it a try.

What’s the least expensive wood I should look for while still getting floors that can withstand children’s hard play and occasional spills?

Including installation, what’s the low and high range I should expect to pay?




Dear Nadine

Why don’t you try this rather novel approach, it involves doing some of the work yourself, but hiring the pros when they are needed.

You should be able to find some unfinished red or white oak flooring in the 2 1/4″ or 3 1/4″ size, by 3/4″ thick, for about $3.50 to $4.50 per square foot. You can install this sort of material yourself if you have some carpentry skills. Or you can hire a hardwood floor installer to NAIL down the floor (no staples please) for about $2.00- $2.50 per square foot. Check out the article available in the search box at the top of this web page that deals with hiring contractors, and follow what it says, please. There are other articles in that section that talk about strip and plank floor, be sure and read these too.

Try to buy the material from a hardwood floor wholesaler, not a carpet and flooring boutique. Ask for the wholesale price, by bringing along a carpenter or contractor friend, with a company business card.

Then by all, means have a pro sand the floor only. This should cost no more than one dollar per square foot. But beware of hiring the cheapest guy for this job, a bad sanding job can really create a awful looking floor.

Now, don’t have them finish the floor, just have them sand it at least 3 times down to 100 grit sandpaper. In some cases that company will be willing to skim on the first coat of polyurethane with a drywall trowel. This is what I do for my customers. Use no cheap lacquer sealers as the first coat, read about this in the article available in the search box at the top of this web page.

Let the first skim coat dry 24 hours, then simply scuff sand the floor with left over floor sanding paper and clean and apply one BRUSHED on coat of poly, allow a few days for this to dry and do the same for the last and third coat.

Use a satin finish, and you won’t see the scratches much, and any mistakes you may have made coating the floor. It’s not rocket science anyone can be coached through finishing a floor. I know, I’ve done this sort of job for many clients in my many years in the business, with great results.

I’ll have to give you more detail on the installation and finishing if you wish to do it this way, but this is a broad outline.

The total cost should come to about $8 per square foot, if it is professionally installed, and sanded but you do the finish yourself. Or only $6 per foot if you want to install the floor yourself. And believe me installing an unfinished floor is Much, Much easier than installing the prefinished variety. And, you will have a smoother better looking floor, that you will know how to care for yourself. After all that you will be the floor finish expert.

Otherwise the prefinished floors will cost $5-7 per square foot with a $3 installation charge plus all taxes. Bringing this total to $9-11 per sq. ft.