Flooring Costs – What to Expect:
Some of the most common questions asked in this business are regarding costs. While each project is different with its own set of challenges there are a few basics that rarely change. Labour costs in North America are highly dependent on location. Most of Canada and the USA share some basic costs regarding products and amounts charged to get the job done. The exceptions appear to be in the major cities; Manhattan being the most peculiar of them all. This article will help the home owner set a simplified budget but should not be considered the final say. Things such as demolition and disposal costs along with subfloor preparation are two expenses that will vary from job to job and each circumstance will present itself with its own costs.
Do-it-Yourself TV shows have driven the public’s thirst for cost cutting self-demolition. The reality is most of us are going to hire-out most if not all of the work required to get the job done. If you believe you can get the job done yourself, remember that some of the most expensive renovations come about because homeowners tried to do the work themselves. There is now an entire sub-industry where contractors come in to salvage the project the DIYer had begun. Many times these fixes are double the cost of the original project simply because the demolition and repurchasing of materials is now added to the original bill.
Cork makes up 1-2% of the floor coverings in North America but it is gaining in popularity once again. This eco-friendly product comes in two formats: Glue down tiles and Floating floors. The USA has a lust after glue in place cork whereas Canada seems to have fallen in love with the easy way the floating floors are put together. Each option has its strengths. Each has a cost factor associated with the product.
Glue Down Cork Tiles: $2.25 - $10/sf materials + $5-$12/sf installation costs
Floating Floor Planks: $2.25 - $10/sf materials + $2-$4/sf installation
Cost conscious Canadians who are interested in an easy project are quick to spot a bargain, naturally tend towards the floating cork floor. The cost of installing a cork floating floor is equal to installing laminate flooring. The US consumer seems disturbed by click-together floors and is drawn towards the safety of the glue down format regardless of the higher installation costs associated with the labour intensive installation.
Once considered the #1 floor covering, carpet is falling out of favour due to indoor air quality and allergens. Carpet still makes up 10-15% of flooring purchases but its day seems to be fading to twilight. Carpet installation is rarely considered a do-it-yourself project so cost of product and materials is always part of the project.
Mid-grade Wool with under pad and Labour: $5-$10/sf
High-end Carpet and Pad + labour: $10 – $12/sf
The easiest and most user friendly installation is to be found with laminate flooring. It comes in many grades and is purpose built for ease of installation. Subfloor preparation is often more than most homeowners are able to work out for themselves as these floors require flat or very flat subfloors. Floor height variations or wavy subfloors will cause problems with these floors and most homeowners are unaware of the specifications. The drawback with laminate floors is they are often loud, cold and can be damaged by moisture vapour and standing water alike. A bouncing, clicking laminate floor is the sign of a poorly installed floor with low-end underlay.
Laminate Flooring: $1-$3/sf with labour costing $1.50 - $3/sf to install
Underlayment is required: $0.20/sf - $3.50/sf
Stone and Tile:
Stone tiled floors are used to increase the value of a home, to enhance the natural beauty of the space or to take the extra wear and tear at entrances. Natural stone products have initial costs of materials and installation as well as yearly maintenance costs associated with sealing and resealing the stone. Stone is a porous material that must be sealed to maintain its physical beauty and its physical integrity. Homeowners should be aware of the chemicals involved with maintenance and ascertain if this is an appropriate product for their home.
Ceramic and porcelain tiles are man-made materials that have relatively little in the way of yearly maintenance costs and are on the whole much easier to install that stone. Porcelain tiles are notorious for requiring extremely flat subfloors and almost always require more preparation (read: costs) than originally anticipated by both the installer and the homeowner. The durability of porcelain is not to be denied. It is beautiful and well equipped to take all but the worst abuse.
Stone Tiles: $5-$20 for materials + $9-$25/sf installation costs
Stone Mosaic: Labour costs can rise to $100/sf for hand laid mosaic floors
Ceramic and Porcelain: $3-$12/sf with labour running at $8-$10/sf
Still considered the king of floor coverings the solid hardwood industry is suffering due to the advent of engineered hardwood flooring. Solid hardwood is still the most sought after floor finish. It is also on the decline because of engineered hardwood taking over a large amount of business. Solid hardwood should never be confused with engineered hardwood as the two are very different in application, durability and longevity. Janka Hardness ratings are often used in the hardwood flooring industry to rank how durable a hardwood floor will be against dents. Engineered hardwoods do not follow these rankings because the middle layer or core is often made up of much softer, less expensive wood which removes all inherent dent resistance in the species chosen.Solid Hardwood: $3 - $15/sf materials + $3-$5/sf labour (depending on install method)
Engineered Hardwood: $2 - $15/sf materials + $2-$4/sf installation costs
Refinishing Costs: $3-$5/sf which includes the cost of the stain
Subfloor Preparation and Extra Costs:
A floor is only as good as the substrate underneath. Subfloor preparation is essential to maintain warranty and to provide a long lasting floor covering. Many homeowners try to cut costs on demolition so they will go about removing old flooring themselves. In many cases this has led to more repairs required by the flooring professional because of the damage sustained by the subfloor. Some flooring removals are straight forward and others are time consuming with plenty of sweat equity. When having your flooring professional offer a quote, ask them what they would charge to remove the old floor and how long it would take them to do so. Now assume you will take double or triple the amount of time to do the same job. If the flooring professional can remove your old floor in an afternoon you can assume it will take you all day and possibly part of the next day to do the same work. Sheer repetition makes a flooring professional faster than any homeowner.
Demolition and Disposal: $1/sf to remove the old floor and haul it away (very common rate)
New Plywood for Subfloor: $1.60 - $2.50/sf including labour and ½ plywood
Cement Backer board and leveling compound: $1.50 - $2.50/sf
Asbestos and Building Materials:
Every homeowner needs to be aware of asbestos in building materials. Asbestos was widely used in the flooring industry (and many other building material industries) until the mid-80’s. Any buildings or renovations completed in the 80’s will need special attention. Before beginning any demolition project, it is always best to find out if any of the materials contain asbestos. Popcorn ceilings, vinyl tiles and cut back adhesives often contained asbestos. If you are in doubt as to your home’s contents it is always best to consult a professional asbestos abatement team to come in and have a look. Asbestos is a material that is normally inert or harmless unless disturbed. As a homeowner you have a legal responsibility to dispose of any suspicious materials in the correct manner should you choose to remove the contaminated material.