Hardwood flooring
May 18, 2005 5:21 PM   Subscribe

I have a friend who wants to buy a sweet (and cheap!) fixer-upper in an up-and-coming section of Philadelphia. Thing is, she'll need to do a lot of work to renovate it, including putting in new floors...

She's got family who've agreed to help with the work, so that'll save on labor. What are good-quality hardwood flooring options, the amount and skill-level of labor involved, and rough pricing? She's interested in the gamut: from Ikea flooring kits to the real stuff. Thanks!
posted by AlexReynolds to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
Best answer: Don't go with Ikea flooring. From what little I've seen of it in-store, it's very shoddily constructed; laminate is supposed to fit together nice and tight. The, er, puzzle-piece connector bits don't seem to fit together all that well.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:34 PM on May 18, 2005

Oh, and that said, definitely go with laminate. Up here at least (we're re-flooring our office), most laminate comes with a 25yr warranty, and it's indestructible as hell.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:35 PM on May 18, 2005

Best answer: I'm sure the commercial quality laminate is great stuff - but I am personally quite concerned over the amount of plastics that are outgassing into our environment. I'm not a chemically-sensitive freak, but I do pay attention to those endocrine-imitating chemicals that outgas from nearly every petro-chemically based substance (carpet is not immune).
All of that said, a sustainable option is to use recycled flooring - there are many places in this country that salvage reusable material from old buildings that are being torn down. We used some great vertical grain fir flooring that we tore out of two old houses, and it "matches" the vintage of our house. The cost to us was .70/ sq ft, (plus our labor to strip it and lay it), then we paid 1.00/sq ft to have it professionally sanded/finished. I've also seen oak and wide-plank flooring available too.
For the kitchen, look into genuine linoleum. It is not as easy to lay as vinyl, but is made (sustainably) from resin and wood products, and is amazingly durable. Cork flooring is another durable, natural product that looks great and is easy on the feet.
posted by dbmcd at 5:57 PM on May 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Personally, when I was house shopping I walked out of places that had laminate floors. In my opinion they look extremely "fake."

My advice is to spend the extra money now -- it is, after all, an investment that you will enjoy.

With that said, I absolutely love genuine linoleum, especially in kitchens. It ends up being very durable and great looking.
posted by hummus at 6:27 PM on May 18, 2005

Best answer: Order bamboo flooring from Bamboo Direct. It's likely the least-expensive, highest-quality flooring you'll ever encounter.

It satisfies all your requirements: inexpensive, renewable resource, low-VOC glues, 25 yr warranty, harder than maple, easy to install. You will need a small compressor and a flooring stapler; combi kits suitable for one-off DIY are going for a few hundred dollars these days.

Installation is so easy, a brain-damaged monkey can do it. I present my own installation effort as an example: I've never installed hardwood flooring before, and it came out flawlessly.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:48 PM on May 18, 2005

Best answer: I second hummus's advice. I put laminate in my family room and have regretted it ever since. It costed about $1800 for a 15 x 17 room (installed... back then it required glue and the warranty didn't apply for self-installations).
posted by Doohickie at 7:12 PM on May 18, 2005

Is it at 12th and Green? 'Cause it's down the street from me, it's up and coming, and I saw a woman talking to realtor about it a couple days ago.
posted by Netzapper at 7:29 PM on May 18, 2005

Best answer: are you talking about new floors, or new floor coverings? most people above seem to be describing coverings - they need to be placed on top of an existing floor (typically concrete or pine boards).

if it's a completely new floor, i'd consider concrete, dyed and polished, or pine boards, sanded and varnished. the recycled stuff described above sounds good too. you could use new hardwood planks, but i would guess it's very expensive.

if you go with concrete, get expert advice to try and avoid cracks later.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:31 PM on May 18, 2005

Best answer: If it's new floors, I'd consider Marmoleum or really old-fashioned linoleum. It's not just for kitchens anymore.
posted by jeanmari at 7:39 PM on May 18, 2005

Best answer: At least where I live (Chicago) hardwood floor laying & refinishing is one of those home improvement areas where the cost difference between DIY and professionals is pretty low. When I did it last it was about a $1.50 premium per sq foot for having them do everything. It's a DIY-able project, but the tools you have to rent and/or buy may make professionals competitive.

Uninstalled (around here) Hardwood floors usually go from $1.00 per sq ft for crappy grade white oak, up through red oak, and then on through cherry, maple, etc. Within a given wood species more expensive options will have longer boards with fewer knots. You may want the cheaper boards, as they have more "character". Depends on the look you are going for.

Reclaimed or recycled floors are great if you can find them - the quality is much better than today (longer boards, etc.) You'll have double the labor since you have to pull them up, but I'd do it myself - especially if its an older home.
posted by true at 7:59 PM on May 18, 2005

Best answer: Hardwood is the only way to go.

Look, a 25 year warranty is nice and all, but even if you expect the floor to fail in twice that amount of time, that's not old in terms of housing. I've been in homes with hardwood floors that are hundreds of years old. Hardwood floors have proved that they can stand the test of time. Spend a little more upfront and never have to worry about them ever again.

I'd also recommend installing them yourself if you want to save cash. It's not terribly difficult, and you can rent the pneumatic flooring stapler at just about any home/hardware store. Installation can be done by the do-it-yourself'er with only a minimal amount of instruction. Here is an example so you'll see what you're in for.

The only part of the installation that really requires a professional is the surfacing. The techniques involved in using a floor sander are not intuitive and can cause ugly scratches and uneven floor surfaces.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:16 PM on May 18, 2005

Bamboo is fine, but Lyptus hardwood flooring is another renewable alternative, extremely hard and long-wearing, also.
posted by Araucaria at 9:11 AM on May 19, 2005

Does the house really need new floors? It is amazing what can be done with old floors sometimes, between sanding them down, patching a few places, and learning to appreciate the imperfections as part of the historic character of a home. (When I see an immaculate gleaming hardwood floor in a historic house it always seems jarring and out of place.) She could rent a big sander for a weekend (I hear the newer ones have awesomely better dust collection than in the past), sand down part of one room, and wet it down with paint thinner to get a pretty accurate idea of how it will look refinished.

If you go this route, there are tons of places where folks discuss floor refinishing, including the Finishing and Refinishing forum at Wood magazine.
posted by LarryC at 1:43 PM on May 19, 2005

Second LarryC. Here is some more info on DIY Flooring.
posted by mlis at 10:42 AM on May 20, 2005

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