Installing new flooring is one of the most difficult and costly home decorating projects. For a 500-square-foot-room, most homeowners pay $1,500 to $4,500 for materials and installation. If you need to remove and replace old floors, the cost is even higher.
But if you don’t have thousands of dollars to drop on new flooring, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with your cruddy old floors for life. There are plenty of ways to get the floor you want for a lower price. It just requires a little ingenuity and effort.
How to Save Money on Flooring
Any flooring project has two primary costs: materials and installation. There are more ways to save money on materials since you have lots of options for what to buy and where to buy it. But there are strategies to save money on installation costs too.
1. Repair Minor Issues
First, consider whether you need to replace your flooring at all. In many cases, you can make your old floors look like new at a much lower cost.
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Some options for sprucing up your existing flooring include:
- Refinishing Hardwood Floors. Even if you have to hire a professional to do it, refinishing can be cheaper than replacing. You can have old floors sanded, stained, and finished with several coats of varnish for $2 to $8 per square foot.
- Paint or Varnish Wood Floors. If you can’t afford to have hardwood floors fully refinished, you can refurbish them with a coat of paint, varnish, or whitewash. It costs as little as $1 to $4 per foot. And it won’t stop you from refinishing the floors later.
- Painting or Staining Concrete Floors. You can make a bare concrete floor more presentable by painting or staining the concrete. You can give it a different color, a pattern, or a coat of sealer for shine. You can pay $2 to $4 per square foot to hire a pro or DIY for under $1 per foot.
- Fixing Grout. Tile is very durable, but the grout that goes between tiles wears out faster. Sometimes, deep-cleaning the grout is enough to make old tile floors look like new. If that doesn’t do it, you can add a new layer of grout for $2 to $5 per square foot.
- Adding a Rug. The quickest, easiest way to spruce up dingy floors is to throw a nice area rug on top of them. An 8-by-10-foot rug costs just a few hundred dollars — much less than a whole new floor.
2. Choose Less Expensive Materials
If your old floors are too far gone to save, that doesn’t mean your only option is to rip them out and install pricey exotic hardwood or high-end tile. You may be able to get the look you want for less with a different type of flooring.
For instance, laminate flooring, luxury vinyl tile, or vinyl plank flooring can give you the look of wood floors for less than solid hardwood. Laminate and luxury vinyl can also mimic the look of other materials, such as tile, stone, or brick.
And even within the same flooring types, some materials are much cheaper than others. For instance, costs for hardwood flooring range from $3 to $14 per square foot. Carpeting can cost $1 to $7 per foot, and tile covers a huge range — anywhere from $1 to $25.
However, when choosing flooring options, there’s often a trade-off between flooring cost and durability. For instance, low-cost olefin carpeting doesn’t hold up as well as wool. If you use it in a high-traffic area, you’ll need to replace it much sooner. That makes it a poor long-term value.
To get the best value, stick to flooring options suitable for your space. For instance, avoid laminate and wood floors in moist environments like bathrooms and basements. And hard, durable tile is good for bathrooms but uncomfortable for bedrooms.
If you might need to sell your home soon, it’s also worth thinking about resale value. For example, hardwood floors cost more than carpet, but they pay off when you sell the home.
3. Shop Around
Once you know what general type of flooring you want, shop around for the best deal. Visit lots of different retailers and look at multiple choices before you decide. Consider all the options since minor differences in color or pattern can make a big difference in price.
As you compare prices, factor in costs for shipping or delivery. Two stores can offer the same tile for the same price, but the cost after shipping can be nearly twice as high at one store compared to the other.
Once you’ve narrowed down your flooring options, buy small samples of the ones you like best to take home with you. That lets you see them in your space, with your decor and lighting.
A given shade of carpet or tile can look very different in your home than it does in the showroom. Spending a few bucks ahead of time on a sample can save you from spending hundreds or thousands on a flooring project you won’t be happy with.
4. Reuse Materials
As you’re comparing flooring products, don’t overlook materials you already have in your home. Check your attic, basement, and storage shed for materials left over from other flooring projects.
You might find wood planks from a renovation you did so long ago you’d forgotten all about it. There might even be tile left over from a bathroom remodel done by the previous owner. If there are enough of these remnants to fill your needs, you might not need to buy new flooring material at all.
You can also ask friends and family for their leftover flooring materials. Often, they’re happy to give them away just to get them out of the house.
If no one you know has flooring to spare, try reuse websites. People give away unwanted home improvement materials on sites like Freecycle and the Buy Nothing Project. You can also buy them cheaply on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
Finally, check out local reuse centers like Habitat for Humanity ReStores. Stores like these often carry tile, wood, or sheet vinyl left over from building projects or salvaged from old buildings.
5. Shop at Discount and Overstock Retailers
Another place to look for the best prices on flooring is at discount and overstock retailers. Overstock retailers buy excess flooring materials from manufacturers and sell them to the public, often at costs lower than most retail stores.
- Overstock. This overstock site carries all kinds of flooring, including hardwood, laminate, carpet, vinyl, bamboo, and cork. Check the flooring sale section for extra discounts.
- LL Flooring. Formerly known as Lumber Liquidators, this seller now carries many types of flooring. You can find laminates starting at $1 per square foot, luxury vinyl planks starting at around $2, and solid hardwood for as little as $3.
- Floor & Decor. This online store is one of the best places to find cheap tile. Ceramic tiles start at around $1 per square foot. Along with its wide variety of tile, the site also carries laminate, vinyl, and hardwood.
- BuildDirect. Through this site, professionals and homeowners can find bulk deals on all sorts of home improvement products, including flooring. Check the clearance section for the best prices. All orders on this site must meet a minimum order requirement, which varies by product.
6. Look for Discounted Materials
Special deal sites aren’t the only places to find bargains on flooring. Home improvement centers like Home Depot and Lowe’s often carry discounted flooring materials too, such as:
- Overstocked Inventory. Sometimes, home centers buy more of a flooring product than customers want. They often sell the overstock by the box at clearance prices.
- Discontinued Flooring. Home centers also offer deals on discontinued flooring products. They don’t want these products taking up room in their warehouses, so they unload them at low prices.
- Canceled Orders. Sometimes, customers place an order for flooring and then cancel it. It’s often cheaper for the store to sell it at a discount than to return it to the warehouse.
- Remnants. These are the pieces left over at the end of a large roll of carpet. Home centers and carpeting stores sell them at discounts of up to 90% — a fantastic deal if you don’t need much. However, these pieces usually sell as is, with no warranty.
- Sales. Like any other product, flooring sometimes goes on sale. The best time to buy it is usually mid-winter, when fewer homeowners are doing home improvement projects. You can also find deals on and around Black Friday.
With any kind of special deal, it’s crucial to read the fine print. Sometimes, there’s a minimum or maximum amount associated with the deal. Products may come without a warranty, or there may be restrictions on returns.
7. Negotiate Material Costs
If you can’t find a deal on flooring, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck paying the price on the tag. Often, it’s possible to negotiate a better deal.
One key to negotiating is to give the retailer a reason they should be willing to reduce the price. Some examples include:
- Damaged Goods. Always check flooring materials carefully for minor flaws. If you find any that aren’t deal-breakers for your project, you can ask the seller to knock something off the price.
- Helping a Local Business. One reason to shop local is that smaller businesses are often more willing to negotiate on price. They depend on word of mouth to attract new customers, so they’re eager to send you away happy.
- Bulk Discounts. If you’re buying all your materials from one flooring company, ask if they can take a little something off the price. A discount of 5% to 10% is a reasonable request.
- Paying in Cash. When you use a credit card, the retailer has to pay a merchant fee of up to 3.5%. If you pay in cash instead, that saves them money. So if you can afford to pay cash upfront, ask them for a discount.
- Group Member Discounts. Home improvement retailers offer various discounts for members of certain groups, such as first responders, military members, veterans, teachers, and students. Check to see if your store has any discounts that apply to you.
8. Do It Yourself
Installation can be one of the most expensive parts of a flooring project. For a 500-square-foot room, it can cost anywhere from $500 to $4,500. The price varies based on the type of flooring, the contractor installing it, and the size of the project.
In many cases, you can save money on flooring installation by doing the work yourself. Many types of flooring require only basic DIY skills to install.
In general, floating floors are the easiest to install. This floor type has interlocking boards that sit on top of a foam or cork underlayer rather than being glued or nailed in place. Many modern floating floors have a click-and-lock system that makes installation even easier.
Laminate floors, luxury vinyl tile, and vinyl plank flooring are all reasonable choices for a DIY project. By contrast, installing hardwood floors, ceramic tile, or sheet vinyl is probably a job for a professional. Wall-to-wall carpeting is tricky, but carpet tiles are much easier to handle.
Even if you can’t install your new floors on your own, you may be able to save money by doing part of the job yourself. For instance, you can prep the room by clearing out the furniture, pulling out old flooring, and cleaning the subfloor.
Likewise, once the new flooring is in place, you can take care of the final stages, such as cleaning up or applying sealants. Ask your contractor what parts of the job you can take on yourself to lower your costs.
9. Negotiate With Contractors
If you can’t do the work yourself, you can still negotiate with your contractor to keep the cost down. Ways to get the best price from a flooring contractor include:
- Do Your Flooring Project in Winter. Wintertime is a slow season for home improvement professionals. That means contractors are more willing to offer a good deal.
- Get Multiple Quotes. Always get quotes from at least three contractors, and let them know you’re doing so. That gives them an incentive to offer a lower price to get your business.
- Get the Details. As you get each quote, read it carefully. Make sure you know what’s included, such as moving the furniture out and back and what it adds to the cost. The lowest price may not be the best offer if it covers less work.
- Don’t Name Your Price. When getting bids, don’t tell contractors what your budget is. If you tell them you can pay $3,000 for a job that would typically cost $2,000, that just encourages them to bid higher. Make them name their own price.
- Ask for a Sign Discount. Sometimes, contractors ask to display a yard sign on your property to advertise their services. Tell them you’ll allow this only if it gets you a discount on the price.
- Get a Separate Quote on Materials. Contractors can often get better prices on materials, but they may inflate the cost. So ask for separate quotes on materials and labor. If their materials quote is more than you found, insist on buying them yourself. But if it’s lower, go for it.
Also ask contractors for their credentials: license, insurance, and references from other customers. And take the time to call the references and ensure the contractor did a good job. You can check reviews online too.
That won’t get you a lower price on your flooring project. But it can help you avoid a shoddy job that costs more money to redo.
After you install your new floors, you can save money by maintaining them. The longer you can keep them looking great, the more time it will be before you have to do a flooring project again.
So, check with the contractor or the manufacturer information that came with the flooring. Learn how to clean the floors properly and how often you need to do other maintenance, such as shampooing carpets or sealing hard floors.
Additionally, take some common-sense precautions to protect your new floors. Put down mats at every entrance for wiping dirt and grit from your shoes so they don’t track across the floor. Clean up all spills promptly. And put pads on the legs of furniture pieces so they don’t scratch the floor when moved.
By taking good care of your floors, you can enjoy the rewards of a beautiful new floor as long as possible — and avoid the cost and hassle of replacing them.