Is installing hardwood floors a do-it-yourself job?

Do-It-Yourself Hardwood Floors

by Dollar Stretcher Contributors

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Do-It-Yourself Hardwood Floors?

We just bought a foreclosure. It's in pretty good shape except the floors. My wife would like to install hardwood, but our budget is limited. I have some do-it-yourself experience. Are wood floors a good DIY project? Or could I be getting in over my head?

Do You Have the Patience?

Doing your own hardwood floors is a definite possibility if you have the patience to do a precision job. You have two options. The first is purchasing pre-finished hardwood floor pieces from a place like Lumber Liquidators, which usually has closeouts at a lower price than big box or flooring stores, and installing it yourself. The advantage is that the finish is already applied, and in general, the pieces are more carefully measured (and hence more easily aligned). You would save the installation fees of up to $5 per square foot, but may have to pay from $2.50 to $4 per square to get first quality grade flooring. You can also elect to go with standard "click" flooring, but the difficulty with that is going to be that there is no ability to repair it or sand the finish off in the event of damage, so I would recommend solid hardwood flooring as a better choice.

The other option, which requires you to be much more patient and a good woodworker, is to find seconds of hardwood flooring, either at a store like Habitat ReStore (where a remodeler has removed it) or at a flooring house that purchases this to sell for lower cost. My friends and I have found it for as little as $0.50 per square foot. Now, here's the bad news. The pieces will not be finished, and you would have to spend considerable time and patience choosing similar sizes and fitting them together to produce a professional result. This is what we chose to do, since we had 1,800 square feet to floor, and didn't want a shiny polyurethane finish. Once we were done, we stained and sealed our flooring with tung oil, so that we could repair just small portions of the floor any time the dogs' nails "attacked" it. Doing so took a lot of time with mental health breaks, as needed, but we constantly get compliments on our floors and saved well over $4,000.

This Is Something You Can Do!

Check under any carpet to see if you have salvageable wood floors there. When we bought our home, granted not a foreclosure, the entire place was carpet over wood (save the kitchen, bathroom, and addition). We rented a floor sander for two weekends, and my husband carefully sanded down the floors, using three different grit sandpaper. We then stained the floors and sealed them.

This Old House and Lowes have some pretty comprehensive how-to videos. My husband watched them prior to jumping into the floor re-finishing.

If you go for a flooring that interlocks with tongues and grooves, it looks like the trickiest part is double and triple checking your measurements, and putting the very last row in. With the wide range of products available, this is something you could do.

Should I use a HELOC for home remodeling and repairs?

Do-It-Yourself Hardwood Floors Alternative

We did a DIY project in two different additions to our home that did not have the original hardwood floors like the rest of the house.

Our subfloor was solid wood in very good shape. We laid 1/4" nice grained plywood that was finished well on one side. We just measured and installed all the full sheets like a puzzle and then filled in everywhere else with pieces to fit the space. We used nails to secure. The home store cut all the sheets necessary to our specifications.

After all the sheets were installed, I stained them with nice rich stain. Then I used permanent Sharpie marker with a fairly wide tip. I used a plank the size I wanted for the floor and used the sharpie to mark the entire floor with planks. Then I applied three to four coats of satin polyurethane to finish. The floors have been in use for over five years and still look great! My brother (an architect) had to get down and touch the floors before he would believe it was not installed wide plank floors. The cost was about an eighth of professionally installed laminate.

Reviewed May 2017

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