The question I hear most frequently is..."What is this going to cost?” I’m in and out of peoples’ homes all the time to give them flooring estimates. Here’s the reality: home improvements can be an exciting and new adventure, but they come with a price tag. And to do it right, the price tag is often going to be higher than you’d expect. A responsible homeowner should be asking, “How do I know that I need this? Is it worth what it is going to set me back?” Over the next few minutes I hope to provide some insight about how you can evaluate your flooring options and help answer that all-important question… “What is the cost?"
Cost is Not the Same as Price…This may sound counter intuitive to some of you, but for others it's a familiar idea. When I'm talking about cost I'm talking about the long term. How does this decision affect me over the next 10 to 20 years? Let me use a hypothetical example…
Let’s say you have a hardwood flooring project. You reach out to two flooring contractors and get two quotes. The first quote is from Chuck in the Truck. He runs a handyman operation and he's got the guaranteed lowest prices in town. The other quote is from a specialist in hardwood floor installation at Steve’s Hardwood Floors. Chuck's quote, sure enough, comes in at half the price of Steve's; you see the savings and jump on it! Chuck shows up every day and gets to work; he even gets the project complete a couple days ahead of schedule! You pay him and everyone goes away happy.
Now, fast forward two years… you start to notice that your beautiful hardwood floors are starting to look a little strange. There are some dark spots showing up that no matter how hard you try, you can’t scrub out. Fast forward another 6 months and now you are starting to see some of the floor boards coupling and buckling. You call up Chuck and ask him about it, and he informs you that he installed the flooring correctly, so it must be a manufacturing issue. You call the manufacturer, who sends out a third party estimator. The estimator submits a report to you that shows high moisture content. They ask to see the paperwork stating that a moisture test was taken (because the floor was installed directly onto a concrete slab) and that proper moisture mitigation measures were taken during installation. You call Chuck back to discover that he hadn't conducted a moisture test at all and so he hadn't installed any kind of moisture barrier....
The only way to correct the issue is to go back and install a proper moisture barrier, or consider alternative materials that aren't susceptible to moisture like Vinyl Planks. Either way means you have to pull up your floors again and install a brand new one with the additional costs. Chuck has now cost you three times the initial estimate given to you by Steve at Steve's Hardwood Floors, not to mention the heartache, frustration, and hours of back and forth phone calls.
Okay, I know that this might sound like it was just gross mismanagement and that it's all a bit extreme, but this is a realistic scenario. Chuck is not a bad guy, but he's not properly trained and he doesn't know the ins and outs of the trade. He's not a specialist. When you go to a Doctor there is a big difference between a general practitioner and a specialist. In fact, a good general practitioner knows this and will refer you to a specialist when your needs fall outside of his expertise. And yes, the specialist costs more. Specialists go through additionally training and years of study to become an expert in their field. Unfortunately, we often treat the trades as interchangeable. Sure, they may be able to get the job done, but at what cost?
I love a sign that I saw posted up in a tattoo shop once..."Good work ain't cheap, and cheap work ain't good." I'm not trying to tell you that you have to pick the most expensive option, and I'm not saying that you can't find a good deal or someone who will be willing to work with you on a project. What I am saying as that when picking someone for your project it's critical that you consider the costs.
Here are four cost-saving considerations for you to make on your next flooring purchase...
1 - Maintenance. How much time and effort are you willing to put into caring for your floor? Cleaning costs and care should be at the top of your considerations when choosing your floor. Generally speaking, higher up-front prices will mean you’re going to have lower maintenance costs. Carpet is still one of the cheapest floors you can put in your home, but in order to maintain it you should annually get it professionally cleaned. Plus, you will inevitably be dealing with spills, spots treatments and stains along the way. Inversely, tile is one of the most expensive flooring materials, but it is relatively easy to maintain, especially with the new grout materials that don't require constant upkeep!
2 - Buy the Better Material. This will often depend on how long you plan on keeping your home. Let’s say you have two options: one option has you spending an extra dollar per square-foot on the materials, but that material has a lifetime warranty. Your cheaper option gives you a 10 year warranty. Assuming the cheaper materials lasts you 10 years, you would end up changing your floors out 2 or 3 times (according to the average expectancy of occupancy for a single family home). So if you are planning on staying in your home, better materials will save you money in the long run.The real kicker is that your installer is going to charge you the same to install the cheap floor as he would to install the more expensive floor.
3 - “License and Insurance, Please.” In the State of Hawaii, flooring falls under a specialty contractor or "C" license category. This is for your protection! But it does you no good if you don't ask your installer if he’s licensed and insured! Next time you’re getting bids on a project, pretend to be a cop and ask your contractor to submit a copy of his license number and his certificate of insurance. You need insurance to do just about anything and getting your floors installed should be no exception. If, God forbid, anything were to happen and your installer wasn't insured, the process to try to get compensation for damages could potentially end up leading to litigation. No one wants that, except maybe your lawyer.
4 - Apples to Apples. When you are looking at your quotes you need to make sure that what you are comparing is the same, line for line. If you receive a quote and it's a lump sum you should ask for a breakdown of all the pricing. Otherwise you may not be able to see the difference between what's included on each quote. For example, both line items might say something about supplying and installing trim. However, you could be looking at two totally different kinds of trim. One could be quarter round and the other could be actual 1"x 4" base board. Do both quotes include floor prep? You may decide you would rather spend a little more if you know what you’re getting for that price. Make sure that you have apples to apples and compare line for line. This will help you get a true understanding of what you are paying for and ultimately what your final "cost" will be.
I hope you’ve found this helpful and informative! Now you know… if you’re seeing a dramatically lower price you may not end up with a dramatically lower "cost"—read the fine print. Protect yourself and think long-term if you want to keep your beautiful floors for a long time!
For more information about anything you’ve ready in this post or if you just generally want to chat about floors, feel free to contact us through any of our social media outlets, and don't forget: Measure Twice, Cut Once!