Installing Hardwood Flooring Yourself to Save Money

In this post I share how installing your own hardwood flooring, specifically, engineered wood flooring, can save you money.

From time to time here on PT Money, I’ll showcase some of the Do-It-Yourself projects I’ve done to help reduce the cost of maintaining and improving our home. While this isn’t directly related to the main theme of the site, hopefully it will provide some motivation to try your own money-saving project.  If I can do it, you can!

When we first moved into our house back in the fall of 2007 the first thing we did was pull up the carpet and put in glue-down engineered hardwood flooring. Mrs. PT was freaking out a little. And to be honest, in the back of my mind, so was I. I’ve done a few hands on projects before, but nothing like this. And this was a brand new place.

Why I Decided to Purchase the Hardwood Flooring and Install it Myself

We made an offer on our home before it was built. So we got to see it go up, and we were able to pick out many of the features, including the flooring. We priced the builder-installed hardwood flooring and didn’t like the numbers. The quotes were above $10k.

The sales people tried to tell us that the cost would be including in the mortgage and so we would get to pay for it over a long period of time. I guess they didn’t know who they were dealing with. ;) I quickly started looking around for other options and ultimately decided that I would give it a try myself.

One of the things that got me over the fear of installing the floors myself was having a couple of friends who were home improvement experts. They lent their hands at the initial stage of the project and really helped me to learn the trowel technique, which gave me confidence to finish up.

How Much Did Doing it Myself Cost?

I did my research prior to taking on this project. I found some really nice engineered hardwood plank at Lowes that was on discount. And I made my purchase with one of those 20% off coupon they give out so frequently. Here’s how the numbers ended up looking:

  • $2,600 for around 700 square feet of the Cabin Creek Plank
  • $260 for the flooring adhesive
  • $9.00 for the knee pads*
  • $150 for the t-molding
  • $50 for miscellaneous supplies
  • 3 days of vacation time
  • ($100) for selling the carpet

*Huge mistake. If you try this, please do yourself a favor and get some good knee pads.

That brings my total spend to about $3,500. Roughly a third of what it would have cost with the builder. Had I hired someone to install it for me, it would have cost another $2 per square foot (roughly $1,500). And that would have saved me the 3 vacation days. So that still would have been half the cost.

Tools Needed for Installing the Hardwood Flooring

I realize not everyone has these tools lying around. However, the only expensive items is the table saw. You could easily borrow that from a friend or rent one from Lowes or Home Depot.

  • Trowel
  • Miter Saw (I used a $10 miter saw and box combo)
  • Table Saw (I had purchased this back when I built my own desk)
  • Dead Blow Hammer
  • Tapping Block
  • Pencil and Tape Measure
  • Safety Glasses
  • Gloves

Steps to Installing Hardwood Flooring

Next, I’ll walk you through the steps to installing hardwood flooring using the glue down method and engineered hardwood plank.

Quick tip: if you are installing the floors yourself on a new home, have the builder leave out the tacking when laying the carpet. They will have to include the carpet for code. But they don’t necessarily have to tack it down. This saves you some extra work, and makes the carpet more salvageable for resale.

  1. Prepare sub-floor
  2. Ensure proper moisture levels
  3. Acclimate flooring to the room
  4. Check boards for warping and defects
  5. Pour glue into a small area (2-3 rows)
  6. Trowel the glue
  7. Lay the flooring planks (use spacers to keep the first row away from the wall)
  8. Tap the next few pieces into place
  9. Cut the flooring planks to length on the end
  10. Repeat steps 5-9
  11. Install your trim pieces

There’s obviously more to it than I care to explain here. So I will refer you to this video put together by Lowes. I must have watched a video like this a thousand times as I was doing this project. There are so many steps and little details you don’t want to miss.

Was It Worth It?

I’m really proud of my hardwood floors. I don’t necessarily think about how much I saved on the project anymore as much as I’m proud of the fact that I did them myself. It was a tough project, both mentally and physically, but I feel like I’m a better person for having gone through the process.

If you want to give this a try for yourself, shoot me an email and I’ll give you a few more pointers. Or if you also installed your hardwood floors, I’d love to see your finished product.

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Last Edited: November 30, 2011 @ 12:44 am
About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a husband and father of two. He created PT Money back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money and to meet others passionate about managing their finances. All the content on this blog is original, and created or edited by PT. Read more about Philip Taylor, and be sure to connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or view the Philip Taylor+ Google profile.

Comments

  1. I have always wanted to do this! Right now, I do some small stuff around the house- I change the batteries in our cars, paint, some light carpentry. But a massively awesome project like this! Phew- super manly.

  2. http://ultimatemoneyblog.com/kitchen-remodeling-on-a-budget

    Here’s some pics of my frugal kitchen makeover

    http://ultimatemoneyblog.com/my-frugal-office-makeover

    And here are some for the floors I did!

    I actually installed the flooring all by myself! :)

  3. Kudos for providing inspiration to others. Truth is we all have two hands just like the professionals. It might take us a little bit longer but the money saved makes a big difference! We installed 1200 sq ft of hardwood two years ago and saved over $5K in labor. That is money going directly to the bottom line we call retirement!

    Great job on the flooring!

  4. Tiffany Willis says:

    Thanks, PT. This was very motivating. I admit to feeling a little overwhelmed at times when it comes to major stuff like this. I’m trying to get several small victories under my belt to increase my confidence in tackling a big project!

  5. @Tiffany – Yeah, this one was pretty tough. I don’t think I’d ever do this again by myself. However, I stress that this could still be done at a reasonable cost after market like I did, even if you hire someone to come in and professionally do it. Builder upgrades are costly.

  6. I am one of those guys who tends to pay professionals for everything because I am terrible with a hammer and saw. My carpentry skills are pitiful, and I usually resign myself to paying the premium of having a pro do the work because I can’t live with the poor quality job I tend to leave behind.

    But your article now has me reconsidering, PT.

    Great job!

    Best,

    Len
    Len Penzo dot Com

  7. Wow, very impressive. This wears me out thinking about how much work it must have been. I replaced our entire roof one year – all by myself – the project always sounds easier than actually accomplishing the task. :)

  8. Will you tell me the brand and name of the floors you used? I love the look of it.

  9. Angela, here’s the link to the Cabin Creek plank.

  10. Or get a pro to do it :) http://www.cambridgefloors.com/ they did my house and an amazing job. They even showed how to maintain it as well.

  11. amhgirl says:

    Very interesting!  I’m thinking of trying to do this myself.  I’m remodeling on a severe budget.  I thought I’d nail down solid hardwood.  Is that much more difficult?  What do you do about the bits of floor that end up half-a plank wide?  Is that when you cut with the table saw?  Does that take a lot of expertise?  there is a long hallway in the home that I’ll want to cover.  I’m also wondering how one goes about making the wood floor level with an adjoining tile floor.  I’m not going to lay the tile myself, so I thought I probably should have the tile laid and then put in the wood floor, so I can make sure it’s level.
     
    Thanks!

  12. amhgirl says:

    Very interesting!  I’m thinking of trying to do this myself.  I’m remodeling on a severe budget.  I thought I’d nail down solid hardwood.  Is that much more difficult?  What do you do about the bits of floor that end up half-a plank wide?  Is that when you cut with the table saw?  Does that take a lot of expertise?  there is a long hallway in the home that I’ll want to cover.  I’m also wondering how one goes about making the wood floor level with an adjoining tile floor.  I’m not going to lay the tile myself, so I thought I probably should have the tile laid and then put in the wood floor, so I can make sure it’s level.
     
    Thanks!

    • Ahh, more power to ya. But that’s hard as heck. Nail down solid hardwood is not an amateur project. Cutting is easy compared to nailing down hardwoods. As for connecting to the tile area, they make all types of t-moulding to help you with that. Good luck!

    • Ahh, more power to ya. But that’s hard as heck. Nail down solid hardwood is not an amateur project. Cutting is easy compared to nailing down hardwoods. As for connecting to the tile area, they make all types of t-moulding to help you with that. Good luck!

    • Ahh, more power to ya. But that’s hard as heck. Nail down solid hardwood is not an amateur project. Cutting is easy compared to nailing down hardwoods. As for connecting to the tile area, they make all types of t-moulding to help you with that. Good luck!

  13. Wood Flooring NY says:

    Well this is truly a great post and can be truly helpful for a DIY project. But since you will be working on your own, it always pays to ask a hardwood specialist for advice.

    Thanks, 

    <a href=”http://www.woodfloorplanet.com/”>Wood Flooring NY</a>