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Buying new floors: What to expect

Aspire House carpet installed by J Brooks Designer Floors
Carpet installed by J Brooks (Design by Mary Drysdale, photo by John Cole Photography)

Purchasing new flooring is often an unfamiliar process. Since flooring lasts years, people are often inexperienced in the purchasing process. Being prepared and understanding common timelines for purchasing new floors will help you avoid frustration and make your project a pleasant experience. Understanding the answer to the following 3 commonly asked questions will go a long way to becoming an informed customer.

1. How much is it going to cost for new floors?

The most often asked question, with the least satisfying answer, often revolves around price. The normal response you are going to hear from a flooring retailer is, “It depends.”

How much does carpet cost? How much does hardwood cost? What is the price for an area rug?
Where is the price?

We get it. In an age where you can find anything online, there is nothing more frustrating than trying to make a purchase decision and not immediately seeing the cost.

But there is a good reason for this answer. There are so many variables that will affect the final price of a project that no reputable seller is going to just throw out an arbitrary number. Particularly if you are still in the research phase and are considering multiple options such as hardwood, ceramic tile, luxury vinyl, or carpet.

And, even amongst each product type, there are major variations in construction, material, durability, etc. that will affect the product cost - high-end wool carpet could be 3-4 times as expensive as synthetic carpet, for example. Add in variables specific to your space such as room layout, sub-flooring condition, underlayment, transition points, and stairwells, and the ultimate price of your project could vary. To make it more complicated, the same product in different layouts could create a large variance in price depending on the amount of labor needed I.e., an intricate patterned carpet constructed as a large area rug requiring precise seaming work as opposed to a wall-to-wall installation in a small room.

This is why a professional will need to see your project space in-person, conduct an accurate measurement, and narrow down product options with you to provide a realistic proposal or quote. Sure, you may get a price for the material per square foot online or over the phone, but if you are calculating your budget based on these numbers, your estimate is going to be off.

So, how can I plan when I do not know what it costs? The answer to that is by assisting your flooring salesperson by providing as much detail up front as possible. While again, any professional is going to be hesitant to throw out a ballpark number prior to a consultation, if you can provide photos, a floor plan, or measurements along with a more narrow selection of products, they will be more prepared to provide you with a cost range to assist you in the early planning stages.

Take the question “How much will it cost for new flooring” and rephrase it. For example, “I realize you can’t give me a full estimate, but I am looking to replace my existing wall-to-wall carpet with a blue, patterned option in a lightly furnished 12’ x 20’ bedroom that has one entry door, a closet and a bathroom. I prefer something medium to high end. What price range could I be looking at?”

This gives a flooring salesperson a lot more information up front and will enable them to outline the potential costs for a project. Remember, to get a true price, an in-home or in-business consultation and measurement are paramount.

2. When can I get my new floor installed?

So you had your consultation, you selected a flooring option, agreed to a proposal, and are ready to get started. Could I get my floor installed tomorrow?

Unfortunately, replacing your floors is not a 1-2 day turn around. The truth is, it is unlikely your retailer is going to have your materials on-hand. In fact, most flooring retailers do not carry any product stock.

The amazing range of product designs and color variations manufactured today mean customers can find that perfect option. But, with so many options, it is impractical to carry large volumes of product on hand that will work for any project. Take a carpet like Couristan’s Royalax II Blue collection.

This beautiful wool carpet selection will make amazing area rugs. But it’s a fair bet customers will not come in every week looking for animal patterns in deep blues! Multiply the 4 patterns in this collection by 500 and you can begin to imagine all the unique colors and patterns out there. While unique, these selections could sit for over a year. Add in wood and luxury vinyl and not only will the business be unable to afford to purchase all that stock, but they will have nowhere to put it all! This is the beauty of samples. A retailer can carry an enormous selection that customers can see, feel, and even take home prior to a purchase without committing to large volumes of product up front.

So, understanding that you will have to wait for your product, what kind of timeline are you looking at?

Once you accept a proposal and provide a down payment, your flooring provider will contact the manufacturer and have the exact amount of product shipped to their location. It typically takes 1 to 3 weeks to receive the product, then a few days to a couple weeks for any necessary in-house fabrication work prior to installation. This is more so the case for carpet, where the product may be prepped for individual rooms or constructed into a custom area rug or runner. For wood flooring, add in a minimum of 3 days for the wood to acclimate to the temperature and humidity conditions of the project space before installation - this is necessary to prevent any post installation warping or shifting.

From there it is a matter of coordinating your schedule with the installation schedule. This is challenged by the current COVID environment requiring work and school from home for many people. Flooring installations are unavoidably loud, so take that into consideration in your planning. All-in-all, you are looking anywhere from between 3-6 weeks from selection to installation. Remember, changing your floors is an enormous project! It is worth the wait.

3. What should I expect on installation day?

Congratulations! You are finally there. You are ready for your new carpet, hardwood... ok you get it. It’s flooring day. So, what do you need to know? At this point, any good flooring provider will have gone over what to expect on installation day. But since you are reading this, you probably aren’t there yet. First thing to remember is that everything needs to move when a new floor goes in. Most retailers will offer furniture moving as part of the installation package, but it is important to remember this is for furniture only.

The installation team is going to expect that you have moved all the small decorations, electronics, and clothing that may be on furniture or on the floor. If you have expensive artwork or antiques, the installation team will not want to move and potentially damage these items. If it is breakable, you should probably put it some place safe ahead of time.

what to expect during a wood flooring installation
Installation day should not come with any surprises

While the team is going to be as careful as possible, moving large rolls of carpet through narrow stairwells or around sharp corners could cause wall scuffs. The process of installation can also leave scuffs or scratches against baseboards. If the new floor results in a change of height, gaps in door trim may need to be filled or doors may need to be shaved to swing unobstructed. You should plan for light repair work or carpentry.

Though no two jobs are exactly alike, most installations take only a day. Your installation manager is going to outline if you need to stay off of the flooring for a period of time - you can walk on most flooring right away. Materials that require a glue down application can often handle light foot traffic but not heavy furniture for at least 24 hours.

At the end of installation, the team will clean everything up and go over the finished flooring with you. Don’t be afraid to ask any final questions. This was a big investment, so don’t feel uncomfortable pointing out any potential issues!

patterned wool carpet installed in home
New floors are worth the wait

There you have it. Hopefully, having gone through the three common questions above, you are better prepared to begin the search for your new floor covering. I recommend you find a professional flooring retailer who can further outline the purchase process and answer your specific questions. New floors can be a large investment. Take your time and be picky. There are a lot of great options out there!

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