Wednesday, August 14, 2013

This May Floor You

Today's guest blog is by contractor Brian Sorensen, a colleague of mine with the Real Estate Association of Puget Sound, and is reprinted here with permission:

I budget $3.00 a square foot for floors! This allows for flooring material of up to $1.50 and install labor of
up to $1.50 and includes any of the following – sanding and refinishing existing hardwood floors, new
laminate flooring, some engineered hardwood flooring (on sale), and carpet and vinyl. That’s quite a
variety to choose from within that price range and will generally work in any mid-grade house. For a
higher-end home you can consider tile, resilient flooring, engineered hardwood, and solid hardwood for
a dollar a square foot more.

Laminate flooring is a thin fiberboard plank with a wood-like photo finish and texture on the surface. The
photo finishes have improved quite a bit in recent years. Most of them look pretty decent now. Costco
laminate flooring is a good example. It costs about $1.25 a square foot or less if you can catch it on sale.
Laminate floors are great to use in living areas, halls, and even bedrooms.

One problem with laminate floors is that they don’t follow the contours of an uneven subfloor very well
because of their rigidity so sometimes you can feel the space between the laminate and a low spot in the
subfloor when you step on certain spots. Also, the cheaper ones tend to chip easily, sometimes even
during install. The more years on the warrantee, the less they chip generally. Don’t use laminates in wet
areas. When they get wet the water seeps in between the planks and causes swelling on the edges.

Engineered hardwoods are basically planks made out of plywood. Only the upper surface is the finish
wood. These floors are generally either installed floating on a thin styrofoam cushion or nailed down
with a flooring nailer. When installed floating these floors they also tend to move up and down on
uneven subfloors. Sometimes people will use these floors in wet areas although it’s really not a great
idea. The edges don’t swell like laminates but the planks will cup if they get soaked and in the kitchen
when you drop pots and pans on the floor it leaves nasty dings.

Tile flooring is great in entries, kitchens and baths and is relatively cheap to buy but unfortunately not so
cheap to install. With all the cutting and grouting tile floors are labor intensive and therefore cost more. I
would recommend a tile entry pad in just about any house though. It gives a good first impression and
can be kept smallish to keep the cost down.

Even at $3.00 a square foot, flooring can be a good chunk of any rehab budget. Redoing the floors in an
average 1,500sf rambler will run about $4,500 so it’s a bonus when some of the existing floors can be
reused as is. That’s rarely the case though unless a house has been recently remodeled.

You can reduce your flooring costs even more by keeping an eye on flooring and catching it on sale once
in a while. I just caught some nice looking dark laminate plank flooring at Home Depot for .57 cents a
square foot which I used and it saved me almost $600. I had to do the happy dance! 

Brian Sorensen is a general contractor and investor. His company is a full service residential construction company in Puget Sound that also invests in single and multifamily properties.

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