Floor Installation Budget Tight? Here Are 4 Solutions...

Wood Floor With Gaps Between Floorboards 1500 x 1000
CC-Licensed; Flickr User Quinn Dombrowski

Times are tough, and today it seems that everybody is raiding their kids' piggy banks for more money. Back in the salad days of home renovation, at the turn of the 21st century, money seemed to be flowing out of cracks in the pavement. Lenders were tossing us home equity loans like beads at a Mardi Gras parade.

Now, the last thing homeowners want to do is think about how to complete their half-finished projects.

Flooring is one of those projects that gets stalled chiefly because the materials are so expensive. If you're stuck in limbo with your flooring and are considering selling the house or keeping it, here are some suggestions.

Problem: You Cannot Afford Solid Hardwood Flooring in Every Room

Solution: Of course, you can always install something cheaper. In fact, most everything is cheaper than solid hardwood—tile vinyl, carpeting, laminate, etc. But if you're still stuck on the idea of solid hardwood.

Bargain wood flooring means shopping at commodity floor warehouses and choosing cheaper wood species.

  • Commodity Flooring: Nationally, this means Lumber Liquidators. Locally, if you do not have one of those big yellow stores at your disposal, you can usually find no-name solid wood flooring retailers, often located in light industrial areas.  
  • Cheaper Species: Red oak, white oak, ash, hickory, birch, and maple are domestic (U.S.) wood species that qualify as bargain woods.

    Problem: You Tore out the Finish Floor and Only Sub-Floor Remains

    Solution: Most real estate agents concur that it is practically impossible to sell a house that is in mid-renovation. Better to complete the cheapest possible remodeling project on earth rather than sell a half-completed house. So, subfloor alone will not cut it.

    You absolutely, positively need a finished surface.

    If it's materials you need, you'll find that vinyl (sheet or tile) and carpet are your cheapest options.

    Why go to a flooring store? Get creative. Craigslist.org has sellers who want to get rid of surplus flooring materials, either new or used, and you are the ready-and-willing buyer.

    One word of caution: these tough times have given birth to a cottage industry entrepreneurs who loot half-finished houses for building materials, and later sell them or use them on their own houses.

    Problem: You Received a Sky-High Quote From the Floor Installers

    Solution: Think of your floor installation in "regions" rather than in the entire house.

    Typically, lower floors can have the more expensive hardwood flooring, and upper floors having the quieter and cheaper alternative—carpeting. Or, it is possible to section out different parts of the same floor, one part with carpeting, another part with hardwood. This can be done until you have enough money to continue the hardwood.

    As long the division point is a doorway, the change is at least not visually as noticeable. Your only challenge is to make sure there is not too much of an elevation change between hardwood and non-hardwood.

    Carpet can be padded up high enough that it is as high, or at least close to, the height of the neighboring hardwood.

    Problem: Carpeting Is Too Expensive

    Solution: Carpet is another one of those cast-off items that many people are desperately trying to get rid of because the only alternative for them is to rent a costly roll-off dumpster or pay a hauler to dispose of.

    Incredible bargains (as in, free) can be found by using pre-owned carpeting. When you receive the carpeting you will see ragged edges that have been pulled out from under baseboards. You should look for carpeting that is slightly larger than your rooms so that those edges can be cut back and hidden by your baseboards.

    After the carpeting is installed, an afternoon with a rented steam cleaner is enough to bring it back to just-new condition.

    You laugh, but there are plenty of homeowners carpeting portions of their home with someone else's old carpeting. It makes both the disposer and "disposee" happy and keeps inorganic materials out of landfills.