While installing hardwood floors looks as easy as putting together a jigsaw puzzle, it is usually best to hire someone with the specialized tools and knowledge to make this project fit together seamlessly.
Installers are often small one- or two-person outfits and can be hard to find. Where do you find good floor installers and how do you hire them?
The Beauty of Having It Done For You
Some home projects you can do yourself, you already have the skill set: interior painting, for instance.
So, hiring a professional to paint your home feels like a bonus.
But installing solid or engineered wood flooring is a different matter. Most likely, you do not have the full skill set necessary to bring the project to perfect completion.
Competent floor installers really do work a kind of magic. They arrive early in the morning, set up their saws outdoors (if the weather allows) or in the garage, lay down rosin paper, cut open the boxes of flooring--and that is just in the first hour.
By the end of the day, your house now has a new floor installed in your kitchen or dining room or living room.
That is the beauty of hiring professionals to take on difficult projects.
When a nearby house is getting a wood floor installed, walk over and check out their work. When they take a break in work, ask for a card or a contact number.
Also evaluate their work habits. Do they respect the home and the property?
Are they wasting too much board length with their cuts?
Ask Your Neighbors
People love to give advice. You will either get a strong thumb's up or thumb's down about the quality of their wood floor installation.
Store Contact Lists
Stores that sell flooring materials often have a list of independent installers.
While these installers many be unaffiliated with the stores, the stores do have a vested interest in weeding out the bad installers and promoting the good ones.
Online middlemen who connect you with home professionals such as flooring installers are called lead generators. When you go through these websites or apps to find a local company, they get between $25 and $75 per lead.
Lead generators come and go all the time. HomeAdvisor (formerly ServiceMagic) is the oldest and is considered the most reputable home services-related lead generator.
Keep in mind, though, that when HomeAdvisor sends three floor installers in your direction, this is no guarantee of quality. Contractors and tradespeople pay to get leads from HomeAdvisor. HomeAdvisor only checks that minimum standards (bonding, insurance, etc.) are met.
Angie's List advertises flooring installers on an A-F scale. Like HomeAdvisor it is mainly a lead generator for home services professionals. Its customer reviews tend to be more frank than HomeAdvisor's
The Incredible Bargaining Power of Three Estimates
You hear it all the time: "Get three estimates." But who has time for this?
Floor installation estimates are easy. If you are only hiring installers, the estimate rarely takes up more than twenty minutes of your life because you are only discussing labor, not materials.
When all three (or more) estimates come in, expect to see a wide price spread. Because these are independent installers, they can ask for whatever they want. Some installers may throw out high estimates because they know there is a certain percentage of homeowners who are prone to immediately signing a contract.
Do not be that type of homeowner. By getting three or more estimates, you weed out those sky-high estimates.
When the Estimator Comes
The estimator will measure your floors with a rolling wheel-type measuring device and a long tape measure. With these tools, they will produce a square-foot measurement.
Do not be alarmed if their figure is greater than yours. They will add at least ten-percent overage to account for waste associated with cutting the wood.
You can get good value from your installer by discussing some of the following issues:
- Will they shift furniture? Moving furniture yourself ensures the safety of your furniture.
- Will they cut floor boards outside?
- Will they seal off other rooms with plastic? This is imperative.
- Will they cut under existing baseboards in order to fit the hardwood underneath? At least they should cut under jambs and casing.
- Will they provide quarter-round to cover gaps between hardwood and baseboards?
If You Want To Do It Yourself
Since the learning curve associated with solid and even engineered wood floor installation is steep, here are suggestions for floors that are easier to install by yourself: