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How much does oak flooring cost to buy and install?
The answer is… it’s complicated! Sorry to burst your bubble if you were looking for a quick solution.
If you’re buying hardwood flooring, you’ve almost certainly considered oak as an option—it’s one of the best hardwood floors on the market today. Which makes sense, since oak is one of the most common hardwoods in the United States.
When it comes to wood flooring costs, you might have noticed that oak is actually one of your more affordable options. Considering how stunning oak flooring is (not to mention durable), it’s a pretty sweet deal!
But how do oak flooring costs stack up against other types of wood flooring? And what exactly can you expect to pay when it comes to installation?
Don’t worry friend, we’re here to answer all of those questions—and more.
What Are the Different Types of Oak Flooring?
Before we get into oak flooring costs, you should know something—not all oak flooring is created equal. There are different species of oak, and different ways that manufacturers make planks. So what does that mean for your wallet?
To answer that, let’s take a look at the different types of oak flooring and how their prices differ.
Red Oak vs. White Oak—What’s the Difference?
Red oak and white oak are some of the most common wood floors around (and, generally speaking, some of the most affordable).
The main difference? A slight difference in wood floor colors—red oak has a dark pinkish hue and a slightly more pronounced grain pattern, while white oak is more of a light wood flooring option.
These visual differences become less noticeable when using a darker stain, but it’s important to note nonetheless.
When it comes to the cost difference between red and white oak, red oak is (slightly) less expensive. As far as material costs, you can expect to pay $3–10/sq. ft. for red oak, with white oak costing around a dollar more (at most) per square foot.
When we’re talking about red oak vs. white oak installation costs, though, there’s no difference between the two.
Engineered vs. Solid Oak Flooring Costs
Most wood flooring types come in two varieties: solid hardwood and engineered hardwood. You’re probably thinking, “Solid wood is obviously better—and what is engineered hardwood anyway?”
Despite what you might assume, engineered hardwood flooring is still real wood flooring. It’s just made of two wood layers that are fused together: a high-strength composite base (like plywood or oriented strand board), and a thin top layer of solid wood called a “veneer”.
Compare that to solid hardwood, which is just a solid plank of wood, and you’ll find that the best engineered wood flooring is much better at tolerating changes in temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors.
For years, one of the biggest engineered wood disadvantages was that they couldn’t be refinished as often due to the thinner veneer layer. But these days the best engineered wood flooring brands are way tougher and more durable than they used to be. That means you don’t have to worry about the cost to refinish hardwood flooring with engineered wood.
Translation: engineered wood is now the more high-performance option.
Solid vs. Engineered Wood Costs
Anyway, onto the cost. For materials, engineered oak flooring can cost $3–15 per square foot. That puts it around the same cost as solid oak flooring, but it tops out at a slightly higher price.
This is to be expected. For domestic woods like oak, the cost to install engineered wood is about the same as it is for solid wood floors. For rarer exotic woods like teak flooring or ebony flooring, though, engineered wood is going to be cheaper than solid wood (because it uses less of that precious solid hardwood).
Unfinished vs. Prefinished Oak Floors Costs
In general, installation costs for wood planks are about the same for unfinished vs. prefinished hardwood flooring. But with unfinished wood floors, there are extra cost factors to consider. Specifically, unfinished hardwood floors have to be finished on-site.
What does that mean for costs? Even though unfinished hardwood flooring materials might be slightly cheaper, you’ll almost certainly end up paying more due to finishing costs. Typically, finishing your unfinished hardwood floors will cost an additional $3–5/sq. ft.
In the end, unless you’re looking to customize your wood floors, prefinished hardwood is the easier and cheaper option. You’ll save big on sealing and staining costs—and as a bonus, no extra clean-up!
How Much Does Oak Flooring Cost to Install?
We’re going to look at the three main methods of how to install hardwood floors: nail-down, glue-down, and floating installations. Side note: there’s also a newer installation option called magnetic flooring—we won’t get into it here since prices vary so much by installer, but it’s worth checking out.
Glue-Down Installation Cost
We’ve talked about glue-down vinyl plank flooring before, but using adhesives is also a tried-and-true option for installing hardwood floors like oak. The process is exactly what it sounds like—installers use glue to secure each individual plank to the subfloor (and what is subflooring, you ask?)
Choosing glue-down installation will cost about $3–8/sq. ft.
Nail-Down Installation Cost
The creatively-named nail-down installation involves—you guessed it—using nails to attach hardwood planks to the room’s subfloor.
The nail-down installation method will cost you about the same as glue-down installation—between $3–8/sq. ft.
Floating Floor Installation Cost
Floating wood floors aren’t actually attached to the subfloor at all—they’re click-together floors that use special grooves to connect the planks to each other, and are held in place by their own weight. While you won’t see as much floating wood flooring as, say, loose lay vinyl plank flooring, it’s definitely more common than it used to be.
While there are some disadvantages of floating floors, cost just isn’t one of them. When compared to glue-down and nail-down installation methods, floating floors are easily the cheaper option.
Or, if you’re feeling extra handy, you can eliminate installation costs altogether by installing your floors yourself! We always recommend hiring a professional, but the click-together flooring systems that floating floors use make self-installation a more realistic option for those who want to try their hand at DIY wood flooring.
One caveat to mention: floating hardwood floors are almost always made of engineered wood rather than solid wood. So, unfortunately, if you were hoping for a floating solid wood floor, it probably isn’t going to be an option.
The Advantages of Oak Flooring
Now that we’ve broken down the typical oak flooring cost, let’s look at some of the cost (and non-cost) advantages that oak flooring offers.
Oak Flooring is the Industry Standard for Hardwood Floors
Everyone loves oak—it’s the industry standard in hardwood for a reason! While it’s not as hard as some other wood floors like hickory and walnut, durability is not an issue for oak.
Combine that durability with an affordable price point, beautiful graining, and the fact that oak is so widely available, and it’s no wonder that it’s so popular.
Oak is one of the more affordable wood flooring options, especially compared to more exotic wood species which can cost twice as much or more.
There might be some cheaper hardwood flooring options. But once you factor in oak’s durability and how widely available it is, oak flooring’s cost is a major plus.
Oak Flooring is Timeless
Oak floors will stand the test of time—not just as a durable flooring option, but a stylish one, too. Other flooring fads have come and gone, but oak flooring is as “in” as it was 50–100 years ago.
When you install oak flooring in your home, you can be confident that 20 years down the line, your floor will still be standing strong (and looking good, too!) Even if you choose a stylish option like wide plank wood flooring or parquet flooring, that timelessness will keep costs low when it comes time to replace your floors.
The Disadvantages of Oak Flooring
Oak flooring costs may be reasonable, and the material may have a ton of perks—but it has some downsides, too!
Oak Can Take a Beating… But It Has Limits
Oak may be one of the most durable hardwood flooring options around. But like any other wood floor, it isn’t impervious to everything.
If you want top-tier scratch-resistant flooring (which you’ll need if you’re looking for the best flooring for dogs), hardwood flooring probably isn’t the best option for you. For that, you’ll want to look into some of the best vinyl flooring.
For that reason (in case it wasn’t obvious), oak is not one of the better outdoor flooring options. For your outdoor space, you’ll want to look into some outdoor vinyl flooring to get something that withstands the elements.
It’s also a good idea to avoid putting wood floors in direct sunlight as they may fade over time (unless they come with a UV-resistant finish), so oak may not be the best sunroom flooring option.
Oak Needs to Be Kept Dry
While white oak is a naturally water-resistant wood flooring, it should still be kept away from parts of the home that are prone to moisture and humidity. Obviously, that means it’s not ideal for things like mudroom flooring.
Honestly, this is a disadvantage of nearly all types of wood floors—not just oak. There are a few good waterproof hardwood flooring options, but to be honest, they’re mostly laminate pretending to be hardwood. (Shame!) Keep in mind: your oak flooring costs are going to be higher if you do decide to go with waterproof wood flooring.
If this is shattering your dreams of a wood floor bathroom, don’t be discouraged! There are many types of tile that are made to look like wood.
So: Is Oak Flooring Worth It?
At the end of the day, when you combine installation and material costs, oak flooring costs you somewhere from $7–18 per square foot. All-in-all, we’d say that’s a pretty good deal for a floor that will last you decades upon decades.
But you might still be asking yourself: is oak flooring actually worth it? To compare, let’s look at some alternatives to oak flooring and compare costs.
How Does Oak Flooring Compare to Other Hardwood Floors?
Not all types of wood flooring are created equal, and that’s reflected in their cost.
Let’s look at how oak stacks up against other hardwood species.
Hickory vs. Oak Flooring Costs
We’ve talked about the disadvantages of hickory flooring (and how it stacks up vs. the mighty oak) before. One place it has an advantage, though—hickory is one of the most durable wood flooring options available.
But that strength also has its downsides—especially when it comes to the installation cost.
If you’re looking to install solid hardwood, hickory is around $1.50–$3 more/sq. ft., which can really add up when you’re covering a large room (let alone an entire home). For engineered wood, though, the cost difference is pretty much nonexistent.
If you want the lowdown on everything there is to know about hickory floors, check out our article on hickory flooring pros and cons.
Pine vs. Oak Flooring Costs
While it’s not as durable as oak or hickory, pine flooring is also one of the most sustainable wood flooring options around (along with other softwoods like Douglas fir flooring).
Pine material costs are lower than oak flooring costs—you’ll pay somewhere between $3–10/sq. ft. for pine. Pretty cheap, right?
But there’s a catch—new pine floors are typically sold as unfinished planks. Translation: you’ll have to factor that finishing cost into your installation costs. Add it all up, you’re looking at $5–7/sq. ft. to install pine flooring. It’s not outrageously expensive, but it is more than oak typically costs.
Pine also leaves a bit to be desired as far as durability—as a softwood, pine dents more easily than other species like oak. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad option, but it’s definitely something to consider when you’re installing wood floors in your home.
Ash vs. Oak Flooring Costs
Ash flooring might not be as common as oak, but it deserves a little more recognition if you ask us! It’s super durable, very stylish, and feels fantastic underfoot.
The price is pretty comparable, too. For materials alone, ash flooring generally costs between $3–7/sq. ft. And for installation, you’ll typically be able to get it installed for around $3–8/sq. ft. All in all, not a bad price for a less common option!
Bamboo vs. Oak Flooring Costs
Ok, you caught us—bamboo is technically a species of grass. But this isn’t an ecology class, and in flooring, bamboo is very much considered wood.
For an exotic wood, bamboo has a pretty reasonable price tag—the best bamboo flooring won’t cost you any more than $10 per square foot for materials. Some of that is due to the fact that bamboo is actually one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly flooring options around.
As far as installation, bamboo flooring costs are pretty standard—you can expect an average of $5 per square foot on that front.
All of this is to say: bamboo is a legitimate hardwood flooring option, despite its rarity. Don’t overlook it!
Hemp vs. Oak Flooring Costs
If we’re talking about eco-friendly flooring, we just can’t go without mentioning hemp flooring. You heard it here first: hemp might just be the next big thing in sustainable wood flooring.
Being an early adopter isn’t cheap in any situation, and hemp flooring is no exception. Right now, unfinished HempWood costs $9.99/sq. ft. If you want to add a UV cured coating (which you absolutely should), the total climbs to $10.99/sq. ft.
Installation costs, though, are pretty standard—around $4-6 per square foot. One thing to note: hemp can’t be installed as a floating floor. Sorry if that shatters your sustainable flooring dreams, but we still think it’s worth looking into!
What Do the Best Oak Flooring Alternatives Cost?
We’ve looked at how oak compares to other types of hardwood floors, but let’s talk about other types of flooring. There are a ton of hardwood floor alternatives on the market today (including plenty of fake wood flooring options), but which one is right for you?
Let’s look at some of the best flooring options available.
Vinyl vs. Oak Flooring Costs
Vinyl flooring—specifically, rigid core luxury vinyl flooring—is one of the best hardwood alternatives on the market today (if not the best).
Vinyl is often confused with laminate, which we’ll get to in a moment. But the biggest difference between vinyl plank vs. laminate is that vinyl is made almost entirely of plastic, which is why it’s often referred to as PVC flooring.
Anyway, on to the material cost. While you can technically find vinyl flooring for under $2/sq. ft., it’s generally not worth buying.
For vinyl plank flooring that’s above-average or better, you can expect to pay anywhere from $3/sq. ft. to as high as $15/sq. ft.
As far as the cost to install vinyl plank flooring, it’s going to be significantly lower than the cost to install oak flooring—you can expect to pay $1.50–6/sq. ft. for vinyl flooring installation.
When it comes to the best vinyl plank flooring, it’s tough to beat products like Karndean vinyl plank flooring, Proximity Mills, and COREtec vinyl flooring.
If you’re looking for flooring that can withstand moisture, don’t worry—there are plenty of waterproof vinyl flooring options as well. And for those who want to try do-it-yourself flooring, installing peel and stick vinyl plank flooring on your own is a great way to eliminate installation costs altogether. Just be sure to check your product’s warranty in case of any installation mishaps.
Laminate vs. Oak Flooring Costs
For all of human history, households have been divided by the great laminate vs. hardwood flooring debate. Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. But still, people are debating it!
What is laminate flooring, exactly? Though it’s often confused with vinyl flooring (told you we’d get to it), laminate flooring is very much in a category of its own. The difference: laminate flooring has 3 layers—a plywood base layer, a printed design layer, and a plastic wear layer.
But we’re not going to get into all of the laminate flooring pros and cons—we’re here to talk oak vs. laminate costs! So: how do they compare?
For raw materials, you’ll pay anywhere between $1–10/sq. ft. for laminate flooring. And while you might be tempted to settle for the cheap stuff, let’s just say you get what you pay for with laminate—just ask former Armstrong laminate flooring customers.
If you’re looking for the best laminate flooring, you can expect to pay $4 or more/sq. ft for materials alone. Trust us—it’s worth springing a little extra for some good, non-toxic laminate flooring.
And for installation costs, laminate costs an average of around $4/sq. ft. to install. Both solid and engineered hardwood vs. laminate costs are pretty even, so we’ll call this one a wash.
Certain brands, like AquaGuard flooring and RevWood, carry some of the best waterproof laminate flooring options—something that most hardwood floor brands just don’t offer.
Wood-Look Tile vs. Oak Flooring Costs
If you haven’t heard of it, allow us to introduce you to wood-look tile. It’s a great option for anywhere in your house where you want the wood-look, but where actual wood floors just aren’t practical.
For materials alone, it’s pretty easy to compare tile vs. laminate flooring costs: it’s about the same, with tile costing anywhere from $2–$12/sq. ft.
Unfortunately, you’re looking at much higher costs for tile when comparing tile vs. wood floor installation costs. Due to the current flooring installer shortage and the level of expertise tile installation requires, this is one oak flooring alternative that’s going to cost you.
How expensive are we talking? These days, tile installation costs can get all the way up to $30/sq. ft.
But there is some good news! These days, brands offer snap-together tile flooring. As far as tile goes, snap-together tile is some of the easiest flooring to install, making it much more DIY-friendly than traditional installation methods.
Where to Shop for Oak Flooring
Ready to install oak floors in your home? Or maybe you’ve settled on an oak flooring alternative.
Whatever the answer, you know us: we always recommend skipping the big box stores and shopping local. (Just take a look at the cork flooring Lowes sells to understand why.)
Find a flooring store near you and get started! Or for more information, check out some of these articles:
Hardwood Flooring Resources
Vinyl Flooring Resources
Laminate Flooring Resources
Thanks for taking the time to write this.