Have you ever envisioned the timeless beauty of real hardwood floors but worried about the hefty price tag? You're not alone. Hardwood floors can be a significant investment, often costing between $20 to $30 per square foot, including labor. Fortunately, there's good news for those seeking a more budget-friendly option – you can still enjoy the beauty of real hardwood without emptying your wallet. 
Please note: To be clear this article is about real ¾” thick hardwood floors that can be sanded and refinished five to seven times, we are not talking about fake hardwoods. 

Exploring Affordable Options

Very cheap #2 grade red oak wood being finished in southwest michigan.

To get straight to the point, the species, board width, and lumber grade play a crucial role in determining the cost of hardwood flooring. Opting for a lower lumber grade is an effective way to acquire affordable hardwood floors. For instance, #2 or #3 red oak flooring can be found for just $1-3 per square foot. Continue reading to understand the grades and species that offer more budget-friendly choices.

Average Costs For New Hardwood Floors

New hardwood floors done professionally are going to be very expensive. They generally will not use the lower grade flooring options that we talk about in this article. A dedicated hardwood flooring contractor will likely cost between $18-25 per square foot in total (materials and labor included) for a new hardwood floor. 

Understanding Hardwood Floor Grading

It's important to understand wood floor grading to comprehend why certain grades are cheaper. Hardwood flooring is graded on a reverse scale, where a higher number indicates a lower grade. Grades include clear, select, #1, #2, and #3 for standard American hardwoods. Clear and select grade have very little variation and come in long board lengths. #1 grade has some knots and somewhat shorter lengths. The lower-grade options (#2 and #3) are often more affordable, with shorter board lengths and lots more color and grain variation.

Cheapest Species of Hardwood

The cost of hardwood flooring is influenced by a species' popularity and its availability in the United States. Here are some examples:
Red Oak: The most affordable and widely available hardwood.
White Oak: Slightly more expensive due to high demand and fewer white oak trees in the US.
Pine: Despite being a common lumber, pine flooring is pricier due to its lower popularity.
Hickory: Mid-tier pricing, harder than red oak but less expensive than white oak.
Maple: Generally more expensive, slightly exceeding white oak prices.
Walnut: Luxurious and expensive.

Factors Influencing Cost

Different sizes of wood flooring can also affect pricing. Standard strip wood flooring at 2.25 inches wide is the most economical, while wider planks come with a considerable price increase. 3.25 inch wide flooring is a good middle ground choice if you want a slightly wider plank without spending too much. 
Please note: It's essential to consider installation challenges of low-cost wider plank flooring. Low-cost flooring is not milled to a high level of precision. That means it takes a lot of pounding and tapping to get the rows to click together. This can be very frustrating when installing wide plank hardwood floors. The wider the boards, the harder they are to knock into place.

Additional Costs to Consider:

Beyond the cost of the hardwood itself, there are other factors to account for:
Sub-floor repairs: Leveling or repairing weak spots in old floors can be labor-intensive.
Removing old flooring: Labor-intensive, especially with tile or glue-down flooring.
Trim installation or removal: Baseboard removal or the addition of shoe molding may be necessary.
Waste factor: Plan for extra flooring to cover any cut-offs or unusable pieces. We usually budget for 10% extra. 

Installation and Finishing Costs

Whether you choose to DIY or hire a professional, installation and finishing costs should be considered.

Installation Cost

DIY costs include fasteners, underlayment, and tool rentals. Professional installers typically charge between $5-9 per square foot.
Affordable #2 red oak floors being installed and finished in St. Joseph, Michigan.

Sand and Finish Cost

DIY sanding and finishing require polyurethane, stain (optional), sandpaper, and rental machines. If you opt to have a professional do sanding and finishing for you, plan on $6-9 per square foot. 

Is Pre-finished hardwood flooring cheaper?

Pre-finished hardwood floors generally cost more for the wood itself, but require less overall work for the finished product. You don't have to sand and finish them since they come "pre-finished." They do take much longer to install, however, because you must be much more careful with them. Pre-finished can be solid "real" hardwood or engineered.

Is Engineered Flooring Cheaper?

Engineered hardwood floors can be cheap or expensive, depending on the wood quality. High-quality engineered floors with a thick hardwood top layer are comparable to solid hardwood, while low-quality versions can be more affordable but may not withstand refinishing.

How To Reduce The Costs Of Hardwood Floors? 

If your wondering how you can bring the overall cost down there are a few ways. If you contracting the job out, tell your contractor you will handle all the prep work, demotion and trim work. You can rent the dumpster, rip up the old flooring and take the baseboards off. You could also consider doing the install yourself and just paying a contractor to do the sanding and finishing (that part takes the most skill.)
If your doing the job yourself,  you already are saving a lot! If you want to cut costs further go with a red oak  floor and consider getting a #2 or #3 grade. We don’t recommend going cheap of floor finishing products because they will just wear out faster. 
In conclusion, the cheapest type of hardwood flooring is often low-grade red oak in widths of 2.25 to 3.25 inches. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or hiring a professional, understanding the factors that influence cost will help you make an informed decision and achieve the beauty of real hardwood floors on a budget.

Where To Buy Cheap Hardwood Floors? 

If your looking to buy affordable #2 or #3 grade floors for very low prices,  we sell them! We are based out of Berrien Springs, Michigan and deliver to Chicago, Indianapolis, Grand Rapids and everything in between we also ship nationwide. 

Give us a call or fill out a contact form to learn more!