Concrete vs. Hardwood Flooring

concrete vs hardwood flooring

Hardwood and concrete flooring are two options for the flooring in your home. While each type has benefits and drawbacks, as well as cost differences, it can be difficult to decide which option is the best for your home. This article will provide details about both types of flooring to help you learn more about the process and cost of each method. Following this, there will be a comparison between the two flooring types that discusses the significant points between both options.

Category

Concrete

Hardwood Flooring

Construction

Sand/Cement or composite

Solid wood

Installation Costs

$2-$15/sq. ft

$12-$20/sq. ft

Durability

Incredibly durable, resilient to moisture, heavy traffic, stretches, etc.

Vulnerable to scratches and moisture, but overall very durable

Cleaning

Sweep, wash, and wax occasionally

Sweep and vacuum, minimize cleaning with moisture

Aesthetics

Industrial look, but with epoxy finish it can look classy

Classic, luxurious look

DIY Installation?

No, needs to be poured by a professional

No, unless you're experienced

Hardwood Flooring

Wood floors have been in homes for hundreds of years and have never gone out of style. They add value to a home, regardless of the build year or style of a home. There are considerable benefits and drawbacks to installing hardwood floors in your home, but hopefully this article will help inform you – leading to the best decision for you.

Benefits of Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring has a timeless and classic look in every home. Wood flooring can add a ton of value to your home, whether you are looking to sell it or not. Stylistically, wood flooring is a solid choice for nearly every style of home. Additionally, hardwoods can be restored and repaired for decades, as imperfections can be sanded out and refinished. To prevent the need to replace your floors before it's time, you'll need to sweep and use a hardwood-friendly vacuum regularly on the floors. This is not the case with most other flooring types.

There is also an intermediary option, engineered hardwood, that is tougher than regular hardwood due to a special process of wood finishing. These are made from wood veneer and adhered to a wood backing. Many consider this type of flooring to be a halfway point between laminate flooring and hardwood, but these are a great option for a lower budget project or anyone with kids and pets. Engineered hardwood is significantly more resistant to the environmental factors that can damage traditional hardwoods.

There are also tons of styles available for wooden floors, perhaps more than nearly any other type of flooring. You can vary the thickness of the wood planks to create unique looks, as well as the type of wood for different colors and grains. The finish on the wood can also be varied, which can change the look of the flooring immensely. There are even options that use wooden tiles instead of planks, creating a stunning and unique design on the floor. Thus, hardwoods are a fantastic option for those wishing for a higher degree of customization in their floors.

Drawbacks of Hardwood Flooring

While hardwood floors create a classic and timeless design in-home, they can be incredibly expensive. Prices per square foot can be astronomical compared to other flooring types. There is also the environmental factor to consider, as the amount of wood needed to put flooring into a home requires a considerable number of trees to be harvested. Depending on how exotic the wood is, this environmental cost can be even greater. Hardwood floors are also more susceptible to UV damage than most other flooring types. If you have a home with a lot of windows and natural light, you may find that hardwoods accumulate damage and fade faster than expected. While wood flooring is easier to repair than other options, it also is more susceptible to wear and tear over time. Scratching is especially prevalent in high-traffic areas of the home. 

Costs of Hardwood Flooring

Obviously, there is a huge range of prices when considering hardwood floors. The size of your home matters, the layout, and even the build year are considered. Different woods will have different prices, as well as different finishes. Thus, the cost of wooden flooring can range from $1,000 to $11,000. In the United States, the national average is approximately $4,500. While this is not the most expensive home improvement that you can install, it also isn’t the most affordable. If you install the wood flooring yourself, the cost is above halved, with the cost of materials averaging between $3 per square foot and $14. Installation will double the cost of wood flooring to between $6 and $28 per square foot. Thus, if you have the technical ability as well as the time, installing it may be a great way to install new flooring throughout your home.

Installation costs are tricky to calculate and estimate, due to the wide degree of variation of factors. Geography plays a huge role in these costs, as companies in heavily populated metro areas will inevitably charge more for a comparable service than a company in a rural town. Some companies will also charge more if they must rip up carpet prior to installation or move furniture. Couple this widely varying labor rates, it is nearly impossible to estimate the cost of installation, whereas wood costs are relatively standardized. A good estimation for installation is double the cost of the wood alone. 

Concrete Flooring

Concrete is a relatively new option for homeowners, but it can add value to your home, nonetheless. Concrete provides a host of different options for customization and style. Depending on the home’s design and style, concrete floors can create truly unique and fashionable rooms. This section will highlight the benefits and drawbacks of concrete when used in flooring to help elucidate the different market options. 

Benefits of Concrete Flooring

Concrete is strong. Concrete flooring is strong. There is a reason why sidewalks and other rugged surfaces are made from concrete – it’s tough. Floors made from concrete will also be incredibly strong and resistant to nearly every type of damage, if done correctly. Beyond its toughness, concrete floors are also low maintenance, as they require little upkeep once installed. Concrete that is properly sealed only needs to be mopped and swept when it gets dirty, making it one of the easiest flooring options to care for. Interestingly, concrete floors can be modified with heated flooring elements, which most other flooring types cannot be.

Other than toughness, concrete can be beautiful. There are a plethora of stains and dyes that can be applied to concrete flooring at various stages of the construction and installation process. For existing concrete floors, there are acid stains and washes that can be applied to the top surface, leaving behind a vibrant new floor without too much work. Finally, rubber or metal stamps can be used to create texture on concrete floors while they are still wet. These can range from simple, geometric designs, to crazy textures. With concrete, the design elements are up to the homeowner. 

Drawbacks of Concrete Flooring

Concrete is both hard and heavy. While this creates a durable surface, it isn’t comfortable to walk on. It also isn’t a safe surface for children to be playing on. Area rugs can remedy the hardness of the floor somewhat, but they will be unforgiving. The first time that a piece of glass or ceramic is dropped onto concrete, this becomes readily apparent. Concrete’s heaviness may make it an unsuitable flooring option in some homes. If the flooring is set to be constructed on a slab, concrete is suitable, but it cannot be built on floors that are supported by joists.

Even when sealed by a professional, concrete floors can crack. It is not normally intended for the high precision use in flooring; thus, it is not necessarily a well-suited material for this application. Moisture can also affect concrete before and after setting, as it can cause structural issues if left unaddressed. Finally, concrete is a natural material, for the most part. The amount of carbon dioxide and other pollutants needed to create the amount of concrete needed for a floor, however, is significant. Thus, if you are a homeowner with environmental concerns about where your home improvements, this is something to consider. 

Costs of Concrete Flooring


The costs of a concrete floor can vary widely. From $2 per square foot to over $30, it depends on the company doing the installation, if you hire a company at all. Many homeowners create their own concrete floors, foregoing professional installation and saving money. For those who do use a contractor or similar company, the cost can still vary based on the work needed to prepare the house for flooring as well as the specific options and customizations chosen by the homeowners.

There are three different ways that a concrete floor can be finished, which will affect the total cost of the job. The cheapest method is the ‘grind and seal’ method. This is a manual sanding and polishing of the floor, which is then covered in a chemical sealant to smooth out the floor and give it a polished look. This is the cheapest option if using a contractor, but for those doing their own home improvements, it can be a lot of work. Honing concrete is the next most affordable option. Methods used to grind concrete for this method are similar, but the sealing process is more intensive and provides a smoother look. Finally, you can opt for mechanically polished concrete, which requires specialized machinery. This process is the most intensive but will require even less maintenance than the prior two methods, potentially making it worth the cost. 

Comparison

Both concrete and hardwood allow for a ton of different stylistic choices to match the home’s design as well as your personal taste. Thus, in terms of customizability, both are terrific options. In general, concrete boasts a more contemporary look, whereas hardwoods are a timeless classic. Because there are so many ways to style both types of flooring, nearly all homes can be matched with either type. Thus, the deciding factor for most will not be the look of the flooring, but rather the other benefits and drawbacks.

Hardwoods and engineered hardwoods, while looking classy, will never have the durability of concrete. They are prone to scratching and water damage in scenarios that would leave a concrete floor relatively untouched. Despite this, hardwoods are significantly easier to repair. Simply sanding out the scratches or damage and refinished the wood can leave the floors looking brand new. Whereas, if something were strong enough to damage a concrete floor, it would be incredibly difficult to repair the floor, or at least hide the damage.

Feel underfoot is an important aspect of flooring. Flooring needs to be comfortable while walking around, as beyond style, this is your home. Hardwood flooring and a concrete floor alike can be slippery while wearing socks, but concrete is notoriously hard and unforgiving. Despite this, concrete can have heating elements added to the floor, making it more comfortable in winter. Depending on your climate and members of the household, the comfort choice truly depends on personal choice and comfort.

Both types of flooring can have significant environmental costs. If you are a homeowner who is concerned about the carbon footprint of the improvements going into their home, perhaps neither choice will be good. Realistically, the best option is likely an ethically sourced one. For those who are environmentally concerned, research sustainable wood or concrete sources to ensure that the product you are putting in isn’t terrible for the environment.

Cost is a massive consideration for any project. Regardless of the floor type that you choose, cost will increase dramatically if you choose to have the flooring professionally installed instead of doing it yourself. If you don’t have the technical ability or tools to do it yourself, however, don’t. A mistake could potentially cost even more than the floors. The specific materials used also factor into the cost, as not all wood is made and sourced equally, nor is concrete.

Closing Thoughts

Regardless of the type of flooring and installation method that you choose for your home, research is your best friend. Hopefully this article helped you gain some insight into the positive and negative aspects of two types of flooring, but there are tons of other sources out there to consider, as well as region-specific installation companies. Thus, be sure to consider all options appropriately before beginning any home improvement flooring project. 

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