Getting Real About Renos: Will Hardwood Floors Really Add Value To My Home?

hardwood floors

Antique wormy chestnut reclaimed hardwood floors by Olde Wood Ltd.

Today, we’re starting a new occasional column called Getting Real About Renovations. We’re going to look at renovation realities for all sorts of projects, from hardwood floors and open floorplans, to master suite additions and kitchen upgrades. We’ll give you the unadulterated truth about options, costs, effort, Realtor opinion, and estimated ROI for these projects.  

Americans can’t get enough about home improvements, from reality TV shows to demand for renovations in properties on the market at all price points. In the first ten months of October 2015 alone, Americans spent $326.1 billion on remodeling their homes, according to a recent report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the 2015 Remodeling Impact Report.

Many homeowners wonder which will bring them the most happiness and get the best return on investment (ROI) should they sell in the future (or if they’re flipping a property!).

We’re starting this series by looking at hardwood floors in all their forms: engineered, solid wood, and reclaimed wood floors, as well as refinishing existing floors.

So are they worth the investment? In a word, absolutely.

hardwood floors

Source: National Assoc. of Realtors 2015 Remodeling Impact Report

As the NAR report shows, when looking at interior projects that had the biggest impact on resale value of a home, Realtors ranked refinishing hardwood floors as a top project, with 100 percent of $2,500 costs recovered. New wood flooring recouped 91 percent of their $5,000 to $5,500 cost.

“People want the warm hardwood floors, and refinishing the hardwoods and adding new hardwood alongside older ones—they can do it so it’s seamless, and no one can tell the difference,” said Edwina Dye, an Ebby Halliday Realtor who specializes in properties near White Rock Lake. “They don’t want carpets in the Northeast Dallas area—that’s what sells the homes, those seamless hardwoods. My son has asthma and he couldn’t live in a house with carpets—hardwoods are the best choice.”

Other Realtors agree, hardwood are not just about the look. Cleanliness and allergies are big reasons, too.

“My experience is that buyers want the hardwood for several reasons—one being that the surfaces last long and are durable for pets and children,” said Nathan Grace Realtor Desha Byars. “The other is allergies, this area we are all suffer from some sort of allergies not having carpet is the way to go. I also believe that buyers prefer hardwood over tile because of style and cleanliness.”

Adding hardwoods gave homeowners a lot of joy, too. In the NAR report, 77 percent of homeowners had a greater desire to be home since adding new hardwood floors, 65 percent had an increased sense of enjoyment when they are at home, and 73 percent had a major sense of accomplishment when they thought of the project.

 

HARDWOOD OPTIONS

hardwood floors

Beautiful herringbone solid hardwood floor cut and installed by French-Brown Floors in Dallas. Photo: French-Brown

SOLID HARDWOOD FLOORS:

  • Just what the name says, these are solid pieces of wood made from one of hundreds of types of wood
  • Generally 3/8″ to 3/4″ in thickness, meaning they can be sanded down and refinished six to eight times over the lifetime of the floor
  • Usually nailed down in place
  • Generally more expensive than other options, but last longer because of sanding option
  • Can he hand-scraped, although this removes several layers of the flooring and shortens its lifespan
  • Can be purchased prefinished or unfinished, to be stained and sealed in place once installed
  • The most sensitive to water damage. Must be well-sealed if used in bathrooms or kitchen

Solid hardwood floors are the most versatile, long lasting, and often the most expensive (although not always) of the options we’re looking at today. They can be cut and installed in place, which makes the possibilities infinite—this is what you’ll almost always find in luxury homes, older homes (because other options didn’t exist), and is considered by many to be the primo choice for hardwoods.

Realtors tend to love solid hardwoods for resale value.

“Not only do individuals want more hard surface floors, but I find that my clients want real hardwoods,” said Nathan Grace real estate agent Aimee Bloom. “I am often disappointed to go into a remodel (especially high-end remodels) where a lot of money has been spent, but then the floors are engineered. In my opinion—and truly the opinion of the majority of my clients—it cheapens the entire look. I think the ROI is always there for quality, nail-down hardwoods. It makes the entire space look that much more classy and appealing to the eye of a buyer.”

hardwood floors

Hickory Drury Lane Carmel engineered hardwood floors by Shaw. Photo: OTM Designs & Remodeling Inc.

ENGINEERED HARDWOOD FLOORS:

  • Look like solid hardwoods, but are in fact pieces of high-quality plywood or MDF with a thin layer (usually 1/16″ to 1/8″) of wood on top
  • Can be sanded and refinished one or two times over lifetime of the floor
  • Usually nailed down, but also available as “click together” boards to install on a floating floor
  • Usually come prefinished in a smaller range of woods than solid hardwoods
  • Some can be placed over radiant heat floors
  • Slightly less “sensitive” to water damage than solid hardwood floors

 

hardwood floors

Reclaimed hardwood floors. Photo: Webber + Studio, Architects

RECLAIMED HARDWOOD FLOORS:

  • New trend in the marketplace, offering used solid hardwoods that have previously been in another location
  • Offer great personality and many wood species that are now nearly extinct and no longer available to buy new, like antique wormy chestnut, one of the rarest of reclaimed hardwoods
  • Sell for a fraction of the cost of new solid hardwoods, and are often in excellent condition
  • Depending on the condition of the floors, may have many sandings left in them
  • Available from several sellers in North Texas

 

WOOD APPROXIMATIONS

hardwood floors

Karndean Designflooring hickory peppercorn laminate flooring

Laminate floors:

  • Not actual wood, but a photo of wood on top of a wood chip composite base
  • Much cheaper than hardwoods (solid or engineered), but with a negative reputation among some buyers and Realtors
  • Can’t be sanded or refinished
  • Often show chips and scratches easily
hardwood floors

Ceramic tile floor with hand-scraped hickory design. Photo: Design Studio by Raymond

Ceramic tile that looks like wood:

  • Again, not wood, but a stylized version of wood in a ceramic or porcelain tile
  • Colder than hardwoods, but in a warm climate like Texas, this might not be as big of a concern
  • Could be installed with heated subfloor to mitigate cold foot-feel
  • Popular in bathrooms and kitchen where wood is generally considered impractical because of moisture
  • Come in a huge variety of prints and shades, including rare woods impossible to get in real hardwood floors

 

So what’s the bottom line on hardwoods? Do it!

“Floors are like blue jeans—I spend more money on my jeans than most items in my closet because they are a staple that I wear on the regular,” Bloom said. “I can then cut corners and mix up the look with inexpensive tops, shoes, and accessories. Now if I go with a cheap ‘mom jean’…well the whole look suddenly looks like a hot mess, even if I spend a lot of money on my shirt and purse. So it is with [hardwood] floors—they are the foundation! Spend the money because they can make or break the entire scene.”

 

 

6 Comment

  • Something to ponder: If I appraised a house yesterday for $100,000; and today you added $2,500 in hardwood flooos; it will not appraise tomorrow for $102,500. Let the discussion begin….

    • Fair point but I think the real measure of ROI is will a buyer pay $102,500 for the house now instead of $100,000 (using your example)? And, based on the smell of stain and sealant that lingered in my house for a few days (not to mention the mess that was created) when I had a room finished out with new hardwoods, I’m pretty sure the buyer would not only pay the extra $2,500, they would pay $5,000 to avoid the hassle! Assuming they liked the look of hardwoods…

  • In my mind, “engineered hardwood” floors are a real turnoff. They are essentially half plywood and half glue and can’t be good for your health (see Lumber Liquidators for an example). If I were to purchase a home with any type of engineered hardwood, I would have to rip them out and replace with something else. Probably full hardwood or reclaimed hardwood, since they look and feel better and have none of the nasty chemical emissions after the initial finishing process wears off.

    So, at least for me, they add zero value and actually detract value from any property I’m considering buying. Many people like them, so it’s not always the case.

    • mm

      I too like real hardwoods, but mine have these marks from high heels that just make me cray cray. I think next house is going to be Japanese style where you come in and take off your shoes, put on slippers. I think that is much cleaner for your floors.