The Mrs. and I don’t like carpet. We bought our current home in 2015 with the intention of replacing the carpets with hardwood flooring. I was prepared to “embrace the suck” of DIY flooring.
After we moved in, our steam-cleaned carpets no longer smelled like they were steam cleaned. A serious funk started permeating the house and I knew the carpets were to blame.
Rather than pay an arm and a leg to get hardwood flooring professionally installed, I decided to learn as much as I could by taking the DIY flooring route.
Let’s be honest, though. Many people don’t install flooring themselves because they enjoy it (except for Mr. Money Mustache) or just want to learn.
The purpose of DIY flooring is to save money.
DIY Flooring – Lessons Learned Installing 1550 Square Feet
I didn’t want to put in wood flooring because, eventually, I’m going to rent this house out. Plus I wanted something that was reasonably easier to clean and maintain than wood, so I decided to put in luxury vinyl plank flooring downstairs and laminate flooring upstairs.
1. Competence Can Be Developed
I had never replaced carpeting or installed any kind of flooring in my life. When I was a teenager, I did rip out some old purple … that’s right … purple carpet from my bedroom. The floor underneath was finished oak. It was beautiful! Why would anyone want to cover beautiful oak flooring with purple carpet?
Anyone who thinks carpet is okay needs to remove old carpet and padding to see what it looks and smells like underneath. The dust (consisting of millions of dead bugs), hairs and stains in the carpet and padding are absolutely disgusting. Most people will never go back to carpet.
I did leave carpet on the stairs because I have little kids and am afraid they might slip on them. Additionally, installing hardwood on stairs is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. The stairs are a challenge that I’m saving for a later date.
Even though I had never replaced any flooring before, I was confident in my ability to follow instructions and properly use tools. YouTube and Google are great instructors. 🙂
2. Get Help from Others
I have a friend at work who has replaced carpet, laminate, and wood flooring before. He offered to help me on my project but I politely declined. It’s great to have friends who know things I don’t know. I’m not ashamed to admit when I don’t know something.
Had I been more pressed for time, I would have taken him up on his offer. I didn’t ask for any help because I allowed myself several months to complete my DIY flooring project.
My father-in-law did help a few days when he visited but realized quickly that I was a bit more meticulous about doing quality work than he was. I still appreciated his help, though, and thanked him for it. He ended up watching the kids occasionally…
3. Time is Critical
DIY flooring takes a lot of time, especially if you don’t have the help of someone who’s done it before.
Typically, the only time you’ll have to replace the existing flooring is in between rentals, immediately after your last tenant has moved out. Obviously, time is of the essence because the sooner you get your floors done, the sooner you can get new tenants in.
The Summer is when people move most often so you’ll want your leases to start and end during this time, ideally. Unfortunately, this is also the busiest time of the year for contractors. Unless you’ve coordinated for contractors in advance, you may have a hard time getting everything done when you need it done.
I chose to go the DIY flooring route because we lived in our home and had plenty of time to spread the work out over weeks, months, or years if necessary. Unfortunately, my DIY flooring project has become a multi-year undertaking because I’m not done with the kitchen floors.
I did not track how many hours I’ve spent doing all this work but I’ve easily spent over 120 hours with my DIY flooring project. Could I have better spent my time elsewhere? Absolutely, yes. Did I save 120+ hours in money? Not even close. But this is the price I’m willing to pay in order to learn … even if it’s the hard way.
4. Prep Work Sure Is a Lot of Work!
If you’re in between rentals, prep work will not be too big of an issue. If you or your tenants are currently living in the house that needs new flooring, all that furniture might be a problem. Where will it be stored and who’s going to move it? If you’re using contractors, they will most likely charge extra.
By taking the DIY flooring route, I was able to install the flooring one room at a time at my convenience. I moved furniture from one side of the room, finished the opposite side, and then move the furniture to the finished side so I could complete the room. This saved me a ton of hassle but also extended the time required to complete each room.
Prep work consisted of removing carpet, padding, tack strips, and nails. Additionally, I had to make sure all the subfloors were clean and level. Prep work for vinyl plank flooring is critical because, eventually, every imperfection in the subfloors will show. I’m not crazy about the look but it’s much better than carpet and, better yet, it’s almost indestructible.
Eventually, I’ll replace the vinyl plank flooring on the first floor with higher quality laminate flooring when we move and rent our home out. I’m not planning on using vinyl plank flooring again because it feels cheap.
5. Know How Much Everything Costs
I’m not going to list specific prices of labor because there are too many variables like location, contractor, flooring type, etc…
On the first floor, I installed vinyl plank flooring because so many real estate investors or landlords touted its resilience and cost-effectiveness.
I bought Home Depot’s TrafficMASTER Allure ultra luxury vinyl plank flooring in November 2015 for $3 per square foot. That’s not very cheap–I just noticed that the price dropped to $1.75 per square foot as of September 2017. Oh well!
A general rule of thumb is to add an additional 10% of flooring to your actual required square footage. You waste a lot of materials to install flooring in closets and to stagger your boards which makes your floors look good. The first floor needed 770 square feet (700 x 10% = 770) of flooring for a total of $2300.
The kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room floors are not done yet. Remember, this is a multi-year project.
On the second floor, I installed laminate flooring and padding that I picked up at Home Depot for $1.60 per square foot (padding included). Because I left the guest bathroom and master bathrooms floors intact, I only needed 935 square feet (850 + 10% = 935) of flooring for a total of $1500.
Total cost of materials so far for 1550 square feet of flooring was $3800. Had I chosen to hire contractors, I would have spent well over $10,000.
Why I Chose DIY Flooring Over Professionally Installed Flooring
I’m a landlord and need to know as much as I can about home improvements and repairs. My wife and I didn’t invest in real estate. We moved out of the homes we previously bought and rented them out rather than sell them. We’re accidental landlords.
Luckily, we’ve had enough sense to buy single-family homes that are universally desirable:
- 3 or more bedrooms
- 2 or more bathrooms
- in good condition
- reasonably close to work
- in a good school district
The most desirable homes don’t usually make the best long-term (rental property) real estate investments because they cost more relative to rents. However, they’re good for inexperienced real estate investors like us.
I’m going to buy my next single-family real estate investment property intentionally, not accidentally.
Read Why You Should Not Invest in Real Estate before you decide to invest in long-term residential real estate.
In the future, I’ll hire contractors in order to find and build a reliable and competent team. At least, I have a better understanding of what it takes to install flooring.
I also thought I might enjoy remodeling homes but I don’t!
Do you know the real reason why I chose DIY flooring over professionally installed flooring?
To save money!
People choose DIY flooring to save money. Period.
Do you have any experience with DIY flooring?
Are you considering DIY flooring in the future?
Please share with others and comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!