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How Long Does it Take to Install a New Hardwood Floor?

Without knowing the particulars of your project, it is nearly impossible to provide an accurate estimate of how long it would take to install a new hardwood floor. The type of wood you choose makes a difference, as do the size and shape of the installation area. In addition, you have the time it takes to order and receive your flooring, acclimation, and finishing.

Ordering New Hardwood Floors

Though you may be able to see examples or samples of hardwood flooring in a physical store, generally it must be ordered from the manufacturer. On average, it takes around four days to receive your flooring once it has been ordered. Special or custom orders add to that timeframe by at least a few days. If you order prefinished hardwood flooring, it can take take up to three additional weeks to receive it. However, since it is prefinished, there is no drying time after installation.

The Acclimation Process

Once you receive your flooring, it must go through a process known as acclimation before installation. Acclimation allows the wood to reach the relative humidity of your home. If the wood is too dry or too wet, there are bound to be problems. Flooring that is too dry absorbs moisture and expands, while flooring that is too wet eventually dries and shrinks. Either option means having to get a new floor.

To properly acclimate your new flooring, open the boxes containing your planks and remove any plastic wrapped around them. Lay the boxes on the floor a foot apart, layering any additional boxes in a crosswise direction over the first layer. Some contractors and manufacturers have specific instructions for how your material should be acclimated, but this is the general process. Your installer will (or at least should) use a moisture meter to ensure that the flooring was properly acclimated.

The minimum recommended amount of time for acclimation is 5 days, though up to 10 is considered ideal. If you have not removed your flooring or inspected the subfloor yet, the acclimation period is a good time to do so.

It should be noted that, while traditional hardwood flooring requires acclimation, not all engineered hardwood does. Not that acclimating engineered hardwood causes any problems, but it is unnecessary if the manufacturer has stated it is not required.

Hardwood Floor Installation

Installation times vary from project to project, with the size of the floor having the most impact on time.

  • Installing 1,000 square feet or less of unfinished hardwood flooring typically takes between three and eight days, plus another day to dry
  • Installing 1,000 square feet or less of prefinished hardwood flooring typically takes between one and two days, with no drying time required
  • If existing flooring needs to be removed, the installation timeframe may increase:

  • Carpet and laminate flooring do not usually add to install time, as they are able to be removed on the first day of installation, but can add up to half a day
  • Ripping up existing hardwood may add a full day to installation time
  • Tile removal typically adds an extra day, but may add two days depending on whether floor prep is needed after removal
  • Remember that the more complex the installation, the longer it's going to take.

Finishing New Hardwood Floors

After installation comes the finishing process. First, the wood must be stained, then sealed with two to three coats of polyurethane. It takes about a day for each coat to dry, though stain and sealer combination products take a day off the process. The maximum amount of time for the finishing process to complete is, on average, five days. If you purchase prefinished hardwood flooring, then you do not need to worry about this step.

How Much Does a Hardwood Floor Cost?

Hardwood flooring costs vary according to the size of the floor, type of wood, and the complexity of the installation. Cost is also affected by whether you choose traditional wood flooring (real wood planks) or engineered wood flooring (real wood veneer bonded to layers of low-cost wood backing). Each option has its own pricing tier.

Traditional Wood Planks

  • Low-tier woods, such as pine, average between $3 and $6 per square foot on for the flooring and between $3 and $5 per square foot for installation
  • Mid-tier woods, such as oak, have an average cost between $5 and $10 per square foot for the flooring and between $4 and $8 per square foot for installation
  • High-tier woods, such as mahogany, have an average cost between $8 and $14 per square foot for the flooring and between $4 and $8 per square foot for installation

Engineered Wood Planks

  • Low-tier flooring with three core layers topped by a wood veneer has an average cost between $3 and $5 per square foot
  • Mid-tier flooring with five core layers topped by a thicker wood veneer has an average cost between $5 and $10 per square foot
  • High-tier flooring with seven or more core layers and the thickest veneer has an average cost between $8 and $13 per square foot
  • All engineered hardwood flooring has an average installation cost between $3 and $10 per square foot

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