Want to get a simple estimate of your flooring project costs? Or, want to compare flooring costs? The easiest way I found to do this? A flooring cost calculator, which you’ll find below.
A good DIY estimate is important even when you’re hiring an installer. It helps you get a good deal, budget, and decide which floor is best for you. Besides the floor cost estimator, we’ll also cover:
- how to accurately measure your rooms
- why you need to include “waste” and how much (this is a big area where people can be overcharged)
- comparison of different types of floors and their costs
Let’s dive in by getting an estimate…
Flooring cost estimator calculator (total project cost)
Want to ignore all the details of calculating flooring project costs and have us estimate it for you?
That’s what this calculator is for.
It can also be used to compare the costs of different types of flooring (eg hardwood vs carpet) or different qualities (eg 5-year laminate vs 15-year laminate).
All you have to do is:
- Enter the type of floor
- Enter the total square footage of your project OR number of rooms
- Choose the quality of the flooring you want: budget, average, or most durable
How to measure your floor square footage
Measuring floors is easy with a few exceptions. Here’s how to do it:
- Grab a tape measure
- Measure the longest wall from one end to the other. Record this as the length
- Measure the other wall from one end to the other. Record this as the width
That’s it. Then, you can record your lengths and width for each room in the calculator above. It will calculate the square footage for you.
“But wait… my rooms not a perfect rectangle.”
No problem. Some measurements can be more complicated than others, but for estimating, here are a couple of pretty easy solutions:
If your room isn’t a perfect rectangle because it has another rectangular area that sticks out: Usually, it’s best to just treat these areas as two separate “rooms.” The reason is the extra rectangular area, although small, is just like another area. It won’t take much more flooring. You can see what I mean by this illustration where the closet is treated like a separate room (this same principle would apply if it weren’t a closet but just an extension of the room):
If your room isn’t a perfect rectangle because the walls are rounded, diamond-shaped, or in some other way, not a straight edge:These are a little trickier for installation purposes, and the best way to estimate is just to take your measurement from the longest part of the wall. You can see this by this illustration where the “half-circle” extension of the room is treated as its own room with the length being the furthest part of the half-circle:
It has a rounded wall on one end (or insert other non-rectangular feature here). Simple: just measure from the longest section of the room. This isn’t perfect but generally gives you a pretty good estimate.
How to DIY calculate your flooring project cost
Once you have your total square footage using the measurements above, you can now calculate your total floor cost. Here’s how it’s done:
Floor Project Cost = [Project square footage] *[ amount extra waste needed] * [floor cost including pad, extra materials, installation]
A note on each of these:
- Project square footage = the square footage you calculated in the measuring section above
- Amount of extra waste needed = specific to your floor and project. more tips on how to determine how much you need below. then, you take that percentage and multiply it by making it a standard number, eg 10% = 1.10, 5% = 1.05, 20% = 1.20.
- Floor cost is straightforward and should be in price per square foot. Pad costs (and if you even need it), extra materials, and installation costs all vary but there are rule of thumb estimates for each floor. Like waste, you’ll find more on this for each type of floor below.
Finally, for some floors, you may want to know how many boxes to buy because they are sold by the box not the square foot. All you have to do is take your square footage * amount of extra waste needed like before but then divide that by the square footage in each box (usually 20). This will be the number of boxes you need. If it’s not an exact number, round up. There an example of how to calculate waste and boxes in the hardwood section below.
Flooring cost comparison (notes on each type of flooring)
Whenever you install a floor, you can’t just multiply the cost of the floor by the square footage of your rooms.
For two many reasons:
- Floors require a percentage of extra flooring to be ordered. This is often called “waste.” One of the main reasons is the size of the floor (plank size or roll width) won’t match perfectly with your room. Other reasons are to match patterns, be able to cut pieces around corners, and to make up for any damaged materials during installation.
- You’ll have costs in addition to materials: padding, molding, and other installation materials, installation costs.
Both the waste needed and additional costs can vary from floor to floor. It helps to have any idea of what to expect for each of these before calculating your flooring costs, and that’s the purpose of this section (note: these are automatically included in the calculator estimates):
A note on “waste” before starting
For every type of floor, you’ll see “waste” come in a range. Some jobs require 2-5x as much waste as another job. That’s a big difference!
So how do you get a feel for how much “waste” you’ll need? Here are the most common things that will make your floor project to be higher on the range of “waste” (these are in relative order from least to most of how much of an impact they make):
- cheaper flooring due to more breaks and defects
- more objects sticking out into the room such as walls, cabinets, etc
- more pattern or unique design to the floor that will require design matching of adjacent areas of flooring
- smaller rooms of less than 750-1,000 square feet
- diagonal or rounded walls can require significantly more waste
If your room is all of these or even just the last one (diagonal), you might need to choose waste on the high-end of the range for your type of floor (or in some cases even higher). If you have a non-patterned floor in a perfectly rectangular 1,500 square foot room, you can likely get by with the lowest amount of waste in the range.
Now let’s break down waste, extra material costs, and installation costs by type of floor:
Carpet Cost Estimate notes
Carpet comes in rolls of fixed sizes. The most common size is 12 feet. This means that to install it correctly the is usually waste on the edge. Let’s use the example of a room that is 10 x 20 feet. You’d have 2 feet of waste along the 10-foot edge.
The specifics can get detailed and confusing based on how many seams you’re going to have, how patterns need to be matched, etc. It’s best left up to the installer. However, most of the time you can expect waste of 10-20%.
If you have a room that’s exactly the width of the roll, you may need closer to none. If you have an irregular shaped room and the carpet has patterns, you might need closer to 30% (although this would be rare).
All carpet needs padding, and installing carpet is not a DIY job. Cost of both of these vary but a rough rule of thumb is $1.00 per square foot on both ($0.50 for each pad and installation).
Calculate Average Carpet Installation Costs
Carpet costs between $2 per sq. ft. for the the most basic carpet + 1/4″ padding, all the way up to $10+ per sq. ft. for fancy carpets and premium padding. However you must also pay for waste, as carpet comes in 12′ wide rolls. If your room is is 10′ wide, the extra 2 feet are waste that you are paying for.
Typically your installer will provide “free basic installation labor” with exceptions of moving furniture, removing old tile floors or doing subfloor repair work, etc.
Basic carpet installation is quick and easy – one room can be finished in 2 hours by 2 installers.
Essentially, you buy the carpet, and it gets installed for “free”. Installation labor is built into the price to simplify matters for sellers and homeowners.
Hardwood estimate notes
Hardwood floors cost between $3 – $12+ per sq. ft. for materials and about $4 – $7 for labor. Many homeowners opt to buy the material, and pay contractors for installation.
I’m not a fan of this (homeowners buying the materials), as it gives the contractor a green light to be wasteful, and complicates logistics, since homeowners almost never buy enough, and forget about many small items. Also this often leads to spoiled overall experience for both contractor and homeowner.
Over all you can expect to pay an average $8 to $11 per sq. ft. of hardwood flooring (both labor and material), without any additional work that may be required – subfloor, removal, repairs, moldings, etc.
Calculate Hardwood Installation Costs
The good news when you get into hard flooring is they come in small planks, rather than larger rolls like carpet. This means there’s less waste based on your room measurements.
That said, some products can get damaged during install, and you’re going to have to cut planks to fit your walls and get around permanent objects such as cabinets and walls that stick out in the room. Usually, plan for 5-15% waste. For most estimations, 10% is a good starting point.
Another thing to consider in hardwood is it usually comes in 20 square foot boxes. In almost all cases, you take your square footage plus the amount of waste needed and then you divide that number by 20. Whatever number you get round it up, and this is how many boxes you’ll need.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you want to install hardwood in a 1,500 square foot room. You want 10% waste, so you need 150 square feet for waste (1,500 * 10% = 150). That means you need 1,650 square feet of hardwood (1,500 + 150). This means you need 83 boxes of hardwood (1650 / 20 = 82.5). Pretty easy, huh?
Note: you don’t always have to round up, but it’s best for estimating purposes. An example where you wouldn’t need to round up is if you’re calculating 10% waste into your figure and then you get 11.1 boxes needed.
In this case, you can likely round down to 11 boxes since you’ll still have 9%+ waste. I think it’s easiest for estimation purposes just to round up (be on the safe side), but you can ask your retailer if you could round down.
Fortunately for hardwood, you usually don’t need padding. However, it’s not an easy floor to install and consequently one of the most expensive. Expect to pay around $7 per square foot for installation.
Installation costs usually vary by the difficulty of your room (the same things that require more waste) and the type of wood you choose. Harder and more luxurious woods are usually more expensive.
I cover more ground about the cost of installing hardwood floors on this page.
Laminate cost estimates notes
Laminate is similar to hardwood because it comes in planks and 20-foot boxes. But there are some differences. Laminate is an easier floor to install and may require slightly less waste. Most jobs can get by with 5-15% waste(many time on that lower end of that range). The other benefit of laminate is significantly less expensive installation and other fees–usually around $3 square foot. This varies by job and location but straightforward rooms can often be installed for around $2 per square foot. Expect to add roughly $0.50 for padding and another $0.50 for miscellaneous expenses like trims etc.
If you want examples of how to calculate how many boxes of laminate you need, check out the example for hardwood above (you’ll find most plank style floors are calculated the same way).
Bamboo estimate notes
Bamboo is essentially a type of hardwood when it comes to flooring. Everything in the above hardwood section applies, with the following exceptions:
1) Bamboo is significantly cheaper that hardwood – you will be saving at least $1-2 per square foot if you install 5/16″ bamboo vs basic white oak hardwood floor.
2) Bamboo has much greater expansion / contraction rate vs hardwood – expect floor movement at least 1/4″ to 1/2″ in a typical 15×15′ room, and plan accordingly. Make sure your installer DOES NOT nail the bamboo rows at the ends – otherwise you may have wide gaps in the middle of the room. Also use thicker floor moldings – 1/2″ to 3/4″ thickness is ideal to hide 1/4″ – 3/8″ offsets between floor edge and walls. Finally make sure your bamboo is not tight against the wall, and as the above mentioned offsets.
3) Loosely laid bamboo planks may squeak – unlike hardwood, which is usually nailed or glued down, bamboo is typically loosely laid down. If you have uneven subfloor, the floor may squeak when you walk on it.
Bottom line – while bamboo is much cheaper than hardwood (as much as 25-30% overall cost saving), think twice about all the downsides of bamboo. I personally installed a very beautiful bamboo floor, but now I wish I spent $2 more per foot and did hardwood.
Luxury Vinyl Tiles or Planks estimate notes (aka LVT and LVP)
Laminate and luxury vinyl have many similarities and measuring is one of them. Add in 5-15% waste of luxury vinyl.
Bigger rooms (over 1k square feet) usually you can get by closer to 5% and smaller rooms you may have to go closer to 10% or even 15% in some cases. Just like the other “planks”, luxury vinyl usually comes in boxes containing 20 square foot boxes.
Luxury vinyl is sometimes slightly more expensive than laminate for materials, but it’s also slightly easier to install and less likely to need underlayment.
Expect to pay about $2 per square foot for luxury vinyl on installation and other fees (that’s if you don’t DIY and luxury vinyl is the easiest DIY).
Ceramic/Porcelain/Stone Tile estimate notes
Tile’s most unique feature is how hard it is. You can just manually snap it; it has to be cut. It’s not an easy install but still the waste stays about the same as other floors. You can expect 5-10% waste for straightforward (big room, rectangle layout) rooms, 15-20% for diagonal rooms or cheap tiles that may have a high cull (damaged/can’t be used) rate.
Where tile is different is installation costs. This isn’t a DIY job, and installation will cost you more than other floors. I’d expect to pay $5 square foot for installation but more difficult jobs can be much more expensive.
Cork estimates notes
Completely different than tile, cork is a soft easy-to-manipulate floor. It usually comes in planks, but they’re uniform patterns and only require 5-10% waste.There are different sized boxes but, like the other hard plank floors, close to 20 square foot boxes is most common.
Installation is also inexpensive. You canget it installed for $1-2 square foot and no padding is required.It’s also a pretty easy DIY job if you want to install it yourself.
Captain’s ideas on what to do next:
Now you have a great estimate of your flooring cost. Hope you enjoyed the calculator.
- Installation quality is extremely important. Home Advisor can help choose an installer for you. Click here to get free quotes on installation from pre-qualified installers.
- I have guides on every type of floor listed above. Check out the navigation and click “unbiased floor guides” to find your floor and get my step-by-step walkthrough on buying it.
Any questions? Let me know in the comments below.