best place to buy flooring

Best Place to Buy Flooring

Where is the best place to buy hardwood flooring?

Engineered hardwood?

What about the best place to buy laminate? Luxury vinyl?

These are all questions I get a lot, and they each have the same answer: it depends.

I get it if that’s not what you want to hear. It almost sounds political like I’m avoiding the question. I promise I’m not. It’s just there’s no “one size fits all” flooring store.

After talking to people, some I recommend go to Lowe’s, some to wayfair.com, and some to their local store. It depends on their specific situation.

And that’s the purpose of this article:

I’m going to cover each major category of “store” (sometimes not technically a store) and its pros and cons. I’ll give people I think fit the best with each type of floor and hope you relate best with one.

If not, let me know in the comments below, and I’ll help you out.

Local stores

Examples: any stores in your area that have  less than 10 locations

I’ll start off by being completely transparent here:

I like local stores. I’m not talking flooring, just for anything. I think most treat their employees better than average, directly support the community, and are important to the overall happiness of a community. So if there’s a tie on where you choose, I prefer local.

But outside of the “feel good” benefits of local, how do they compare for buying flooring?

Local stores usually have the most educated staff to help you. This is because they specialize in flooring. Other stores, you might get people from other departments just “helping out.” On top of this, the employees are usually more invested in their job: this goes back to them being better paid, and also the fact that they potentially are related to or know the owner.

Unlike other floor retailers that may drive people in with the lowest advertised prices and marketing, local stores often rely on word of mouth. This means they don’t survive without treating customers well.

The elephant in the room about buying local may also have some truth:

Local retailers aren’t the cheapest. They lack the buying power of the big corporations. With that in mind, many can still provide competitive prices. And going back to the customer service and educated staff, if you get the best flooring for your home and pay a little more for it, that’s much better than getting a floor that doesn’t fit your needs cheap.

Who’s it best for? People who aren’t certain what they want, or are willing to pay a small premium for the best service and advice.

Big box stores

Examples: Lowe’s, Home Depot, Costco, major national flooring retailers

You’re familiar with big box stores, and you’ve probably seen they sell flooring.

So are they a good place to buy?

They can be. You may or may not get great advice in these stores. How knowledgeable the “help” is varies a lot. Usually, they’ll go mostly off the type of floor you want and your budget. If you know these two things, a big box store might work out well.

While you may not get the best flooring education here, you may not need to rely on it as much. If you have a definite budget, you can buy the floor you need at that budget and expect you’re getting a pretty decent product for the money. That’s because big box stores live up to their reputation of having pretty good prices. 

Most of the time the installer will be contracted out. Again, this can vary, but the installers don’t want to get bashed by the customers because they know they’ll lose the big box stores business. Also, the big box store isn’t going to send you to someone they find on Craigslist. The installer should have a decent reputation.

Overall, big box stores are a good place to go if you’re remodeling on a budget.

Who is it best for? Average Joe who wants a good price and guarantee of service

Online stores

Examples: wayfair.com, homedepot.com, builddirect.com,  overstock.com, lumberliquidators.com

Surprise:

This is the cheapest way to buy flooring. At least some of the time.

Because of the large volume of materials (not simple to ship), fairly custom work (installation), questions customers have, and desire for customers to see what they’re getting, online hasn’t taken as big of a bite out of flooring as it has other industries.

But online is still taking a percentage of flooring. And just like other industries, online flooring retailers don’t have nearly the cost of doing business: they don’t need to hire as many employees and don’t have to pay the bills for a store location.

Where these lack is customer service. And I don’t mean they’re going to rip you off or not let you complain. Actually, sometimes these stores have better return policies because they can do to their lower costs of business. What I mean, is you really need to know what you want.

Flooring is complicated, and if you get a few details off, you could really regret your purchase. And unlike local (or even big box) stores, there’s no one to ask (in person… you can talk to their chat bot). But if you know exactly what you want (maybe you’ve read every detail of our unbiased flooring guides 😉 ), these can be a good way to save money.

Who’s it best for? Budget seekers willing to DIY

Floors to your home retailers

Examples: Empire Today

This is a mixed bag. You get bigger companies like Empire, but it can also include random installers with extra product.

One thing is true with most all of these: they’re on commission. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you have to be careful that their interest in getting the sale (whether that’s just making a sale, or selling you a better-commissioned product) isn’t greater than their want to help you. And let’s be honest, most people are motivated by money.

The problem is this person may know you’ll never see them again. And they may not even plan on staying at their job.

You can find good deals with these, and there are benefits to having the flooring brought to you. Not only is it convenient, but you also get to see the floor in your home (lighting and surrounding colors sometimes makes a huge difference in how a floor looks).

If you go this route, I’d definitely be educated on the flooring you’re buying (hint: check out our hardwood guide, laminate guide, luxury vinyl guide, etc).

Captain’s parting words!

You have many options on where to buy your flooring.

Much of it depends on how tight your budget is and how certain you are on the flooring you want.

There are other flooring stores that dont fit into the categories above, but these cover 90% of what you’ll find.

Any other questions on where you buy your flooring? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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