Carpet vs Hardwood Floors – What’s the Best for You?
Sometimes it comes down to the classics.
Hardwood and carpet are about as opposite as you can get, but you’re not alone debating which will be better for your new floor.
Sometimes it’s how different they are that make the decision so difficult. It’s like choosing between grilling barbecue chicken or a cheeseburger. They’re both good food, but how do you choose?
The difference is you’re stuck with your flooring for 10+ years. Your meat of choice gets digested pretty fast.
The good news is this long-term relationship with flooring should make it an easier choice. Both hardwood flooring and carpet have advantages—some that you like haven’t thought of.
So what are they?
I’ll cover the benefits of each below. At the time of making this article, presidential debates (if you can call them that) were happening. You’ll notice the debate and rebuttal style of this article was influenced by them.
Captain comes clean! Did I start this blog writing about carpet? Yes. But despite the name, I have no preference to carpet. I don’t make money for any flooring. My sole purpose is free advice to get you the best floor purchase in your home.
Pros of hardwood over carpet
Hardwood is the timeless flooring choice. Made of real wood, it’s both permanent and prestigious. This gives hardwood owners an air of superiority. Let’s hear hardwood talk itself up, and give carpet a chance to rebuttal.
Hardwood is clean.
Hardwood floors don’t hold debris that cause build-up of bacteria and particles that aggravate asthma. A major reason people choose hardwood is they feel like carpet gets dirty and is more difficult to clean. Debris, dust, crumbs, or spills cannot hide with hardwood, and that means you can easily clean them up with a broom and mop. With carpet, these things can settle to the bottom, and you wouldn’t even notice it.
Carpet’s rebuttal: Regular vacuuming should take care of any particles sitting at the bottom of the carpet, and yearly carpet cleaning will help “deep cleanse” and remove bacteria. In addition, carpet actually acts as an air filter by trapping dust and debris until it can be vacuumed. It’s better than hardwood floors where this dust and debris is “kicked up” into the air whenever the furnace turns on or someone walks through the room. Carpet may contain a lot of particles, but you’re more likely to breathe them in with hardwood.
Hardwood is prestigious.
There’s not much more I have to say here, but the fact is hardwood floors just look fancy if done right. There’s something about the natural elegance of hardwood that screams sophistication.
Carpet’s rebuttal: Hardwoods definitely look luxurious if done right, but they can also look very cheap and tacky if they aren’t truly high quality (see high price). Also, carpets can have a luxurious and natural look, just go with a high-end wool carpet.
Hardwood is long lasting and can increase your home value.
Properly maintained hardwood floors can last for multiple decades. If the floor is damaged, you can refinish it. Not to mention, hardwood never goes out of style.
Carpet’s rebuttal: Not much of a response here, but quality carpet can easily last 10-15 years, and most people like to change things up around then anyway. Also, refinishing hardwood can cost nearly as much as new carpet.
Hardwood is all natural.
Real hardwood comes from completely renewable resources. This not only gives the homeowner the feel of natural beauty, but it also is environmentally friendly. You can plant a new tree, you can’t reverse the damage done by man-made carpet fibers.
Carpet’s rebuttal: If you want to go the environmentally friendly route with carpet, you have options. Wool comes from sheep, and there are also more and more quality carpets being made of recyclable materials: Smartstrand is a popular one. Also, not all “hardwoods” are environmentally friendly. They need to come from socially responsible companies.
Hardwood is more versatile
You have multiple color options with hardwood, but many of the classic colors are natural colors that fit in with any décor. Any time you want to add a new look to your flooring, you can throw a rug on top. Rugs can vary from low-cost and fun designs to very high-end luxurious designs. This gives you the best of both worlds: you have hardwood, and you also have carpet (the rug) wherever you want to throw one down. When’s the last time you saw a slab of hardwood thrown down on carpet? It doesn’t happen.
Carpet’s rebuttal: It’s true that in some ways you get the best of both worlds with hardwood, but carpet allows for versatility with the many different colors, patterns, and styles you can choose. Want a change of pace? You can have brand new carpet installed, and you will still have likely paid less for both sets of carpet than you would for one set of hardwood flooring.
Pros of carpet over hardwood
Carpet is warm and cozy. It’s like a blanket for your home. Let’s hear why carpet makes your home inviting, and here hardwoods rebuttal.
Carpet is comfortable.
If you’re living in your home, you’re doing a lot of walking in your home, and there’s nothing worse than clunking around on a hardwood floor. Carpet gives you a dense layer of pad topped with soft fiber. This provides comfort that carpet owners may take for granite, but hardwood owners envy.
Hardwood’s rebuttal: Do you really need a soft floor? Throw on some socks or shoes and the problem’s solved. If you don’t want to wear socks and shoes, throw down a rug in areas where you frequently walk. It may not be as soft as carpeting, but it should be good enough.
Carpet is economical.
Flooring is the 3rd biggest investment American’s make behind housing and cars. $5,000 is a decent estimate of what a family might pay for quality carpet installed in an average-sized family home. It’s not a small amount, but hardwood can be double that! Are you really willing to spend an extra $5,000 for hardwood?
Hardwood’s rebuttal: There’s no debate that the initial investment is higher for hardwood, but things may even out in the end. If they’re high quality and well taken care of, hardwood floors can last a lifetime. Even high quality carpet doesn’t usually last much more than 10 years.
Carpet acts as insulation.
No matter what the carpet is made of, it and the padding acts as insulation. This does two things: lowers your heating bills, and makes your floor warm to walk. If you’ve ever compared walking on hardwood to walking on carpet in the winter, you can feel how much you’re saving by investing in carpet. Not only that, but who wants cold feet?
Hardwood’s rebuttal: There isn’t much of a comeback here. However, if you’re worried about insulation with hardwood, you could have someone install more insulation under your house.
Carpet has a “homey” feel.
Most families want their house to feel like more than just a building. They want it to feel like a home, and carpet has a few characteristics that make it feel more “homey.” Two of these characteristics have already been touched on, and two I will describe soon.
I already described how carpet is soft and warm, and most people find this more comforting than cold and hard. Two other benefits of carpet are it limits noise echoing, and it allows for more colors, styles, and patterns. Limiting the noise reverberation gets rid of the hollow building feeling. As far as the more options for styling, most people want to personalize their home, and this is one of the best ways to do it.
Hardwood’s rebuttal: Don’t underestimate the options you have with hardwood. Not only are their different types of wood, there are also a wide variety of rugs that you can throw down on your hardwood floor. This creates all types of options for personalization and also might help out with some of the other “homey” benefits listed about carpet.
Carpet is less likely to be permanently damaged.
People talk about how hardwood can last forever, but it also can be permanently damaged by high heels or animal claws. It’s very uncommon for quality carpet to be permanently damaged except for the wear and tear that occurs over time.
Hardwood’s rebuttal: Hardwoods have protective coatings that are usually pretty effective, and if they aren’t, many “permanent” damages can be fixed by refinishing the hardwood. Also, there are some instances where carpet can be permanently damaged: red liquid will sometimes permanently stain, and cheap carpet fibers can get permanently crushed or have permanent streaks.
Captain’s parting words!
There’s a place for carpet and hardwood in every home.
Hardwood has a classic feel. It’s strong, permanent, and has a hint of prestige. Not only that, but you don’t have to worry about exposing your family to colonies of dust mites like you do with carpet.
Or do you?
Maybe carpet gets a worse reputation for allergies than it should. If it’s properly vacuumed, carpet could be the better option for allergy sufferers. And while carpet may not be as timeless as hardwood, it wins in the “warm and cozy” debate. Carpet literally insulates your home, quiets the echoing noises, and is more comfortable.
So warm vs classic–only you can choose the big winner between carpet and hardwood. But let me complicate things a little… have you considered tile or laminate?