Install a Beautiful, Affordable Wood Floor

With inexpensive pine or spruce, you can have the wood floor you’ve always dreamed of.

| October/November 2006

wood floor - collated screw gun

A collated screw gun is the ultimate subfloor installation and reinforcement tool. The yard-long nose and auto-feed system save time and prevent back strain.

Steve Maxwell

Pine makes a terrific finished floor. I installed more than 1,000 square feet of pine flooring in my home about 15 years ago. It was easy to put down, the price was better than that of many other types of wood, and the floors still look great.

Many people who want to install a wood floor look exclusively at oak and other hardwoods, but softwoods such as pine are usually less expensive. It’s true that pine dents more easily than oak, and that’s why it’s not the best choice for every room. But if you believe that a few dents and dings simply add character to a wood floor, then pine flooring is a great option. In fact, the options for inexpensive wood flooring extend to other softwood species including spruce, fir and larch.

In some regions, you can buy unfinished pine flooring for less than $1 per square foot, especially if you can find a local sawmill instead of going to a lumberyard. By comparison, oak typically is up to twice as expensive as pine. Carpet starts at around $1.20 per square foot, and vinyl starts at $1.50 per square foot.

Softwood is rarely marketed as flooring, so you need to know the technical names of the kind of wood you’re looking for. My favorite floor-grade softwood is standard 1-by-6 pine in No. 1 and No. 2 grades with tongue-and-groove edges. These grades of wood may have a few knots and other imperfections. The tongue and groove edge allows me to install the boards without any visible nails. If you want a floor that’s more rustic and even more economical, then take a look at No. 3 pine in 6 to 10 inch widths, without tongue-and-groove edges. The substantial knots in No. 3 pine look wonderful when the flooring is installed and finished.

Prices vary widely, but near my home in Ontario, No. 1 pine sells for about $1 or more per square foot at sawmills, and for about $2 at lumberyards. No. 3 pine is priced as reasonably as wood can get, from about 60 to 80 cents per square foot from sawmills, and double that at lumberyards.

If spruce is common where you live, it is another good softwood for flooring. Spruce is available in various widths, with or without tongue-and-groove edges. Spruce is harder than pine, and therefore more resistant to denting. But be careful about twists and bends in this wood — spruce sometimes has a mind of its own. It’s fine for floors; just look carefully before you buy a pile of boards. Spruce that is bowed, cupped or bent is difficult to install.

4/28/2015 3:10:58 PM

Having a solid subfloor is so important when it comes to installing a hardwood floor. It can cost a little bit more to replace the subfloor in addition to the hardwood, but it will make everything more secure. Not only that, but it can potentially increase the life of your floor by keeping it in good condition.

2/26/2015 9:10:30 AM

From your comments, it seems that pine is the best option for a hardwood floor. For me, I think that durable and cost effective are the points that I would hit upon. I will keep in mind to round up and compensate for the waste of excess for places like the closet, as you've said. It is seemingly simple to just floor an open area. The closet is a great obstacle to make considerations for though.

2/25/2015 10:15:14 AM

Pine really is a great option for wood floors. So many people go with the vinyl flooring, but it just doesn't look as nice as real wood. Pine is cheaper than vinyl too, so I don't see why people look past it. I'm looking to strip up the carpet in my living room and replace it with wood flooring soon. Wish me luck!

7/14/2014 11:02:50 PM

I think it deserves more 5 stars. Thanks !!

tracey hewison
3/22/2011 12:02:58 AM

Hello, I am very interested in removing our tired and yucky berber carpet and replacing with a DIY wooden floor....but I was hoping to have a painted floor. Could you tell me what might be the best, most economical wood I could use for this task? Thanks so much! I think it will just look fabulous in our bedroom, I love, love, love painted floors! I also think this will work well with the oak floor that is out in the hallway, as opposed to having two different stained wood floors butting up to each other at the doorway :-)

7/21/2007 10:57:15 AM

I love this idea...however, I have not been able to find a lumber mill that will sell #3 lumber to me...could you advise where such a lumber mill might be. thanks, toni wood Mother Responds: Toni, not knowing where you live, you may have to do a bit of exploring. Contact some of the home improvement stores and ask first. Check to yellow pages for lumber mills in your area, if there are any.

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