Is Carpet Cheaper than Laminate or Wood?

Are you building a new home or looking at some new flooring? When the time comes to pick your flooring material, there are many options to consider, and, of course, the cost is always a factor. So which is the most budget-friendly: carpet, laminate, or wood flooring? We've done some searching for you and have a wealth of information to consider.

Carpet is the cheapest flooring material. The price can be quite comparable at times with laminate, but wood flooring is by far the most expensive option. Many factors can weigh on the price, such as underlayment, quality of the materials, and installation cost.

Though carpet is cheaper, there are many considerations to discuss that weigh into the overall cost. Read on to learn all the details and some pros and cons of each flooring type!

vacant living room with fireplace and half carpeted half laminated floor, is carpet cheaper than laminate or wood

Carpeting Flooring Costs

Flooring price is generally measured by the square foot or square yard. The price of the carpet itself can vary widely, and some high-end carpet flooring will actually be more expensive than laminate. Softness, denseness, pile height, and thickness all come into play when pricing carpet. The cost of the carpet itself ranges from less than a dollar per square foot for industrial type carpet up to five dollars for a high pile. 

The underlayment (or padding) that goes under the flooring is pretty standard without much variance. The cost per square foot for this important part of your floor ranges from about $ .40 to $ .50 per square foot. 

View this underlayment on Amazon.

Installation of flooring can sometimes be the most expensive part. Although you can definitely try a do-it-yourself approach, sometimes getting the specialty equipment to install carpet could circumvent any potential savings. If the room is large, a power stretcher is often needed to install correctly.

View this power stretcher on Amazon.

But at the very least, a knee kicker is needed. Oftentimes, however, these tools can be rented or borrowed.

View this knee kicker on Amazon.

Can you install carpet without a knee kicker? Read about that in our post, "How to Lay Carpet without a Knee Kicker?"

If hiring a contractor to do the installation for you, expect to pay anywhere from four to six dollars per square foot. The total cost to carpet a room of about 250-square feet (including carpet, underlayment, labor, and additional materials for install) is anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 on average. 

The Benefits of Carpet Flooring

A primary benefit of installing carpet as opposed to other flooring is warmth. Carpet is the warmest and softest flooring type, which makes it the most appealing to bare feet. Having a nice soft carpet also makes it much nicer to sit or play on the floor, so it is a good choice for homes with small children. Carpet also holds in heat and acts as insulation, and provides an overall warmth to a room.

mother and daughter lying down on a high pile floor carpet

Laminate Flooring Costs

Laminate flooring does not vary in price as much as carpet, as the biggest difference in laminate is the style. The price per square foot for laminate is around two to three dollars. This is where the price is quite comparable and can, at times, be surpassed by carpet, though some industrial carpet is less than a dollar per square foot. 

View this laminate flooring on Amazon.

The same underlayment used for carpet can be used for laminate. However, it's recommended when installing new floors to replace old ones, you install new underlayment as well, especially if changing from carpet to laminate. The old underlayment will likely have retained odors and accidents from the carpet above it.

Labor costs to install laminate flooring are also quite similar to that of carpet, running at about four to five dollars per square foot, depending on your area's current cost. It is worth mentioning, installing laminate flooring is a much simpler project than installing carpet and is a potential do-it-yourself project if you're feeling brave. The total cost to install laminate flooring for a 250-square foot room averages from about $1,700 and up. 

Benefits of Laminate Flooring 

Laminate offers protection against spills. This type of flooring is virtually waterproof, as well as being easy to clean. This makes it a great option for those with pets. It also tends to be warmer and softer underfoot compared to hardwood flooring, and it can also mimic the look of a wood floor. 

Wood Flooring Costs

Wood flooring is the most expensive of the flooring types. The type of wood used has a large bearing on how much this will cost you per square foot, but prices range from about four to seven dollars. Engineered hardwood can be significantly less expensive and look like genuine hardwood, although it is hardwood layered over plywood.

Cork underlayment is best for use under the hardwood flooring, as it doesn't have as much give and will keep the planks from moving when walked upon. The price for cork underlayment is priced in the same range as other underlayment types.

View this cork underlayment on Amazon.

Installation labor will be more expensive than other options because the wood flooring has to be nailed down. Expect to pay more if the wood is more expensive or more difficult to handle. You will pay anywhere from four to eight dollars and up per square foot for labor costs. This flooring cost is anywhere from $2,000 and upwards to install 250-square feet of real hardwood. 

The Benefits of Wood Flooring

Wood flooring is extremely durable. It can last decades, if not longer, and can also be refinished if it starts to wear. Hardwood floors can be thought of as an investment. They are also less likely to stain in comparison to the carpet. Additionally, no one can argue the beauty of a perfectly polished hardwood floor. 

Which is Healthier: Carpet or Laminate?

Although carpet can potentially be healthier for the environment (think saving on energy costs from the additional insulation you get from the carpeting), it is not so kind to people with allergies. Carpet holds in allergens, such as pollen and pet dander, and can seriously aggravate someone who suffers from severe allergies. This can be circumvented with frequent vacuuming.

View this robot vacuum on Amazon.

Additionally, carpet has more of a chance of holding in liquid and allowing mold and mildew to grow underneath it in the padding (or underlayment). Laminate flooring keeps out moisture and is easy to clean, keeping the air and the floor cleaner with less vigilance. 

Does Replacing Carpet with Laminate/Wood Increase Home Value?

Homebuyers tend to prefer laminate or hardwood over carpeting. Although it's hard to tell exactly how much value these floor types would add to your home, people do tend to lean more toward hard floors as opposed to soft. Laminate flooring is the most cost-efficient flooring if you're looking to replace carpet to add value and simulate the look of hardwood or stone; plus, it is easy to install. 

Regardless of what flooring type you have when attempting to sell your home, the most important thing is that it is clean and presentable. A worn carpet or scarred hard surface floor can deter a buyer more than what type it is. 

Should You Put Carpet, Laminate, or Wood in Bedrooms?

The choice of flooring type in your bedroom is very personal. However, that being said, carpet is excellent in bedrooms. Carpet, as mentioned above, acts as an insulator. Not only does it keep in warm or the cool air, but it also hampers noises and makes an overall quieter environment. Additionally, it is comfortable to walk across in bare feet -- think getting up first thing in the morning and your feet hitting the floor. You want it to be warm. 

If you happen to suffer from severe allergies, definitely consider one of the other hard surface options, but overall, carpet is the best choice for bedrooms. Want to read more about flooring for bedrooms? Read our article, "Can You Put Vinyl Flooring in a Bedroom?"

How Long Does Carpet Last?

Carpet generally lasts about 10 to 15-years. You can keep carpet, so long as it holds, up until it is about 20-years old if desired, but no longer. After about 20-years, the buildup of allergens and grime that has settled into the carpet could cause potential health problems, no matter how vigilantly you have cleaned it. You will notice high traffic areas of carpet beginning to wear after as early as 10-years, so you might consider replacing these areas sooner.

A hybrid of hard surface floors in high traffic areas and carpet in the bedrooms and family rooms is really the best option to maintain all your flooring's comfort and longevity. 

vacant living room with fireplace and half carpeted half laminated floor

Want to know how long carpet will last on stairs? We have a post for that

In Closing

Carpet is an inexpensive option when installing flooring, with laminate being a close second and wood floors being the most expensive. Knowing the area in which you wish to install the flooring will weigh heavily on your choice. Know your own preferences, as well as those of your family. Shop around and think of all the pros and cons before leaping. Whichever you choose, enjoy your beautiful new floor!

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