Carpet vs. Hardwood: What’s the Better Option?

published Nov 14, 2020
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Carpet vs. hardwood? It’s a common question many homeowners have when trying to decide exactly what to do with their home’s flooring.

Of course, both types of flooring have their pros and cons. And, depending on your preferences and your home’s layout, you may decide to go with a mix of the two. Here’s what to consider before you make your decision.

Why you might want to install hardwoods over carpets

Hardwood floors are crisp, clean, and classic. Thanks to modern advances in flooring technology, they come in an array of colors, styles, materials, and layouts that can match any design aesthetic under the sun. Keep in mind that you can layer different rugs on top of your hardwood floors, too.

You’ll want to install hardwood flooring if:

  • You have children or pets. Hardwood is incredibly durable and will last for the lifetime of your home with proper care and maintenance.
  • You or someone in your home has allergies. Pollen, dust, and other common allergens tend to get trapped in carpet fibers. Hardwood floors, on the other hand, are easy to keep clean. “Many of my allergy-prone families want to get rid of all of the carpet in the house,” says Pamela O’Brien, principal designer for Pamela Hope Designs. “Also, it seems nearly impossible to really deep clean and sanitize carpet in a home environment and, with an increasing need for sanitation and cleanliness, many people feel that carpets are dirty.”
  • You want the highest resale value for your home (and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t?). Today’s buyers are looking for hardwood floors, period. They can help you get top dollar for your home—plus, they make a great first impression, which could help your home sell faster. According to 2019 data from the National Association of Realtors, you should be able to recoup around 106 percent of the cost of installing new wood flooring when it comes time to sell your house.
  • You live in a warmer climate. Hardwoods tend to be colder on bare feet.

Why you might want to install carpets over hardwoods

Though hardwood is a good choice for many situations, carpet definitely has its place, too. This affordable, customizable flooring option might be a good fit for your home if:

  • You live in a colder climate. Carpet feels soft and cozy on your bare feet.
  • You’re on a budget. By and large, carpet tends to be more affordable. However, keep in mind that carpet typically doesn’t last as long as hardwood flooring, so you’ll need to pay to replace it more frequently.
  • You want to absorb loud sounds, such as in a second-floor condo or apartment. Carpet can help muffle footprints and other noises your downstairs neighbors might not appreciate.
  • You want to make the room feel comfortable and warm. This is especially true of children’s playrooms, where little ones may be spending a lot of time on the floor. Bedrooms, too, are good contenders for carpet, since you want to feel comfortable and relaxed as you step in and out of bed each day. “Carpet is cozy,” says Molly Machmer-Wessels, designer and co-founder of Woodland Design Company. “If you live someplace with colder winters, carpet can really create a cocoon-like feel. Bedrooms, dressing rooms, and playrooms all beg for a softer flooring and carpet is certainly a great option.

Is it cheaper to get carpet or refinish hardwood?

If you’re willing to do it yourself, refinishing hardwood isn’t an expensive project and is likely cheaper than getting carpet installed. Unless you already have one, you’ll pay to rent a sander (which will cost you something like $65 per day), plus you’ll need to buy stain and a protective finish coat. Refinishing hardwood is also more sustainable, since it reuses existing material. 

How long do hardwood floors last?

Hardwood floors can last a long time—often up to 100 years, if you take care of them—though they will need a little sprucing up periodically. You’ll want to vacuum and mop your hardwood floors regularly, plus use furniture pads to avoid any unnecessary scrapes and scratches (you might also get into the habit of taking off your high heels before walking across your floors!). Beyond that, you can keep your hardwood floors looking like new by refinishing them every 10 or so years, a process that involves sanding and restaining the wood. “Wood lasts forever, it is really the gloss and shine that will dissipate over time,” says Jessica Shaw, interior design director at Turett Collaborative.