Pricing And Picking Oak Hardwood Flooring

Let’s talk about wood, shall we? As we mentioned on Tuesday, we decided to go with solid oak hardwoods for the four bedrooms and the hallway upstairs since many rooms downstairs along with the stairs themselves have a nice medium toned oak already (pretty similar to the hardwoods in our first house that ended up being super dog/kid friendly).

As for where to get it, first we looked on craigslist to see if anyone had a large quantity of something in the right tone/amount (no dice) and then we headed to Lumber Liquidators, since we’ve had luck with them when it came to buying hardwood floors for half of our first house back in 2007 and it’s also where we got the cork flooring for our kitchen in 2011. They always have a ton of selection, and tend to have lots in stock along with all of the underlayment & tools in one place, so they’re pretty much a one stop shop for us now that it’s our third time to the flooring rodeo.

Clara walked right in and made herself comfortable (the girl’s right at home on wood flooring, what can I say?) and we had a look around.

She also had some fun on the tiny set of display stairs. According to the guys who work there every kid who enters the store does that as some sort of unspoken toddler rite of passage.

We ended up grabbing six different samples to hold up against the stairs to see which one would be the best match (we tackled this “sampling phase” right before ripping out all of that nasty upstairs carpeting). Since the sun was setting, we waited until the next morning to take them to the new house so we could judge them in natural light.

We decided to try stripping the carpet off of just the top stair so we could be sure the wood under there was still in good shape (if it was completely damaged we’d have to refinish them, which would mean that we could be less careful about picking a matching wood tone for the upstairs). Thankfully the floor under the runner was in great shape (after we pulled about a hundred staples out by hand) and we loved the medium brown tone (not too yellow, not too dark, not too light). Basically it’s the Goldilocks of hard wood.

For a bit more on why we love not-too-dark-not-too-light-not-too-yellow-not-too-red-toned oak, it’s probably 50% personal preference (some people love it redder or more golden) and 50% practical (if you go too dark with hardwoods we hear that every spec of dust and pet hair can be seen, and if you go too light we’ve heard that wear and tear is also easier to spot since it’s such a light surface). And since we had practically the same tone of oak hardwoods in our first house for years (and it worked well for us – we loved how it looked with our furniture, etc) that ended up swaying us.

Can you tell from this bad iPhone picture of all the samples (sorry!) which one works the best with the stairs?

Yup, it’s the bottom left guy. He was the only one in almost exactly the same color and with the same variety of grain (some dark grain and some light grain). It was also the same thickness (2 1/4″) as the hardwood downstairs. So although we loved some of the wider board options, it felt true to our house and nice and cohesive to go with the one that was the right color, had the right amount of wood grain, and was the same width as the rest of the wood flooring in the house.

It took everything in us not to keep going down each step with the crowbar and the pliers, stripping that stained old carpet as we went. But we knew we had a date with the carpeting upstairs (it’s more important to rip that out and lay the new hardwoods before we move than it is to get it off the stairs, which can be done at any time). In the bad news department, that top step took us about 20 minutes to wrestle free (which means we have about three hours worth of work in our future). But stair runner, you have been warned. We’ll be back.

So after judging those samples in the nice natural light of the morning, we returned to Lumber Liquidators a day after our first trip to officially put in our order. We were armed with the square footage for all of the areas we needed to do, so now that we had picked our Hardwood Bachelor (he accepted our rose and everything), it was pretty straightforward.

Here’s a close up of our winner winner chicken dinner. It’s called Lono Oak and it’s a solid wood floor (it’s not engineered, and it’s 3/4″ thick so it can be refinished many times) and it comes with a 25 year warranty. Most hardwood flooring is in the $4-7-ish range, but LL’s list price was $3.69 per square foot.

Here’s where I smiled sweetly and asked my favorite negotiating question, which is “what’s your best price?” Then you just stand there. Resist the urge to mumble “uh, not that I’m trying to be tough” or “I’m sorry, forget it” Just stand there in silence and wait to see what they say. If they can come down, they’ll tell you. And if they can’t they’ll say they can’t and you can smile and say “just had to ask.” John hates this step, so it’s always my job. And before I threw out my favorite line, I also mentioned how this was our third big order from them so we’re definitely loyal repeat customers.

Boom: 10% off our entire order for those two sentences. So that took the price per square foot down to $3.29 and also scored us 10% off other things we grabbed like a special type of underlayment to work with our subfloor (more on that when we get to the installation process). Speaking of installing it, we’re going to attempt to do it all ourselves, and we better get started soon if we hope to move in 2.5 weeks! Plus we want to paint all of the blue/mauve trim (and maybe even the doors?) while the carpet’s out but before the floor goes down. So… yeah. Tick tock, Petersiks.

Meanwhile Clara was busy spicing up their brochure displays…

We left feeling pretty excited about our big upstairs flooring overhaul. Especially since we asked how much it would cost to hire their guys to install all the flooring and they said it would be around four thousand bucks! So assuming we can do it (knock on hardwood) it’ll definitely add up to some serious money saved.

So our hardwoods are ordered and we have a whole mess of blue trim to paint. We’d like to buy a paint sprayer and try our hand at that, so we’ll keep you posted. Should be interesting…


  1. says

    We spray painted our trim and doors before we moved in (it was the first thing we did, actually) and I recommend it 100%. The finish is so much smoother!

  2. Emily G. says

    You’re totally right about dark wood floors showing everything. We just moved into a new place and redid the floors. I love them, but with three long haired cats, the swiffer and I are BFFs now.


  3. Audrey says

    Y’all are AWESOME!!! I am sure you will get in a groove and have no major problems installing the floors (knock on wood…)

  4. says

    Love LL! Replaced my downstairs carpet with a solid bamboo flooring from there and have pondered doing the upstairs because yes, so much more dog friendly! Well, to ME anyway… My Lab prefers the carpet!

  5. sophie says

    looks good!

    Because we wanted to self-install (and didn’t want to have to rent and lug home a floor nailing machine thing), we ultimately decided on engineered wood after much research. Engineered can be refinished three to four times, which is plenty long, given that refinishing shouldn’t have to happen for a couple of decades at the very least. Plus it had the advantage for us of being a ‘floating’ floor. We just clicked it in and off we went. I will say that you need quite a firm floor to make floating floors work. We have a firm and level floor and once we put in underlay, it was fine. A bit of bounciness at the very beginning, but not any more. I know friends who put in a floating floor on a slightly non-level floor and couldn’t stand the bounciness, so removed it all and went for straight hardwood.

    Good luck, and have fun. Carpets are a scourge and I cheer every time one is removed!

    • says

      We just wanted it to feel seamless, so we didn’t think cork on the top of an oak staircase would feel like “it has always been this way” as much as choosing to continue the oak flooring that’s downstairs and on the stairs leading up :)


  6. Bonnie says

    We love our wood stairs, but now have a runner for safety. Nothing like socked feet & wood stairs to send you to the ER stat. (And yes, that happened more than once, sadly)

    • Melissa says

      We had bare wood stairs growing up and, while I love the look, I slipped and fell down them 3 different times. I still have a permanently deformed muscle from the last time.

    • says

      I grew up in a house with wood stairs and we had a no sock rule so barefoot seemed to be great for all 7 of us who lived there (no stair incidents at all, with four kiddos running around) but John’s house had a runner as a kid (he also had 4 kids in the house), so we’re open to either option! Definitely don’t want anyone getting hurt!


    • Stefanie says

      Socked feet + carpet are just as deadly, I promise! I’ve taken at least 10 headers down our carpeted stairs in my lifetime. Luckily I’ve managed to catch myself on the bannister (or in one really lucky incident, there was a pile of blankets at the bottom to cushion my fall… haha) but they are just as dangerous in my opinion.

    • Jenny says

      We have wood stairs and haven’t had any problems yet (and I know from experience that it’s easy to slip with socks/carpeted stairs, too!).

      But our current house has stairs to the finished attic that are a bit non-standard — a shorter run than standard (not as much of your foot fits on the flat part) that’s a little off-putting. I found some indoor grip tape, it’s three inches wide or so and slightly nubbly but not as rough as the outdoor kind, which is like what covers skateboards. Anyway, we put a strip of grip tape along the front edge of each step and it adds SO MUCH to the stability and comfort of going up or down, with socks or without. It doesn’t look bad, either – the light grey color kind of matches the mortar on an exposed brick wall up there and it all ends up tying in.

      I totally recommend using that kind of grip tape if anyone’s at all worried about slipping. It also helps visually in seeing where the edge is when you’re walking down the steps, since the wood grain can make that a little confusing to the eye, sometimes.

      We might not have done it if we didn’t have little kids, but I’d want it if we were older, too. Just nice peace of mind!

    • Annie says

      We are so used to hard wood stairs (it’s all we ever had) that my kids all fall down the stairs whenever we visit friends with carpet. I love the wood. Installing hardwood is super easy. You’ll love it. Our contractor friend always uses roofing tar paper for underlayment because he says it is a better moisture barrier–of course, we live on the ocean so that might not matter for you.

    • says

      We’ve never officially called a “no sock rule” LOL but we have to make our 21 month old (and now he does it on his own) take his socks off just to walk/run around the wood floors on our main floor. Socks are slippery!

      We do have carpet on our stairs (it is the full width of the stairs but doesn’t wrap around them – if that makes sense) and we still have a “no dress-up shoes” on the stairs rule. Carpet doesn’t solve a three old going down in slip-on heels! LOL

      P.s. Love the floor choice!

    • heather says

      I totally feel like there should be a giveaway of traction socks coming up haha. I’ve taken a digger down the stairs both ways before (with a carpet and without) and yet I do not own a pair myself yet. Must invest.

    • Jane says

      We have wood stairs too and unfortunately one morning I slipped through the entire flight of stairs because of my stupid fuzzy socks. THANK god , I was ok. But , I am going to look into the grip tape for sure.

    • Laura C says

      My sister and I never fell down the uncarpeted, wood stairs growing up, but we definitely slid down then in our sleeping bags on a regular basis. Stairs are so much fun when you’re growing up!

    • Lindsay K says

      When we moved into our house, fortunately the stairs had beautifully finished hard wood in a perfect mid tone stain. But our Boxer, Tucker, did not fare so well on them. I wanted them to be safe for our dog, but I didn’t want to completely cover up the hardwood with a traditional runner. I did some searching and found tread rugs. I love them. Mine are made of sisal with a cotton trim. They are non-stick on the back but I added some additional non-slip strips for extra security and they works great. They stay in place but because they don’t adhere to the floor, I can still pick them up when I need to clean the floor or pull them all off and vacuum them at once instead of lugging the vacuum up each individual stair. I also love that they look more modern and can easily be changed out if I ever get tired of the color/pattern. There are lots of rug sites that sell them, but I bet someone could DIY some with carpet samples.

  7. says

    Your house has a very similar layout to mine. And your stairway/foyer look identical to what we had. We actually ended up knocking out the wall (to the right as you go down) and opening it up because it was a little cramped in our foyer when you walked in and it’s so nice and open now. It’s hard to explain – I have pictures – it was a fun project :) (I think your foyer is a it bigger) We had to redo the bottom half of the stair case and I can vividly remember tearing out all those staples from the carpeting on the stairs – piece by piece. I thought I would die. Love the hardwood! Good luck with the installation!

  8. Ashley says

    Awesome! Bottom left was my favorite shade when I saw the first picture – perfect medium brown. I’ve heard Sarah Richardson say that dark and light hardwood floors go in and out of style, but medium brown stays timeless.

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