Hardwood vs Carpet Flooring

Hardwood vs Carpet Flooring

Many a debate has been conducted over hardwood flooring vs carpet. They are indeed two of the most popular and classic types of flooring. But is hardwood or carpet better for you?

The question, “Which is better, hardwood or carpet?” depends on a number of factors. Even though they are both among the most popular options for flooring, there are not a lot of similarities when it comes to hardwood and carpet. So the “right” decision is really a personal one that depends on your tastes, situation and budget.

In this guide, we’ll explore:

Side-by-Side Comparison

 HardwoodCarpet
CostMuch more expensiveBudget conscious
AppearanceClassic; more luxurious lookingStill good option; many options with color
Cleanliness and careEasier to see dirt and to cleanDirt can hide; harder to clean
DurabilitySuscepticle to spills and dings, but lasts much longerCan clean spills, but needs to be replaced much sooner
SustainabilityNatural, sustainable and environmentally-friendlyMade mostly from petroleum; not natural
ComfortHarder material; not as comfortableSofter material; more comfortable
SafetyPossible tripping hazard; no cushionSafer because it's soft and has cushion
Insulation and noise reductionColder and noisierWarmer and quieter
Flooring GuideHardwood Flooring GuideCarpet Flooring Guide

Cost

Cost is a major factor in any purchasing decision when it comes to flooring. When you’re choosing between hardwood flooring and carpet, there is quite the difference in price, especially if you are considering the top-end options. If you are on a tight budget, this might eliminate hardwood flooring altogether.

Hardwood flooring is one of the more expensive types of flooring on the market. That is because it is made from natural product – a tree – and not engineered to replicate another product. For this reason, hardwood flooring can be much more expensive than carpet.

In most cases, hardwood flooring can cost between $9 and $12 per square foot, including installation. However, some of the higher end versions can cost even more. Reclaimed wood, for example, could cost as much as $30 per square foot.

Carpet, on the other hand, is definitely much friendlier on the budget. Most carpet options cost between $3 and $5 a square foot installed, with padding and all. Some of the higher-end carpet options could come in closer to $10 a square foot.

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Appearance

Another big difference between hardwood flooring and carpet is the appearance. It would be very hard to confuse the two types of flooring because of how different they look. Depending on your style and the style of your house, one flooring choice could be much better than the other.

Hardwood flooring is what could be called the “prestige” choice in flooring. That’s because today, hardwood flooring is seen as a high-end and luxurious option. Current popular design is definitely trending toward hard flooring surfaces, and wood fits in perfectly with that.

While wood was always the classic look for homes, it has now worked its way back into the preference of most homeowners. Hardwood flooring can look sleek, rustic, timeless and luxurious. This is why many people are leaning toward hardwood flooring over carpet.

One of the other nice features of hardwood flooring is that it can take on many different looks. The different types of wood – such as oak and pine – will have a different appearance. Plus, there are many stains available on the market that you can apply to a hardwood flooring to make it look light, dark or in between.

Carpet is a much different look than hardwood flooring is. That is not to say that it is a cheaper look than hardwood flooring is. In fact, many people still prefer the look of carpet, especially in certain rooms of the house.

The great thing about carpet when it comes to appearance is you can choose just about any color under the sun. This makes carpet a very versatile flooring choice, as you can mix and match colors and shades based on other design choices in the room. Carpet can also look firm or plush, depending on the type you choose.

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Cleanliness and Care

Hardwood flooring and carpet are also very different when it comes to how you need to clean and care for them. Each flooring type has its pros and cons in this regard. So which is better, hardwood or carpet?

Hardwood flooring is easier to maintain on a weekly basis. That’s because it doesn’t require very many deep cleanings. In fact, it is advisable that you don’t use liquid cleaning products on hardwood floors because it could warp and damage the material.

It is easier to spot dirt and dust on a hardwood floor than it is on carpet. As a result, it’s easier to spot when your floor needs a good cleaning. For hardwood flooring, that cleaning includes a recommended sweep and vacuum (with a hardwood vac) at least a few times a week to keep it clean.

Carpet, on the other hand, is a little tougher to keep clean. Dirt, dust, pollen and other allergens can easily get stuck within the fibers of a carpet and stay hidden from your eye. That’s why carpets are sometimes a hard choice in high-traffic areas or as a flooring for families with pets.

Carpet requires a vacuuming and/or sweeping at least once a week. Thinking longer term, your carpet will also require a more in-depth shampooing at least once a year. The frequency of that cleaning will also depend on how rough on it you are and what color you choose.

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Durability

When you are considering the durability of hardwood flooring versus carpet, there are a few different angles that you have to consider. Not only do you have to take into consideration the overall lifespan of the flooring type, but you should also weigh the effect of your daily life on it.

In terms of daily life, hardwood flooring is very susceptible to damage from spills or rough usage. That’s because the material itself is natural and softer in terms of its composition. Hardwood floors can warp with too much liquid and can dent or scratch from furniture or shoes, especially high heels.

Because of this fact, many families will have a “no shoes” policy on their hardwood floors. This helps to keep the flooring protected from damage from shoes or anything the shoes may drag into the house. It’s also why people sometimes shy away from installing hardwood floors into bathrooms or kitchens.

Long term, hardwood is designed to last. If you care for it properly, some hardwood flooring can last up to 100 years before you need to replace it. And if the floor starts to fade, you can sand, re-surface and re-stain a hardwood floor a few times in its lifespan.

In the short term, carpet can be the more forgiving flooring type. While indents can be made on carpet, it’s not as susceptible to heavy furniture or other dings. Spills on carpet are often a nightmare, but they can be scrubbed clean.

In the long term, though, carpet is not the most durable flooring option. That’s because if a rip, tear or permanent stain occurs, you must replace at least the damaged section. In addition, a carpet floor will need a full replacement every five to 15 years, depending on wear and tear.

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Sustainability

The next area of discussion between hardwood versus carpet is what each product is comprised of. This topic is especially important today, as people are becoming more conscious of what each product they buy is made of.

Hardwood flooring is natural and ecologically friendly. This is because it is a natural material that is made from trees that can be replanted when they are cut down. Like anything, though, make sure to do your research on the company producing the hardwood if you want to be extra environmentally-conscious.

Carpet, meanwhile, is made mostly from petroleum. It’s not a material that most people would consider natural or sustainable in any way. In fact, petroleum is an extremely limited resource.

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Comfort

For some people, it all comes down to comfort when they are choosing a flooring type. It’s more about how a flooring feels than whether the style is trendy. This can be especially true depending on which room you are potentially outfitting with either hardwood or carpet.

As no surprise, hardwood flooring is a harder material than carpet. It can often be tougher on your feet, especially when you are standing for a long period of time. Hardwood is also not that comfortable to kneel or lay on, which can be important factors if you have children who will be in the room a lot.

Carpet, meanwhile, is a much softer and more comfortable material. It’s plush and soft and very easy on your feet and your body. It’s one of the main reasons why people choose carpet over hardwood in waterproof basements, family rooms and bedrooms.

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Safety

Safety should be a major concern when you are making a choice between any types of flooring and for whatever room you might install it in. This is an important factor not only if you have kids, but if it will be just adults in a house. Safety first, is what they say.

Hardwood flooring is not as safe when compared to carpet. That’s because over time, individual planks in the flooring could rise or lift, which could result in a tripping hazard. In addition, as a hardwood floor gets older, it’s possible that nails in it could start to rise above the floor level, which can be very dangerous if someone steps on them.

Carpet is a much safer flooring type in comparison for the simple fact that it’s so much softer. It isn’t as much of a concern when it comes to tripping, and if a fall does occur, there is padding to help protect people’s bodies. This cushioning also helps protect against dropped objects such as glass that could result in dangerous cuts and scrapes.

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Insulation and Noise Reduction

Temperature and noise might not be the first things that come to your mind when you are choosing between flooring types. However, each type of floor will have a big effect on both the warmth and noise level in your home. So which is better, hardwood flooring or carpet?

Hardwood is a much colder and noisier flooring type because it doesn’t have absorption properties. Heat doesn’t absorb into hardwood floors, which makes them much colder to walk on, especially in the winter months. At the same time, noise bounces off hardwood flooring, which could make rooms with hardwood noisier as it results in an echo effect.

Carpet is the complete opposite when it comes to insulation and noise. It has absorption properties, which makes it a much warmer surface and much more comfortable in that regard in the colder months. Carpet also absorbs noise, reducing the decibel level in rooms that have it installed in it.

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The Verdict

As you can see, there are many factors that you need to take into consideration when you’re weighing hardwood flooring versus carpet. The answer to the question, “Which is better?” really depends on your particular situation, budget and taste.

Because of its classic style, look and overall luxurious appearance, many people would prefer to have hardwood flooring. Even though it is more expensive than carpet, hardwood may be worth the extra money up front because it will ultimately last much longer than carpet.

Because of its makeup and features, hardwood flooring is a great option for main living areas of the home and even bedrooms, but might not be the best option for basements, kitchens and bathrooms.

Carpet, meanwhile, is a much more budget-conscious flooring option. However, that doesn’t mean it’s cheap and isn’t a great choice for certain rooms and situations. Carpet is plush, warm, comfortable, safe and reduces noises.

Because of these factors, carpet is a great choice for bedrooms, less formal family rooms and waterproof basements, especially if you have children in your home. At the same time, pros do not suggest carpets for bathrooms, kitchens or laundry rooms because of the likelihood of exposure to a lot of liquids.

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Will R

About Will R

Will R. is a creative writer, editor and storyteller. He has been working in the fields of journalism, marketing and public relations for the last 14 years.

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