Posted about 7 years ago

Bread and Butter Rehab - Flooring

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As you get started rehabbing residential projects, it is natural to feel overwhelmed when it comes to deciding on materials and finishes for your rehab. There are countless options for flooring, fixtures, cabinets, paint colors, doors etc. Its easy to get lost in infinite number of permutations for how to put the house together. While this is overwhelming at first, it won’t take long for you to understand the finishes that work for your market and those that fit within your rehab budget.

We call this process “Finding your Bread & Butter”. Your ultimate goal is to reach a point where you no longer need to make decisions on what materials and finishes to buy. Instead, your experience will guide you toward making the optimal purchases given your market, neighborhood and budget. Choosing materials will become second nature. You begin to understand the key variables that influence your eventual home buyer and you are able to quickly determine exactly what to buy.

While there is no substitute for experience, we’ve laid out some of the common variables to consider when shopping for materials. We’ve also provided our personal preferences that have evolved from several successful real-life rehabs.

In Part I of “Finding your Bread & Butter”, we discuss our preferences for flooring. Flooring is certainly a major aspect of any rehab project. It pays to have a solid idea of flooring do’s and don’t before getting into a rehab project.

Keep in mind that all our suggestions assume an “Average” house. By “Average” we assume that your After Repair Value (ARV) will fall close to the median sale price for your market. This may or may not always be the case. If you are rehabbing a home in a prominent subdivision, you may need to consider upgrading some of your finishes. However, the advice below should help you establish a baseline for planning your scope and making purchases.

1st Floor Common Space

Whenever possible, its best to have solid hardwood floors in the majority of your 1st floor common space. If you’re lucky, the home may already have solid hardwood that can simply be cleaned up, sanded, and/or refinished. Refinishing existing hardwood is an absolute slam dunk! The price is affordable and the majority of buyers will treat the refinished flooring as if it were brand new.

If you can’t refinish existing hardwood, consider installing solid pre-finished hardwood. Again, solid hardwood flooring is certainly “in” right now. Solid Bamboo is a trending material that is relatively affordable and durable. If possible, we prefer to run hardwood throughout the entire first floor (with the exception of bathrooms). This means that we run our hardwood through the kitchen as well. Its very common to have existing hardwood in most of the first floor but some linoleum or tile product in the kitchen (we’ve even seen several cases of carpet in the kitchen!). If this is the case, it is most likely cost effective to refinish the existing hardwood and install medium level ceramic tile in the kitchen.

A homebuyer will not think twice about a solid tile job in the kitchen. Also, it would be very difficult to install and match the original hardwood from the living room into the kitchen. We recommend something different than the standard 12×12 tiles. These tiles are often viewed by home buyers as cheap. Its very easy to find reasonably priced 18″x24″ or 18″x18″ tile. This upgrade will go a long way in getting potential buyers excited about their new kitchen!


Bathrooms are simple: Install tile. As was the case with the kitchen, you should try to avoid the standard 12″x12″ tile. As bathrooms are generally tight spaces, the additional cost of upgrading your flooring material is minimal.


Decent carpets are our standard for bedrooms. Go for a mid-grade carpet that feels nice on the feet. No need to break the bank here. Anything new that doesn’t look cheap will be just fine. If the house features a Master Bedroom Suite, you may consider running hardwood. The same goes for a long hallway through the 2nd floor. Carpet is fine, but hardwood is often preferred. If there is hardwood to refinish, this is a no-brainer. If not, no need to break the bank on new hardwood: carpets will do just fine.


Do your best to refinish and keep wood stairs. Even if this means getting the sides in decent shape so that you can carry a carpet runner from the 1st floor to the 2nd floor. Of course if the stairs are in rough shape, there is no shame in using carpet.

Family Rooms, Bonus Spaces, Utility Rooms

These unique rooms typically warrant unique flooring. As long as these rooms are not commonly used, it is fine to use a slightly lower level finish. For example, you could install a decent laminate floor in an office or finished attic. Carpet always works well too. Keep your budget in mind when it comes to these extra spaces. There is no need to go crazy installing a nice floor that will rarely get used. Keep in mind the level of foot traffic and the potential for water. For example, carpet is an absolute no-go in a laundry room; affordable tile or sheet vinyl will do just fine.

What it all Costs

Flooring is typically based on square footage. Both material and installation prices are almost always a direct calculation based off of the total area to be covered. Occasionally you will run into an installer who prices based on an hourly rate…but material is always by SQFT. Below is a general guideline for costs to expect from the flooring laid out above:

  • Refinish Hardwood
    • Labor – $2.50-$3.50 per SQFT
  • Pre-Finished Solid Hardwood
    • Material – $2.89-$5.00 per SQFT (These prices can get significantly higher for rare and exotic wood species. We do not recommend installing anything costing more than $5.00 per SQFT)
    • Labor – $3.00 per SQFT
  • Laminate Floor
    • Material – $1.00-$2.50 per SQFT
    • Labor – $2.50-$3.00 per SQFT
  • Ceramic Tile
    • Material – $2.00-$4.00 per SQFT
    • Labor – $4.00-$6.00 per SQFT
  • Medium Grade Carpet
    • Material & Labor – $1.79-$2.50 per SQFT (Sometimes this ends up being more based on the cuts required. You will have to pay for all the material the installers bring…even if they cut and don’t use some of it)
  • Sheet Vinyl
    • Material & Labor – $2.50 per SQFT

This should give you a solid idea of how the flooring finishes for your rehab. Use this as a guide and a starting point. As always, its important to check with your local vendors to ensure that prices are comparable.

In future installments of “Finding your Bread & Butter”, we discuss the following key features of your rehab:

  • Paint Colors
  • Appliances
  • Kitchen Cabinets, Countertops and Hardware
  • Doors, Light Fixtures and Bathroom Fixtures

Comments (5)

  1. This is a great article. Do you recommend any specific places to buy the material?

  2. Great Post!

  3. Thank you for your detailed explanation. worthy of sharing.

  4. Great post! Your breakdown analysis is spot-on! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Great! These are the types of Posts we need!