How I Saved Over $5K in Hidden Fees On New Floors

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I have a confession, frugal friends. 

Brace yourself, this involves money – lots of money.

My husband and I just spent nearly $20,000 on a home remodeling project. I know that sounds crazy for a couple of frugality bloggers, but hear me out. Based on the fact that we owe so little on this home and it has gone up 20K+ in value the last two years, we decided to make it more livable by knocking out a few walls and creating an open floor plan. It’s our “forever home,” after all, so we feel we can justify the expense.

Most importantly, I have the entire sum saved in cash so I don’t have to put off other financial goals – or worse – go into debt to complete this project. Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen! Am I right??

Around a third of the $17,000 initial estimate for the project was for replacing the floors on almost our entire first level. That includes the purchase of approximately 920 square feet of new flooring, plus the cost of labor and other flooring materials. To save money, we did the demo ourselves. It really pissed my dog off, but we did save around $2,500 for our efforts. However, we decided not to DIY new floors since we don’t have the skill, time, or desire to install them ourselves. Capiche?

How Much Do New Hardwood Floors Really Cost?

Since I had never purchased new hardwood flooring, this was a new experience for me. Sadly, I quickly learned the decision wouldn’t be an easy one. Not only are there dozens of different kinds of hardwood, but you can also get engineered hardwood or laminate flooring that looks very similar to hardwood. There are also various types of installation to consider, including nailing floors down, gluing them to the sub floor, or floating the floor with interconnecting planks. Then there are fees that have nothing to do with the actual flooring, including delivery, moving furniture, and preparing the sub floor.

The whole thing was confusing to me, which is why I spent weeks pouring through our options and securing the best deal. The crazy thing is, I could have paid a lot more money if I hadn’t been paying attention!

Crazy Flooring Fees to Watch Out For

I do not enjoy shopping at all, and shopping for flooring is no exception. I absolutely loathe it, mainly due to the fact that floors cost so much money! I also had trouble keeping track of the myriad fees some floor stores charged for various services. Here are a few crazy facts I uncovered as we shopped for floors at nearly every store in Central Indiana:

  • Fact 1: The cost for installation varies from store to store, with nail-down installation going for anywhere from $2 per square foot to $3.50 per square foot. Installation for click-locking floors in my area ran around $2 per square foot, as did glue-down installation.
  • Fact 2: The type of flooring you choose will determine how much you need to spend on an underlayment. The cost of an underlayment can add another $.60 per square foot to your total or more depending on the type of installation you choose. And if you want a fancy underlayment, it can cost a whole lot more!
  • Fact 3: While nail down installation costs more, you may not need a pricey lining under your floors if you go this route. In other words, the price between a more expensive nail down floor and a cheaper floating one can be insignificant once all costs are factored in.

Hidden Costs of Hardwood Flooring Installation

While we ultimately chose our flooring at Lowe’s, we did get quotes from a few competing stores. Comparing the fees from various stores was quite the eye-opening experience. While some stores tried to nickel and dime us, others charged almost nothing outside of flooring, labor, and materials. Here are some crazy fees we noticed on various quotes we received:

  • Home Depot charges a $59 delivery fee for your floors in our area – even if they’re doing the installation! Worse, they also charge $1.29 per box if you want someone to bring said floors into the house! Apparently delivery means to the end of your driveway.
  • Many of the stores we visited charge a fee to come out and measure your rooms for new flooring. Home Depot and Lowe’s, for example, charged $35.
  • Some stores charge top dollar to remove and tear out your old floors before they install the new ones. To remove our old hardwood floors, for example, some stores we visited wanted another $3 per square foot. That’s why we ultimately decided to do the demo ourselves.
  • Watch out for additional fees charged for moving appliances or uninstalling/reinstalling toilets. Lowe’s wanted $79 to change out our toilet before and after the install, so we decided to do that ourselves.  They also wanted $40 to move our appliances back in place, which I initially thought was crazy. On second thought, however, we decided to pay that sum so we didn’t ruin our new floors.

What We Paid

After price-shopping for what seemed like forever, we ultimately settled on an engineered wooden flooring from Lowe’s that matched our existing woodwork. Sadly, Lowe’s informed us that they stopped carrying that floor just a few weeks prior, which meant we had to start the process over. While that made me crazy at first, I was happy to hear that Lowe’s agreed to price match if we found a more expensive floor we liked just as much.

Fortunately, we were able to take them up on that deal, as we ultimately found a similar (but a whole lot nicer) hardwood floor we liked even better. But instead of paying full price for it, their price matching policy meant we paid just $3.29 per square foot, which was the price of the discontinued flooring we picked out. Score!

That was super sweet, I thought, but that’s not the only reason we went with Lowe’s. Unlike some of their competitors, Lowe’s doesn’t charge a fee for delivery or for someone to carry the floors into your home. They also had extremely good customer service, which put my mind at easy for this expensive (and important) purchase.

At the end of the day, our hardwood flooring cost us around $6,900 including installation, the wooden flooring itself, a felt underlayment, transition pieces, and moving our refrigerator and stove back into place once the floors were done. Considering an estimate chocked full of hidden fees from a competitor ran over $12,000, I’ll take it.

Final Thoughts

Shopping for wooden floors is extremely stressful if you don’t know exactly what you want, but it’s even worse if you want to avoid all the hidden fees charged by various vendors. I personally think it’s crazy that some stores charge a separate payment for delivery, then another payment to carry boxes of the flooring into your home. However, my research shows that is actually fairly commonplace!

To get the best deal, it pays to get a full quote that includes all extra fees listed separately. That way, you can shop around for a better deal or at least see how the fees affect your total cost.

Now that it’s done, I plan to write a few more pieces about our home remodeling project – so stay tuned.


In the meantime, don’t shop for hardwood floors without arming yourself with information. With so many types of floors to consider – and so many fees to avoid – your dream flooring might end up costing a lot more than you think.

Related Links:

Have you ever purchased new hardwood floors before? What fees did you avoid?

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  1. The floors look awesome. We also added something like 1200 sq ft of Pergo and probably only saved $3-4K relative to what you paid. Of course, we now have the tools to do everything again, so it’ll get cheaper in the future, but still if its a one time thing for you, then its probably worth it to save the hassle.

    1. Yeah, I prefer not to DIY something I am going to look at/walk on for twenty years or more!

  2. Kara @ Money Saving Maven says:

    Beautiful! One of our spring/summer projects is to extend our hardwood down our hallway. So much to look forward to! 😉

  3. Those floors look awesome Holly! Those fees sound crazy. I don’t get the one to come out & measure your rooms – I’d figure that’s something considered the cost of trying to get new business that should just be done and not charged for. The new house we bought has hardwood on most of the main floor and reading this makes me glad we didn’t have to do it ourselves. 🙂

    1. Hiddenlulz says:

      Hidden fees.
      Adorable. More like fees – since they outright gave you a price breakdown of each individual charge. And I have had an install done by Lowe’s. It is right on the paper quote given.

  4. Loved following along on Twitter to see the progress photos. They turned out great! We had hardwood installed all throughout our upstairs and had all the other hardwood refinished on our first level when we first bought our house. We weren’t living in it, so it was an ideal time to do demo and remodeling. The carpets upstairs were trashed (pets, smokers, etc.) and my husband has wicked allergies. It was 100% worth the expense. We didn’t find that it was astronomically more than the nice carpet I was eyeing, but we only did three bedrooms and closets, and had the hallway “feathered” in to the exisiting wood. You’re right to point out the extra fees. Good for you for doing the demo yourselves!

  5. Yay for it being done, looking awesome and getting a good deal! Holly wins again!

  6. Sounds like a floating floor? flooring is one of the easiest things to put in, but I understand reservations on projects you don’t have experience with. My uncle put in hardwood flooring installed by professionals, but due to expansion / contraction issues he has gaps in his high end expensive flooring. He said he would do engineered hardwood if he did it again rather than full real hardwood.
    I plan to rip up my carpeting and get my oak floors underneath refinished, I’ll at least have a professional do the sanding down part. Hopefully a project to be done within the next year.

    1. No, it was nail-down hardwood. It would be really foolish of us to put that in ourselves, considering we have no experience doing so – plus it took two people four full days to do the install. I made a lot more $ those four days than I paid for my floor to look perfect.

      1. Wow, 4 days. Were they pre-finished? Sounds like you made a very wise decision, sometimes I need to remind myself of what my time is worth. It’s good to get some hard physical labor into your life sometimes and you put in a lot of effort on the demo I’m sure, and now you have perfect floors :).

        1. Four days – for two people! For us, that could have easily been like ten days! I had no idea it would take that long, so I was surprised. Of course, those four days also included installing quarter around through the entire project, which is again, something we don’t have experience doing.

          Yes, it was prefinished!

    2. Wood flooring needs to acclimate at room temperature for 1-2 days before being installed! If the installer didn’t know that, then he wasn’t very skilled or knowledgeable about his trade!

      1. 1 to 2 weeks for proper acclimation. Engineered wood flooring 1 to 2 days is fine.

  7. The new floors look great! This was a really good post for me to read. We are going to redo all the flooring on the entire first floor of our house sometime within the next couple years. We are going to go the laminate route since we plan on renting out this house for years to come and to be honest it seems a lot cheaper than hardwood (though I may get your input on this before we make any decisions). One thing I’m really curious about is this deal Home Depot had about a year ago where if you purchased over $2k worth of flooring the install is free up to 1,000 square feet (essentially the amount of space we need). I’m not sure how much the “extra” fees would cost, though. It made it seem really affordable and after reading this I don’t want to get my hopes up. First things first, though: bathroom renovation.

  8. Nice flooring! It looks very homey. I usually do my own research and price comparisons, too, before I purchase, especially a big purchase like your flooring. Some companies will really nickle and dime you. I can imagine your frustration when you were ready to buy, and then, their inventory ran out (and you have to start all over again!). Been there. But GOOD JOB!

  9. Great pics. My sister finished installing new hardwood flooring a month or two ago. I absolutely love it. The best of it is that she bought the hardwood flooring on sale and use her military ID for additional discount at Lowes. Chaching. She did get a great deal. Now, her house looks amazing and homey at the same time. The way the flooring looks remind me and my family the flooring we used to have back in the Philippines.

    One thing I have to note is that when it comes to installing hardwood flooring, it is best to live it to the professionals. I know a couple of people who did theirs on their own and the finished product did not come out right. Short to say, they wasted a lot of money. There are a ton of professionals out there that would install hardwood flooring but won’t charge arm and leg.

  10. Looks awesome. We have on our 2016 remodel list doing the same and redo the main floor. We replaced our kitchen appliances in November and a small leak on the fridge ice maker supply line ruined some of our 18 year old laminate floor planks. The 30 year old water supply tube developed a pin hole with all the fridge movement during replacement. Not with the movement but a few days afterward. Figures! We plan on DIY for the most part unless I find a killer deal for installation. Normally another consideration regarding DIY or paying someone to install is having the necessary tools for the install. Most can be rented instead of buying but also adds cost to the install. My son-in-law has all the tools needed that we can borrow and also offered help. Most of our demo will be carpet removal.

  11. I love reading your post. Another way to save is by visiting the warehouse where you are purchasing the flooring and interview the installers. Some will agreed to contract with you directly and you get to negotiate the price for installation. I worked at a flooring company and i know the installers love some side money 🙂

  12. I have a Horrible experience at Lowe’s it’s left me in tears and canceling my $8000 order. They sent a person out to measure and work up a bid then we talked the sales person and paid for the flooring. Got home look at the receipt and they wanted us to tear out our own flooring. I had told the installer and the sales per person that I did not want to tear up my own floor made it very clear . I was told by the manger when I called that Lowe’s will not tear out flooring in a house that is older than 1986 . I explain too the manger the flooring was only 6 years old in my house and under it was plywood . I asked why did the man who did the Estimate tell me that they couldn’t do this and why wasn’t I told this when I purchased the flooring manager was very rude and told me all they could do was refund the money. I will never. Shop at Lowe’s again.

    1. Wow. Sorry to hear that! Personally, we’ve never had any issues with Lowe’s, but every location is a bit different, I’m sure.

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