When it comes to the carpet vs. hardwood floors debate, deciding which flooring material is best can be a complicated question for homeowners to answer. Carpet and hardwood are two of the most common types of floor coverings, and yet they are also two of the most different. One is almost completely man-made or synthetic, while the other can be all-natural. Although the look of wood flooring is beautiful in just about any space, it can also be very expensive and noisy, and it's not ideal in areas that are exposed to water.
Carpet flooring, on the other hand, is not a great idea for kitchens or bathrooms (although in the '60s and '70s, shag carpet was often installed adjacent to showers, if you can believe it), but it can look amazing in living rooms, bedrooms, or even a cozy den. It may be an obvious choice for you personally, but let's take a deeper dive to make sure you are making the best decision for you and your home.
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Carpet vs. Hardwood Floors
$3 per square foot
$8 per square foot
Lasts up to 10 years
Can last 100 years or more if well-maintained
Impact on Home Value
Does not add real estate value
Adds real estate value
Vacuum regularly. Stain removal and deep cleaning can be a challenge
Clean by sweeping and mopping. Need to refinish every 10 years
Sound absorbent, and it's soft and warm underfoot
Not very sound absorbent, and it's hard and cold underfoot
Which Rooms Work Best
Avoid using in bathrooms or kitchens
Great anywhere but bathrooms or basements
Has VOCs and can trap pollen and dust
Better for allergies
Different Materials for Different Lifestyles
First things first, it's important to know that when it comes to carpet and hardwood flooring, one is not better than the other — they both have drawbacks. Neither flooring option will work perfectly on every square inch of your home. And while you could challenge yourself to a DIY project and install either choice yourself, we recommend bringing in a professional.
Now, let's talk comfort. When it comes to what's underfoot, carpet is definitely softer and will help keep your home warmer during cold winter months. This makes it a nice choice for bedrooms and kids' spaces where time spent playing (or lying) on the floor is encouraged. Plus, any accidental tumbles will result in less injury with a soft landing pad covering your floor. Carpet can also create a more soothing and serene vibe than hardwood, as it absorbs sound. However, it can be a bummer for those who suffer from allergies due to the VOCs and synthetic fibers used in the making of the carpet, or the fact that it tends to trap more pollen, dust, and hair overall. But keep in mind that you can get carpet made from natural fibers, too.
Although much more expensive, hardwood floors are worth the investment and can last for generations. Not to mention, the high-end flooring choice will elevate the look of any interior, especially in an open layout, since you can continue the material from the living and dining rooms and into the kitchen, too. Plus, this option is great for anyone who has issues with allergies. But it's not all good news. As a result of wood flooring's long lifespan, it is also much more expensive. And if you have a busy household, the hard surface can create a noisier atmosphere because there is not as much sound absorption as carpet.
Durability and Maintenance for Carpet and Hardwood
One of the most important things to look at when it comes to carpet vs hardwood is how much or how little maintenance is required for each, and how durable they are when it comes to wear and tear. In terms of which is more durable, it's pretty much a tie. Neither does well when exposed to water. Carpet fibers will withstand initial water damage, but the backing can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew if it gets soaked. Solid hardwood shouldn't be installed directly over the concrete slab, but instead on a proper subfloor, otherwise, ground moisture will seep in and destroy the flooring. So, make sure to consider your local climate, since neither will do well with heavy humidity.
Maintaining carpet can be pretty easy as long as you vacuum it routinely and avoid any major spills. You may have to do a deep cleaning from time to time to remove stains in areas with heavy foot traffic. Hardwood is much easier to keep clean, as sweeping, vacuuming, and dry mopping will do the trick. And bonus: The surface won't absorb particles such as dust and pollen.
Carpet: Pros and Cons
There are a lot of great reasons to install wall-to-wall carpeting in your home, beyond your personal preference. But there are important things to consider before you take the plunge. Here are the most important pros and cons for your reference.
- Carpet is soft underfoot and can prevent injury if you fall.
- It can add warmth to your home.
- The average cost is $3 per square foot and is much lower than hardwood.
- It can absorb sound.
- The plush flooring material can last up to 10 years.
- Can trap allergens and dust.
- It's hard to keep completely clean.
- Moisture can get trapped in the backing or carpet pad and cause mold and mildew.
- It doesn't add value to your home.
- Carpet needs to be replaced more often than hardwood.
Hardwood: Pros and Cons
Hardwood flooring, like carpet, comes in many styles and finishes. And also like carpet, it tends to work better in some rooms over others. Now, let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of wood floors before you get too attached and start shopping.
- Hardwood floors increase a home's resale value.
- Can last 100 years or more.
- Wood is a natural material.
- Can withstand lots of wear and tear.
- Easy to keep clean.
- Doesn't absorb sound.
- Can be expensive, coming in around $8 per square foot.
- Wood flooring can be slippery and hard if someone falls.
- It's not water-resistant.
- Can be cold underfoot.