Carpet vs. Hardwood: Comparison Guide 

Choosing between carpet and hardwood can be challenging at first glance. Both are reliable flooring options with notable benefits. Comparing carpet flooring to hardwood helps determine the best alternative for your home.

While hardwood floors have existed for decades, carpets now come with handy innovations. The best carpets have built-in stain resistance and handle high foot traffic areas.

Carpet vs. Hardwood: How Both Stack Up

Carpets are available in various piles, patterns, and textures. The unique features of a carpet brand determine its pricing. Modern carpets are either made of natural or synthetic materials. Wool is the most common natural carpet material.

The popular synthetic carpet materials are nylon, triexta, polyester, and olefin. Carpets vary in price depending on the fabric. Some carpets may need an underlay to make them more comfortable. High-end ones come with built-in carpet backing.

Hardwood Flooring at a Glance

Hardwood flooring varies in type, wood species, appearance, type of finish, and more. Most hardwood floors need professional installation, each with a unique maintenance routine.

There are two main flooring options—solid hardwood and engineered hardwood. Solid hardwood comprises wood logs, while engineered hardwood has many layers of plywood.

Carpet vs. Hardwood: How Both Stack Up

Resale valueDoesn’t add real estate valueIncreases resale value
Average Cost$2.50 per square foot$6 to $14 per square foot
Ease of MaintenanceEasy to clean or vacuum. Some carpet types aren’t stain-resistantEasy to sweep and mop
Installation CriteriaSome carpets are suitable for DIY installationMost hardwood flooring options need professional installation
DurabilityLasts between 5-10 yearsUp to 100 years
Flooring AreasLiving room, stairs, basement, bedroomsAll areas except bathrooms and basements
ComfortFeels soft underfoot and retains warmthDoesn’t dampen noise and feels hard underfoot

Carpet vs. Hardwood: Cost

Hardwood is a pricier flooring option than carpet. There are also high-end carpet brands that are quite expensive to install. You’ll find carpets retail for less than $2 per square foot. A natural carpet fiber like wool can cost as high as $20 per square foot.

Besides the type of carpet fiber, pricing varies depending on the padding and style. While hardwood costs more, it doesn’t need replacing after a few years.

Hardwood flooring costs between $6 and $15 per square foot, depending on the type of wood, color, and grain. Carpeting is cheaper, but it will cost you more to make replacements every ten years. While a carpet’s installation cost is lower, hardwood’s resale value is higher.

Carpet vs. Hardwood: Ease of Installation

Most carpets need an underlay during installation. The carpet lays on top of the padding. It’s later trimmed to fit a room’s dimensions. DIY installation is sometimes tricky since you’ll need some specialty tools.

In contrast, peel-and-stick carpet tiles are easier to install DIY. Installing hardwood entails laying rows of boards on the floor. There are many ways to install hardwood flooring. Solid hardwood is glued to an underlay, but the process is a little tedious.

Engineered hardwood planks are made of click-together technology. The installation method is DIY-friendly. It involves “snap-locking” the planks, which don’t require a subfloor.

Carpets and hardwood floors need professional installation, as they need special tools. Engineered hardwood is easier to install but check its pros and cons.

Carpet vs. Hardwood: Eco-Friendliness

Both are sustainable flooring options. “Green” carpets are made of recyclable materials like nylon yarns and plastic bottles. You’ll also find carpets made of natural materials like wool, bamboo, or cotton.

Some manufacturers also sell low-VOC carpets. These carpets don’t emit toxic gasses and are Green Label Plus certified. There are also green hardwood flooring alternatives in the market.

It’s best to know if the manufacturer of the hardwood you’re looking to buy is ethical. Check if the hardwood brand has the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.

Carpet vs. Hardwood: Comfort, Styles & Patterns

Hardwood has a more natural tone. It comes in many shades, from neutral gray to rich bronze. While both are available in several styles, carpet offers more textures and patterns. Carpets also come in many fiber options.

There are also different carpet piles—cut pile, loop pile, and cut-loop pile. Each carpet pile has its set of perks. You can also opt for carpet tiles. Carpet tiles make it easy to blend various colors and patterns.

Hardwood’s selling point is its natural wood-tone hues. The wood grain gives hardwood an appealing pattern. Carpets not only have a fluffy texture but also feel soft underfoot.

Carpet flooring is softer and more comfortable than hardwood. It’s also a better option for bedrooms and stairs as it provides better insulation.

Water, Stain & Heat Resistance

Since most carpets contain synthetic fibers, they’re more water resistant. Yet, it’s best to prevent water from penetrating beneath the carpet backing. Excess moisture may lead to mold and mildew growth.

Since carpet is prone to water damage, it’s not the ideal flooring option for high moisture areas. Nylon and wool are the most stain-resistant carpet fibers. Engineered wood or laminate is best for kitchens or basements.

When exposed to a serious fire, carpets are also sensitive to heat and emit toxic gasses. Wood flooring is best for light kitchen spills but is prone to water damage. It isn’t recommended for areas with constant moisture. Choose engineered wood instead. It handles moisture seeping up through the concrete slab much better.

Hardwood and carpets are unsuitable for damp areas with constant humid levels. Water damages hardwood floors. Carpets are more prone to mold and mildew growth.

Longevity & Ease of Maintenance

Carpets need regular maintenance by vacuuming. You may need a carpet cleaner if you have a shedding pet. Professional cleaning may make a carpet last longer. But, it’s rare for a carpet’s lifespan to exceed ten years.

A carpet’s durability depends on the pile and material. There are also carpets with pet-proofing technology, making them more durable. Hardwood’s longevity relies on the construction of the planks, wear layer, and wood species.

With proper maintenance, high-end hardwood flooring is known to last for decades. Engineered wood is more resistant to humid conditions and temperature fluctuations.

Hardwood is easier to clean and is best for high-traffic areas like the living room or stairs. It also handles wear and tear better than carpet.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

How much does it cost to replace carpet with hardwood?

The cost of replacing carpet with hardwood varies with location, labor, and hardwood brand. Carpet removal costs between $1 and $3 per square foot, with a national average of $190. Installing hardwood flooring ranges from $6 to $14 per square foot. High-end hardwood costs from $12 to $25 per square foot.

Can you lay a carpet on top of a hardwood floor?

Yes, you can. Carpet protects the hardwood floor from scratches and gives it an aesthetic appeal. It also provides better insulation and makes the floor feel soft underfoot.

What are the common downsides of carpet flooring?

Carpets trap dust and allergens, which affect homeowners with respiratory issues. They’re challenging to clean and may harbor mold and mildew if exposed to high moisture levels.

Both carpet and hardwood have notable perks. Choosing the right flooring option depends on your budget and needs. If you’re an allergen sufferer, choose hardwood or a low-VOC carpet. Installing hardwood increases your home’s resale value. A carpet is more suitable if you want a comfortable flooring solution.