Carpet Vs. Hardwood 2022: Costs, Resale Value + Pros & Cons

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carpet vs hardwood

When searching for the next new flooring in your home, among your choices are carpet and hardwood.

Not surprisingly, these two flooring solutions are often at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Today, though, we put them right next to each other.

Both fan favorites and each with their own advantages and disadvantages, it can be a difficult choice deciding which one to install.

Here, we will compare the two flooring options side by side on several important factors to help you make that final decision. Read on to figure out which is the best flooring for your home, hardwood or carpet.

Top Features of Carpet and Hardwood

Picking between carpet and hardwood flooring depends on several factors. Each one has features that make it more appealing.

  • Comfort. Carpet is the most plush and softest flooring available. Hardwood can also be soft underfoot when installed correctly.
  • Cost. Carpet is generally cheaper to purchase and install, but hardwood can raise the value of your home.
  • Aesthetics. Hardwood offers a warm, inviting atmosphere where carpeting keeps a room cozy and complete.
  • Installation. While both should be professionally installed, the installation process is fairly straightforward with cost and timing uniform across the board.

Buyer’s Guide: Choosing Between Hardwood and Carpet

buyers guide carpet vs hardwood

If your final choice comes down to carpet or hardwood, you have a difficult choice. Below you will find several consideration factors that can make or break your decision.

Coverage Area & Project Size

The larger your project area the more materials, tools and equipment you need to purchase, rent or loan. For professional installation, it also increases the amount you will pay in labor costs, hourly rates and clean up fees.

Knowing how large of space you are adding new flooring to is crucial for every step of your project’s completion. Make sure to take several measurements to ensure you have the right square footage.

Style and Colors

When it comes to carpet, you have unlimited choices it seems. From carpet fiber to pattern, pile height and even style. Not only do you need to choose a brand but you also need to pick a style that matches your décor.

For hardwood, the options are about as limitless. Brands, types of wood, plank thickness, construction, moisture barriers and underlayment, it all comes down to your final decision to determine the cost, installation method and final look.

Comfort and Softness

Carpets can be thick, plush and cozy or it can be short, tough and low maintenance. It can also be anything in between. Hardwood also offers different textures, comfort levels and even give or bend. You need to decide how soft, or plush your floor needs to be for your comfort while also weighing in the durability and strength needed to hold up.

Installation Locations

There are certain areas where carpet and hardwood should and should not be installed. For carpet you want to avoid anywhere wet or that has flooding potential. The same is true of hardwood, though some wet areas may be okay (depending on type of wood planks and sealants).

Where your new flooring will be installed is a huge determination to the type of flooring you should install versus the types you should avoid. In this particular case both carpet and hardwood have almost identical limitations.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Both carpet and hardwood have specific cleaning and maintenance instructions. It is important to follow both, though it is easily hardwood that has a higher maintenance level than carpet. Hardwood is also easier to keep clean over all and is more allergen friendly, compared to carpet which can trap and hold allergens in your home.

Durability and Resilience

One thing you don’t have to worry about with carpet is scratching, denting and peeling. However, with hardwood you don’t need to worry about matting, pile separation or “bald spots.” Each flooring type has its own set of durability standards that you need to pay attention to after you make your floor type decision.

Cost & Warranty

In almost all cases hardwood flooring will cost more than carpeting, per square foot. However, labor and installation fees may even the overall cost difference out a little.

Carpets may cost less to install, but there are removal, disposal and additional fees associated with carpet that aren’t there with hardwood floors.

Carpet Vs. Hardwood: The Full Review

carpet vs hardwood full review

Let’s get down to the comparison. Don’t worry, we aren’t going to bore you with material make up differences or anything so obvious as that. In this section we take the most important flooring factors and find out which one is best for your specific needs.

Appearance

Once the flooring is installed, what matters the most is how it looks. With carpet, you have an even, uniform appearance. Even if you go for patterned or designed carpet, high or low pile, nylon or polyester, the look is the same throughout your room.

Hardwood flooring has natural variances in each board. The wood grain pattern, coloring, dyes and even board widths and lengths are all different. However, it is this difference in singular board appearance that gives the floor its warm, inviting overall look.

Because aesthetics are opinions, it is difficult to say what looks better. Carpet tends to blend in with the décor of the room, a subtle tie in that holds everything together. Hardwood, on the other hand, is a flooring type that takes the spotlight and is usually the center piece the rest of the décor is built around.

Moisture and Heat

Moisture is a detriment to both flooring types and each should be installed in areas that aren’t prone to water leaks, spills or flooding. If the carpet gets too dirty, though, a wet cleaning (with a shampooer) is okay.

Hardwood, though, should rarely, if ever, be cleaned with water. Any moisture accumulation can ruin the finish, cause underlying damage and even cause you to remove and replace boards.

Carpet that gets wet can have mold and mildew spread, cause offensive odors and lead to structural damage to the subfloor underneath.

With heat, it is a little different. Neither will hold up particularly well in direct sunlight. Fading will occur eventually on both. However, hardwood and heat aren’t friends either. Peeling, cracking and splitting can occur if there is too much heat for extended periods.

For extreme temperatures and variances in humidity, moisture levels and heat retention, carpet is a better choice.

Care and Cleaning

When it comes to cleaning and maintenance routines, hardwood is more tedious and specialized. A broom and dustpan are mostly all that is needed with an occasional spot cleaning with a damp mop.

However, even when sealed and treated wet mopping should only be done when absolutely necessary. Drying as you go and mopping 2 feet at a time can become tiresome.

With carpeting, you need to vacuum on a regular basis. At least once a week the carpet should be vacuumed. However, with wet spills, immediate clean up is needed and the possibility for instant staining is more prevalent. You can use carpet cleaners once or twice a year to help renew the look of the floor, too.

Hardwood may require annual sealing, sanding or resurfacing, but the overall look tends to last much longer than carpet. However, carpet requires less cleaning and maintenance overall compared to hardwood.

Installation

When it comes to installation, both hardwood and carpet should be handled by professionals. In many cases, the manufacturers or brands will require professional installation to maintain the warranty coverage.

However, if you are looking for a DIY project, engineered hardwood planks are fairly easy to handle yourself. With carpet, you can also install carpet tiles as a DIY project without much worry.

Covering a full room, though, using wall to wall carpet or solid hardwood planks should be handled by professionals that have been properly vetted, checked and reviewed. You can always find a local professional trained and checked using our free finder tool, too.

Cost

In almost every case carpet will be a less expensive option. There are hidden fees to be aware of, though. With carpet you have to worry about padding, subfloor repairs or replacement, baseboards, transition molding, tack strips, thresholds and disposal fees.

The same can be said of hardwood, though. With transitions, adhesives, moisture barriers, underlayment, sealants and moldings, the costs can rise quickly. It is true, though, that hardwood is currently the only flooring solution that will increase the resale value of your home.

While you may be able to recoup some of the cost of a hardwood floor if you do sell the home, don’t expect a full recovery. Carpet won’t add value, but will cost less to install. Even buying a premium carpet will save you up to $2000 (or more) compared to the overall cost of hardwood.

Selection and Options

When it comes to options, both carpet and hardwood are full of choices. On the carpet side, you will find brands that offer over 2000 different styles, textures and colors. With solution and piece dyed carpets the options are near limitless.

If you want a Picasso inspired multi-colored carpet, you can find it.

For hardwood floors, the choices are still grand, but are more limited. Between various wood species, hard and softwoods, age, shades and colors you can get several hundred options to fill your home.

The difference here, though, is that hardwood is, well, wood. Crazy colors, designs and patterns are not found with natural hardwood flooring.

Life Span

We all want our floors to last. With what a new installation costs, it should last as long as possible. However, actual life spans will vary. Not only does the quality of the carpet or hardwood matter, but so do the conditions in your home.

Foot traffic, types of traffic (human, pets) spills, accidents and messes and even the weight of the furniture all play a role in how long the flooring lasts.

You also need to account for cleaning and natural wear and tear. However, for an average, carpet will last between 10 and 15 years while hardwood floors tend to last 20 to 30 years. That being said, though, both floors have been proven to last longer and there are instances where both carpet and hardwood have lasted only 5 years.

At a Glance

at a glance carpet vs hardwood

Here we break down the important factors in a quick-view side by side chart.

 HardwoodCarpet
Style OptionsLess than 1000Near limitless
AvailabilitySporadic, based on speciesWorldwide
MaintenanceHighLow
InstallationProfessionalProfessional
Expected Life20+ years10+ years
Cost (average install)$10,000$5,000

Top Carpet Brands

With hundreds of carpet manufacturers world wide, it can be a difficult decision to choose which one to go with. However, there are brands that stand out either because of the brand recognition or because of the quality of the carpeting. Here are some of the best.
  • Shaw Carpeting. Shaw is the world’s largest carpeting manufacturer. Their premium carpets are sold worldwide and worth every penny.
  • Mohawk Carpets. The world’s largest flooring manufacturer is second only to Shaw in the carpet division. Their premium carpets are high cost, low maintenance and highly rated.
  • LifeProof Carpet. A budget-friendly option with a great warranty and hundreds of options.

Top Hardwood Brands

Like carpet, there are specific brands that stand out among the crowd. The top brands are a great place to start your flooring search.
  • Armstrong Flooring. Dependable hardwood with lifetime warranties and various board sizes.
  • Boen. Easily one of the best hardwood companies in the world, Boen features woods not often found in other brands, and at affordable prices.
  • Somerset Hardwood Flooring. Another mid-range price based brand, Somerset offers highly detailed planks with extra thick wear layers for longer lasting planks.

Carpet or Hardwood: The Verdict

So, who is the winner here? You are. Carpet and hardwood are flooring options that work well separate or together. You can have carpet in the living areas of your home, or hardwood, or both.

It is difficult to declare a winner when the options are so great. Carpet tends to cost less overall, and has more styles than it probably should. However, maintenance and cleaning is relatively low and a high-quality carpet can last decades.

Hardwood is more specialized and does cost more. However, it offers a beauty to your home matched by nothing else. It will also increase the resale value of your home. Hardwood has a higher installation cost and is difficult to maintain without a specialized routine. It is worth it, though.

Whether you choose carpet or hardwood (or both) you won’t be disappointed. While the choice is ultimately your own, find the flooring option that suits your needs, your décor and style. You can’t go wrong.

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AUTHOR

Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

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