Calculate your Laminate Flooring Installation Cost
Compare the cost to install new or replacement laminate floors. Factors include costs related to labor, subfloor, stairs, transitions, number of rooms and more. Learn about extra hidden costs and how to save money on installation.
Some homeowners are surprised to learn that the cost to install laminate flooring might exceed the cost of the material. This is one of the reasons that DIY laminate floor installation is so popular. Price-conscious consumers choose laminate over hardwood or tile to save money and then maximize the savings by installing the flooring themselves.
The Factors that Affect the Cost to Install Laminate
Most flooring contractors have a baseline laminate floor installation cost, and they don’t make that price public information. It is typically between $2.50 and $3.50 per square foot. This figure reflects how much the installer can charge based on demand for their services.
For example, an installation company with a sketchy reputation will have to quote lower prices to attract homeowners for whom price is the only factor in deciding who to hire. An installer with a stellar reputation can charge more and still attract homeowners who are willing to pay for high-quality laminate installation.
Beyond reputation, the base price each estimator starts with will rise or fall depending on the complexity of the job. Time is money, so how long they expect the job to take will determine whether the flooring installation quote is higher or lower than the installer’s “secret” base price.
Here’s how it works. From the moment the estimator walks into your home, he or she is looking with a trained eye at the floor space to be covered in laminate. The installer is taking mental notes, and perhaps written notes too, about:
Labor Costs: The job includes setting up the needed equipment on the job site, installing the underlayment or preparing existing subfloor, installing the foam layer, planning the work, cutting and installing the laminate and cleaning up once the work is completed.
A handyman will charge less than a flooring contractor/installer, but beware that you’ll get the level of installation quality that you pay for. When a builder, designer or interior decorator arranges the installation, the work will be given to a flooring installer. However, it will cost even more for the simple fact that the person arranging the work charges extra for the service. You’ll get the best combination of quality installation and price by going directly to flooring installers in your area.
The Subfloor: A smooth, level subfloor is essential to the long-lasting performance of the floor. Hopefully you already have a great subfoor, or at least one that only needs a little prepping. However if that is not the case then failure here will mean that the flooring will eventually rise, sink, squeak, separate or have one of many other possible problems where the subfloor is imperfect.
If your installer recommends a new plywood subfloor, at about $1 per square foot for the materials, you can view the news in one of two ways. First, it can be looked at simply as yet another expense that will increase the total installation cost of your laminate floors.
The second perspective is that the subfloor is an investment that will prevent the kinds of problems we’ve mentioned, potential issues that might otherwise diminish the longevity or looks of the flooring and your enjoyment of it.
The bottom line is that cutting corners at this point by trying to make do with an imperfect subfloor is a risk that turns out poorly for many homeowners. It is quite common for laminate flooring installers to refuse to quote a job if the homeowner refuses the recommendation of a new subfloor. The installer doesn’t want the risk of an angry customer calling in a few months to a couple of years later with complaints about the flooring that would have been avoided with a new subfloor.
That said, you should of course be satisfied that the sub-floor does indeed need replacing before accepting this extra cost.
- Subfloor installation cost is $0.40-$0.60 per square foot
The amount of flooring: Whether installing 100 square feet or 1,500 square feet, the installation company has fixed installation costs such as the expense of traveling to your home and the time it takes to unload its equipment, set it up, take it down and load it back into the truck at the end of the job. Spreading the fixed cost over more flooring will reduce the cost per square foot, all else being equal. It’s the principle of economies of scale at work when it comes to the labor cost to install laminate flooring.
The sizes of the rooms: Fewer, larger rooms will take less time to finish than several small rooms, because there is less cutting and piecing of small end pieces per square foot in large spaces. For example, a kitchen that flows into a living room in an open floor plan will go much faster and cost less than an entryway, cozy den and two small bedrooms, given the same amount of flooring.
By the way, expect the estimator to take their own measurements. It’s not that they don’t trust your figures or don’t appreciate the work you’ve put into them, but we all learn from experience that it is wise to take our own measurements for absolute accuracy. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take measurements too in order to come up with your own estimate based on the pricing below.
The presence of obstacles: Every obstacle represents time-consuming cutting and piecing. Cabinetry, bathroom fixtures, support posts, fireplace hearths, doorways and built-in structures such as kitchen islands and bookcases are among the most common obstacles that add time to the process and increase the laminate flooring installation estimate.
Transitions: A transition is where one type of flooring meets another, for example, carpet in the living room meeting laminate in the entryway. Transitions require more cutting of the laminate and the installation of edging or a transition strip. Installers charge $2-$4 per linear foot for transition installation.
Stairs: Your options include installing laminate on both the tread (horizontal part) and the riser (vertical part) or just on the tread while painting the existing wood riser. In either case, installing laminate on stairs is the most time-consuming part of any job. Most contractors price stairs separately.
Expect the cost of laminate installation on stairs to be $40-$75 per stair. When stairs are wider than 36”, there are railing posts to work around or laminate is going on both treads and risers, the price will move toward the higher end of that range. The bottom line: Laminate installation on a 13-step stairway will cost $525-$1,000 for most jobs. It’s possible that installation on a winding staircase will exceed $1,000. Now you know why many homeowners rethink laminate on stairs, opting instead for carpet and its much-lower stair installation cost.
Laminate Flooring Installation Cost Table
Here’s a table to use in determining what you can expect when you receive laminate floor installation estimates. Most installers use a table like this one to produce a quote that meets the criteria mentioned, an estimate that is both competitive and gives them the opportunity to make a fair profit.
|Subfloor installation||$0.40-$0.60/sq. ft.||Obstacles, removing prior subfloor|
|Laminate installation||$2.50-$3.50/sq. ft.||See factors listed above|
|Transitions||$2.00-$4.00/linear ft.||Material joining, straight v. curved|
|Stairs||$40-$75/stair||Width, posts, straight v. winding, turns, landings|
Extra Costs in a Laminate Floor Installation Estimate
The flooring installation prices given above are for floors ready to be covered. When additional preparation has to be made, there will be additional costs. This table will help you determine the costs for your home and decide whether or not to handle these tasks yourself before the flooring installers arrive:
|Removing old flooring||$0.25-$0.45/sq. ft.||Flooring type, disposal yes/no|
|Moving furniture||$20-$150 per room||Number, type and weight of pieces|
|Moving appliances||$15-$30 per appliance||Type, weight, complexity of connection|
Saving Money on Laminate Installation
One simple way to keep your laminate floor installation cost as low as possible is to remove old flooring and empty the rooms of furniture and appliances before installation day. And once you’ve removed the old flooring make sure the sub-floor is in perfect condition.
The proven way to save the most money is to get laminate floor installation estimates from several companies. They will “sharpen their pencil” when they know that they are competing with other installers for the work.
Having said that, keep in mind the importance of quality installation. The lowest bids sometimes, though not always, come from installers hurting for business because they don’t have a good reputation or who aren’t willing to pay the higher wages necessary to have a skilled and experienced crew. A cheap job might cost you long-term because the floor doesn’t last, and companies that do that kind of shoddy work are often long gone when the problems develop and the customer goes looking for them.
Getting multiple estimates gives you the chance to learn a little about each company, its reputation and the experience of the crew that will be doing the installation. Due diligence on your part will help ensure that you find pay a fair laminate flooring installation cost to a company you can trust.