While you can install various types of flooring in different areas of your home, carpet and hardwood are two of the best options. These materials are suitable for almost every room in your home, and bring some unique benefits to the table as well.
If you are considering installing new flooring in your home, the carpet vs. hardwood debate is something that’s bound to come up. Well, there’s no need to be torn between these two styles of flooring as our guide can help you find the perfect match for your needs.
Soft underfoot, very comfortable and warm
Solid and cool with no cushioning
They’ll love it, but you might not…
Easy to clean, but provides no traction
Endless array of colors, textures and patterns
Classic with plenty of character but limited colors
You’ll want an excellent warranty
Can last over 100 years
Requires more maintenance overall
Easy to keep clean
Synthetic materials aren’t generally eco-friendly
Finishes are a concern along with responsible forestry
Broken bones or fractures from a hard fall
Provides warmth and sound-deadening capabilities
Ideal for allergy suffers or pet lovers, increase homes resale value
Fading, water & moisture
Weight, discoloring, moisture
Professional installation is usually required
Can be DIY-friendly
Bedrooms, Living Rooms, Dens
Anywhere moisture isn’t a major concern
$1 to $30 per sq. ft.
$3.50 to $9 per sq. ft.
The most significant difference between carpet and hardwood is how it feels underfoot. Carpet is the softest flooring material, and it’s very comfortable underfoot. Whether you’re wearing shoes or love to walk around barefoot, a plush carpet provides warmth and comfort, whereas hardwood stays cool – unless you have radiant heating.
If you stand on your feet for hours on end at home, carpet is a better choice. Hardwood flooring does have plenty of benefits; comfort just doesn’t happen to be one of them, which makes carpet a clear winner in this area.
Cats, dogs, and most creatures we can think of prefer carpet to hardwood. It’s comfortable to lie on, and your dog or cat can get plenty of traction on carpet as well. This allows them to get up to full speed indoors, which is fun for them, but may not be ideal for you.
Unless your cat is declawed, carpet can quickly become something to pick at and uproot. Pet hair can also be an issue, not to mention stains. Both of those issues can be quickly resolved with hardwood floors, and scratches generally aren’t a concern with high-quality products. Carpet is more “friendly” to your pets while hardwood is far easier on you.
Style is a matter of preference, but we are pleased to say it’s an area where there is an option for everyone. It’s also an area where the differences are vast, considering they look entirely different and carpet tends to come in wilder colors. You can stain unfinished hardwood flooring any hue you’d like as well. That said, it’s not ideal for most homeowners and can significantly raise the price.
With hardwood, you have a variety of options to choose from initially, and it brings a classy vibe to your home that carpet can’t match. The species vary from rich exotic woods like Brazilian Walnut and Acacia to popular domestic options like Oak and Hickory. Again, if you want something with an actual color outside the realm of natural wood, you will need to look for stain or prefinished boards with move vibrant hues.
Your options with carpet are virtually endless. You can choose patterned carpets with a short nap for your den and plush carpeting for your bedrooms and living room. Some carpets use a blend of color in their fibers, and the texture can also have a significant impact on its overall appearance. We think that carpet has more personality, but wood has more character.
When you want floors that can last decades, hardwood is one of the best options. Stone and some forms of tile have a high degree of durability as well, but wooden floors are still found in homes built in the late 1800s.
Wood can be scratched or dented depending on the density, so pine flooring won’t hold up nearly as well as white oak or Jatoba. It’s important to pay attention to the Janka scale when durability is a concern. While there’s no scale for carpet, there are several reasons it’s not nearly as tough as hardwood or even engineered flooring.
Stains are the biggest problem with carpeting, but it can also rip. The fibers will eventually begin to fray and look worn down as well, regardless of how well it’s made or the materials used. It won’t scratch, however, and you’ll never need to worry about marring your floors while moving furniture. On average, you can expect carpet to need to be replaced every 20 years or so if you’re lucky. Hardwood, on the other hand, can be refinished and can last over 100 years when properly maintained.
When thinking about the durability of carpet vs. hardwood in your home, it’s only natural to consider maintenance as well. Wondering how hard carpet is to upkeep compared to solid oak floors? Well, that can depend on a number of factors, but overall carpeting is harder to maintain from week to week.
Hardwood floors don’t require any expensive or special tools to clean. In most cases, you can simply sweep them, and you can actually see dust or pet hair easier for quick spot cleans. You may have to buy a pack of Swiffers or wet mop occasionally, but hardwood floors are easy to maintain on a daily basis if needed.
If you have carpet, you’ll need a vacuum cleaner, and those can get expensive. While you don’t have to have the best money can buy, you will need something capable and easy to clean out. When there’s a tough stain or your carpets begin to look poor, you can purchase or rent a carpet cleaner. Carpet is more expensive to maintain over the course of its lifespan, and you’ll need to buy more items to clean it with.
This one’s a bit of a coin flip compared to other areas we’ve touched on. On the one hand, you have trees, which are harvested or cut down for use in hardwood flooring. While some companies use responsible harvesting practices, that isn’t always the case –, especially with exotic woods. Considering they aren’t made by hand, you also have to consider the manufacturing process.
Carpet is a manmade product that’s produced in a factory and is about as unnatural as you can get despite its luxurious nature. The type of fibers used in your carpet determines how it’s made and what kind of impact it can have on the environment.
If you want wood that’s been harvested responsibly, the Forest Stewardship Council is a great place to start. You can check their site for additional information or look for products that are FSC certified. VOCs can be an issue with both styles, but with wood, it all comes down to the sealants and stains used.
Synthetic carpet can put VOCs into the air over time as well, so indoor air quality should be a concern. Programs like Green Label Plus can help you hone in on certified products along with Sustainable Carpet Certification products with the NSF/ANSI 140 standard. In general, hardwood is more eco-friendly, but you have to think about certifications and anything that can affect your indoor as well.
Being concerned about the air quality is something that falls under the safety category, but traction is the top options on most homeowners list. It’s also one of the only areas where hardwood doesn’t get high marks due to the materials themselves and the way they are made.
Have you ever taken a tumble and slipped on carpet? It’s painful, but carpet provides extra padding when you fall. It’s difficult to trip on while taut unless it’s become stretched over time or from a poor installation. While you can still take plenty of damage from a hard fall on carpet, you aren’t going to slip…
Hardwood floors can be slippery when wet and can send you to the ER. You definitely have to be more cautious of spills. They do make hardwood floors that have been hand-scraped or are textured, which gives them more grip, but they pale in comparison to carpet when it comes to traction and safety.
While we’ve broken down some of the advantages and disadvantages you can find with hardwood and carpet, there are also a few hidden benefits with each type of flooring. If you suffer from allergies, hardwood is by far the best choice for you. There’s a reason you need a powerful vacuum to effectively clean carpet as dander, dust, and dirt can be difficult to remove.
That’s not a concern with hardwood, however, and it’s much easier to keep tidy. You will notice a difference with your allergies when switching from carpet to hardwood.
While both styles of flooring can work with radiant heat systems, carpet is better in general for kids, the elderly, and even animals from a comfort standpoint. That’s something we touched on when discussing comfort levels, and not to be overlooked. It also gives you an excellent thick barrier of insulation, which in turn deadens sounds in your home.
The main thing hardwood and carpet have in common is actually a negative. Neither are ideal of moist areas, and water can ruin them both. If it’s a quick spill, it’s not an issue, but flooding or a busted pipe can quickly ruin either style of floor.
Sunlight can also have a major effect on your flooring. UV rays will cause carpets to fade over time, which means you need to consider curtains along with placement and look for a great warranty. Sunlight can affect wood as well; however, considering some species can actually darken over time with exposure to light.
While generally not a major concern, the weight of solid hardwood floors could cause issues in upper stories of older homes. Hardwood is considerably louder as well, so keep that in mind if you have a multi-level home as wood can amplify noises between levels, instead of decreasing them.
Are you good with tools or have you never handled a saw before? Hardwood floors can be challenging to install, depending on how comfortable you are using certain tools. You’ll need to regularly make cuts when installing hardwood in a room, and will probably have to purchase or rent a few tools. The species plays a large part in the degree of difficulty as well considering harder wood is going to be more difficult to work with.
With carpet, you’re better off hiring a professional unless you only plan to do a single room. DIY projects can seem like a fun thing to take on, but nothing is “fun” about installing carpet unless you know what you’re doing. Carpet is harder for professionals to install compared to hardwood, so trust us when we say it’s not something most people want to tackle themselves. You can find out a bit more about carpet installation and potential cost in our ultimate carpet guide.
Whether you think you can handle carpet yourself or already have your eye set on walnut planks, consider the rooms where you plan to install your new flooring. Simply put, what works in the living room may not be ideal for the kitchen…
Almost any type of flooring can be used in your home with enough preparation and maintenance. With that in mind, certain materials are well suited for particular rooms and a poor choice in others. With carpet, it’s often found in bedrooms, living rooms, and dining rooms. It’s not the best choice in the kitchen for obvious reasons but is popular in bathrooms when moisture isn’t a significant concern. Partially carpeted rooms are also an excellent choice in certain parts of your home.
As for hardwood, it’s suitable for the same rooms, and it’s not uncommon to see hardwood throughout an entire home. Moisture can cause issues; however, and you’ll want to deal with any spills quickly instead of letting them sit. It’s also not the best choice for basements unless you have a sound subfloor and a solid moisture barrier in place.
There are two things you’ll need to think about with carpet and hardwood prices. The cost of the flooring itself is the most crucial factor, but it’s important to remember that some forms of flooring can actually increase the resale value of your home as well. That’s the case with both hardwood flooring and carpet.
Hardwood throughout your home can definitely increase its value, but it all depends on the type of wood. Pine will pale in comparison to anything exotic although anything too wild can turn potential buyers off as well. The same rules apply to carpet, but it doesn’t bring as much value to the table as thick hardwood flooring.
Prices for these materials vary depending on a number of factors, but you can expect to pay around $3.50 - $9.00 per square foot for Oak, Maple, Walnut and Hickory. As you would expect, the price increases for exotics like Acacia, Bloodwood, and Brazilian Cherry. Our hardwood guide will give you a better idea of what to expect from a price standpoint.
Carpet can be cheaper than hardwood, and it generally is for most consumers who opt for budget-friendly and midrange carpeting. Prices range anywhere from $0.80 to around $5.00 for carpet in this class. On the high-end things are different; however, as prices can exceed $20 - $30 per square foot depending on the style, fiber, and overall quality of the carpeting.
In the end, whether carpet or hardwood is right for you depends on your needs and what you want from a floor. Hardwood flooring is an excellent choice for homeowners that appreciate classic style and want something durable that can last for a century. Carpet is far more colorful and certainly more comfortable, but won’t hold up quite as well over time. Whatever style of flooring you choose, just remember to keep moisture in mind or you could end up with a full renovation on your hands.