Expensive floors are a problem

There’s two ways to install a floor: the cheap way and the expensive way. This isn’t about right and wrong — though important, for once this hasn’t been the sole guiding factor. And when the difference between them is orders of magnitude ... well, "right and wrong" and "cheap and expensive" aren’t really that different for comparison.

The biggest question is: what will be the deciding factor?

Initially, we set no budget, preferring to get the "right" answer first. So we went to Kensington One, one of the best flooring companies in town. They sent out an estimator, and we were quoted for 630 sq. ft. of engineered hardwood (for the rec room and office) and 250 sq. ft. of tile for the laundry and bathroom. We’re leaving the bedroom unfinished for now, until we’re ready to finish it off properly.

I expected a high quote. This is what you expect from one of the best companies in town, using quality materials. This is normal.

But about $13,000 is enough for you to pause for a moment, swallow the bile that unexpectedly ran into your mouth, and wonder if you’re actually doing the right thing.

I’m not suggesting in any way that Kensington One is wrong, or attempting to gouge us. The reality is that we hadn’t figured on that high a cost for what is effectively a simple floor. And let’s also make one thing understood — the floor itself isn’t that expensive. It’s all the labour that goes along with it.

So I took a trip to Home Depot on the weekend to see if there were any alternatives to blowing through the equivalent of our heating system budget on a new floor. Home Depot is the home of the DIY. In theory, yes, I could have also gone to Rona, but the nearest one to me is seriously lacking in options because it’s so darned small.

Kensington One’s prices came out to over $14/sq. ft. At Home Depot, I could get a rather nice-looking engineered floor for about $4/sq. ft. If I went really cheap, I could get a laminate floor ("a picture of wood") for less than a buck. Basically, put in my rec floor for about $630. That’s versus the about $8,000 I was quoted.

When does "right" mean "cheap"? I dunno, but at less than 1/10th the cost, it’s not a stretch.

So we’re in debate mode. As much as Alex really wants someone to come in and do the job right, I’m keen on keeping the budget in check — and $13,000 is way out of check. Sadly, even if we go to a cheaper material, the cost will only go down maybe a couple thousand at most — it’s the labour, and that don’t come cheaply.

The other pressure is to get any floor down at this point, so we can move stuff around upstairs. We’ve got no space, and after a fairly serious baby shower, we’re left with a lot less room than we had before. And we’re getting hand-offs from Cathy. Soon we’ll need mountaineering equipment just to get around.

Space is at a premium, and we need that basement back in order, quickly.

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