There is absolutely nothing like a hardwood floor—the natural beauty of a raw material turned into a functional item in your home; the warmth it adds to any room; the fact that it can last hundreds of years when properly maintained; and it’s a natural insulator. Tile and vinyl products imitate it. What’s not to love about a wood floor? They are timeless and will never go out of style. However, not all homes are suited for solid hardwood floors.

While solid wood floors can be installed on concrete slabs, engineered hardwood floors really shine here and help keep costs down. Engineered wood floors were originally developed in the 1960’s to be on grade and in basements over concrete. This trend has continued and with evolution has allowed for the flooring to be used above grade as well. You don’t have to just glue it, it can be nailed or stapled as well and sometimes even a glue assist is needed depending on size. What’s the point of all of this? Options. Options are key in any business.

Not all products are created equal. A 3/8” engineered wood floor with a rotary peel is not the same as a ¾" engineered wood floor with a 6mm wear layer. What’s the wear layer got to do with anything? For me, it means longevity in a product. It means quality. It means being able to work with my client and know that I am selling them a quality piece of flooring that will last them or a future owner of the property a very long time when cared for appropriately.   

Looking at a box store website, I can get a 3/8”x6.5” white oak, wire-brushed hardwood with a 1.2mm wear layer for $4.99 plus tax. The flooring will range from 10” to 60”. There’s nothing very special about it. A 9/16”x5.5” white oak, wire-brushed hardwood with a 3.5mm wear layer will run $14.15 plus tax from one of my suppliers. This floor will range in size from 23” to 86 5/8”.  This one has a little meat to it and comes in some nice longer lengths. This is still not anything on the super special side, but it is a much better product.

The first floor is a one-and-done floor. The wear layer is so thin that you can’t do anything with it down the road. It is thick enough that the manufacturer gets to call the product hardwood, but the client gets a one-and-done floor.

Why is this second product better? First, it has a wear layer that can be sanded and finished in the future. The floor could also be buffed and coated to help prolong its life along the way.

Second, the 9/16” product is better because my installation costs will be the same for each floor. I am going to charge the same install price for both floors. They both need to be glued to a slab. The glue needed is the same. The trowel needed is the same. The only price difference to the client is the flooring itself. My demo guy is going to charge me the same amount to remove either floor because it is just as difficult for both. When demo costs $4.50 per square foot currently, I would rather have a floor down for 30 plus years than for only five to 10 years for that price. One floor adds value to the home and one is maintaining the value. Personally, I would rather see carpet or a floating floor in a home than a cheap glued down engineered wood. So, what’s the better investment for your client? Wood has always cost more upfront but saved you money on the back end.

Finally, you have to think about your bottom line. Most likely you will not be providing products from a box store. So, you lost out on all the money of the product sale. If you are moving the box store materials at a profit, your margin is probably considerably less. Let’s say you can get 20%. Divide $4.99 by 0.8 to equal $6.24. That is $1.25 per square foot that you get to make. The second floor is $8.49 from the distributor, and you can put a 40% margin on it. Divide $8.49 by 0.6 to equal $14.15. That’s $5.66 per square foot in your pocket. A difference of $4.41 per square foot. On a 1,000 square-foot project, you would be looking at a difference of $4,410. You don’t have to be a “mathlete” to see which deal is better. Higher priced products will net you more income per job. This makes them a no-brainer.

As a business owner, I look at myself as a steward of my clients’ money. A steward is someone who looks after or manages someone’s money. A client will want us to manage it well. No one wants to do their floor twice, especially on their own dime. Living through a remodel once is hard enough. You owe it to your client to put them in the best product possible so that it fits their lifestyle and demands. A premium product will perform better, is generally easier to install, and typically offers better customer service if you are to encounter a problem. I personally find the clientele looking for premium services easier to work with. They don’t want a deal. They don’t want to look over your shoulder. They just want it done right the first time and are willing to pay for it.

So, what’s wear got to do with it? Got to do with it? What’s wear layer...but a second-hand evaluator? In my opinion, it has everything to do with it. I’m not interested in offering cheaper services or products. I want to know that what I put down can hold up for years to come. I want to be able to run a business that actually makes profit and doesn’t have me living from paycheck to paycheck. High quality engineered hardwood allows me to do exactly that.

Check out full episodes of the Floor Academy Podcast every Wednesday on your favorite streaming platform. Every week we dive into a new topic with a successful person from the flooring industry to help move your business to the next level. Whether you are starting out or have 40 years’ experience, there is always something new to learn.