From the beginning of our search for hard wood flooring – it only took us really one day to find what we were looking to find. We never purchase anything this quickly; that is, doing heavy research in one day, finding what we were looking for, & making a purchase. To be fair, we had been into a flooring store prior to this particular day… but it was just casual and to sort-of get our bearings on prices.
Before we purchased this house, and even before we were designing our modern-house-that-we-never-built, we knew our dream wood flooring was black walnut. Even when designing the modern house, (but before hard research) we knew we probably couldn’t afford walnut flooring – so, we thought we might just have finished concrete floors to save money. Anyway, instead of building, we bought this house and decided to look at hardwood pricing.
Our first choice in hardwood flooring was specifically:
• Walnut, with a mostly matte and natural color finish, with no hand scraped texture. Definitely not cherry.
• We were debating if we could afford solid wood or if we had to go with an engineered product. Definitely not laminate.
• Acacia was an alternative to walnut.
• Wider planks are preferable.
I apologize for the iPhone photos – most of the time I don’t want to tote my “real” camera around to stores. It’s heavy, gets in the way when shopping, and it’s something that we don’t leave in the car.
Preliminary casual research at Floor and Decor resulted in this: 5″ wide x 3/4″ thick, solid “natural” walnut for $6.49/sq. ft.. This was a bit pricy for us at this price point and we didn’t like the finish on the wood – the sheen looked like plastic. The color and variation was nice though. A similar product that was 3 1/2″ wide was also for sale at a slightly lower price point.
$1.69 for 3/8″ thick x 5″ wide engineered walnut. Even though this was engineered hardwood and not laminate… it just didn’t look like real wood – it looked like laminate. I really suspect that product this was mislabeled.
We discovered the flooring world is tricky with their terms, names, and labels … I think intentionally so. Sometimes, companies did have things plainly labeled (like in the above image), but sometimes they didn’t (see below).
“Walnut” may or may not refer to the actual wood, but to the stain – and their won’t be any real distinction or label. Occasionally, at various different flooring stores, I would ask if they had any walnut and the sales person would direct me to walnut stained oak or some other species of wood… not what I was looking for.
A different store location clarifies with their label that this same engineered wood is indeed Acacia. (Oh, and if you can’t look at an open sample box of the flooring itself, it is a good idea to go to different stores to see different samples. We noticed more color variety in one vs. the other of this particular product.) Notice the very light blonde boards in this sample compared to the overall darker colors in the boards above:
This is from an open box of the Tobacco Trail Acacia – some boards were much lighter than others. On closer inspection, this product had black marks – almost like marker – intentionally, on each board. (you can see it near my right foot – they almost look like horizontal black scratches, but are actually black marker) This was consistent throughout the package, we didn’t notice the black marker on one store display, but did see it at another store. If we had bought this flooring, we would have been disappointed with this purchase.
On to Lumber Liquidators! (we were working our way north up to Dalton.)
We have a mix in this photograph of acacia, walnut, hand scraped, solid, & engineered products. a range here of $3.89 to $7.59 (and currently, on their website, solid Walnut is in the $9 range.) As I recall, it was difficult to find non-handscraped products. Of course, the best looking sample (to us) at Lumber Liquidators was the most expensive, which also happened to be the solid walnut. Based off of the Lumber Liquidator prices, we were starting to think acacia or an engineered wood might be a more realistic option, rather than walnut… but we were still looking. For engineered wood, the pricing ranged from $3.89 to $4.19/sqft.
On to Dalton, Ga! The “carpet capital of the world”! (about 80 miles away.)
If your unfamiliar with Dalton, it’s where major American carpet companies are based, such as Mohawk and Shaw. There is a road with a ton of different flooring stores all grouped together in one spot. Hopefully, we will find a deal. It’s our best chance.
We thought we would start with the largest retailer “Carpets of Dalton” and work our way along the road. At $4.99 /$5.99, the prices were not great at Carpets of Dalton, but mostly I was unimpressed… actually, I was a bit put off by their sales reps: they were just too salsey and were clearly working on commission. Here’s a photograph of their walnut sample:
Some sales people tried to convince us that “Asian walnut” was the same as American walnut. Really though, this is one of those made-up terms that could mean anything. I think more commonly though, that “Asian walnut” refers to Acacia. It was pretty easy to google “Asian walnut” and find out this information from multiple sources. Notice the wider variation in color in their floor sample:
So, we were out of there and on to the next place “Floor Max” – and this is where we stayed until closing. Spencer felt like we could get a deal there – it was a smaller operation and the guys there seemed to really want to work with us. We ended up purchasing two different lots of wood. The first was at a reduced price of $3.99 because they didn’t have enough for anyone to be really interested in the remaining lot ~403 sq. ft. (18 boxes):
Here are the two samples together. We made sure the color, plank width and depth, and the tongue and groove from the two lots of wood would be compatible. We made sure to try different planks from the boxes, not just the sample in the showroom … we’re sure the sales people loved us for this.
During negotiations, we offered that we could purchase more flooring (for our master bedroom)… if they worked with us on price. We were able to get boxes from the second lot for the same price as the first ($3.99/sq. ft.).
lot 1: 402.84 sq. ft. x $3.99 = $1,607.33
lot 2: 264.72 sq. ft. x
$4.50 $3.99 = $1,056.23
This came to a grand total of 667.56 sq. ft. for $2,663.56
Additionally, because it was Memorial Day Weekend, the company waived sales tax (which really means they simply paid for it out of their pockets).
We were calculating the size of the kitchen, foyer, and master bedroom… plus 20% extra, because we were planning on installing the floor on the diagonal. Normally, you would purchase an extra 10% for a regular instillation. For a 45 degree angle instillation, we were advised to purchase 15% extra, but we wanted to be sure we had enough… especially since this would be our first time installing hardwood floors.
The funny thing is that we were apparently closer to the load limit than we had thought. The truck should carry 3,000 pounds. We calculated our load was 1,998 based off of the information on the packages. When we got home, I jumped up into the truck bed to cut the ropes and the load limit alarm went off. We were 110 pounds from not being able to drive home with our order.
Here’s most of the packages in our garage when we got home. They were only in there over night because we needed to return the truck and were very tired. The garage is not the place to store wood flooring for any length of time, by the way – the temperature and humidity levels are too different from the rest of the house. The next day, Spencer and I moved all of the packages up to the living room. To be honest, I could barely complete the task… I think the packages must weigh more than the label states (67 lbs.).
In the end, we felt very happy with our purchase. We were able to buy 3/4″ thick, 5″ wide, solid black american walnut flooring for three rooms of our house.