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Carpet or Hardwood: More Than a Matter of Taste

Of all the decisions you have to make about your house, few will have as far-reaching of an effect as the kind of flooring you choose. You walk on it every day. Your furniture sits on it. Your food, liquids and dirt fall on it. Your children and pets play on it. In fact, your floor is perhaps the most-used feature of your home, and for this reason, it is extremely important that you choose it carefully.

Although there are other choices, the most common debate is between hardwood and carpet. Before you select your floors and floor coverings, however, it is important that you do enough research to enable you to make a thoughtful decision. Whether you are considering one or both, or even a blend of hardwood and small carpets & rugs, you will not find a clearly defined answer to your dilemma. The question is a complex one and requires that you look into the matter extensively.


One of the most elementary bases for your decision should be climate, both of the room and of the place where you live. For example, hardwood cannot stand up to moisture, including humidity. If the moisture in the air is extreme, the wood will expand, and if the floor laying process was not done properly, it might even buckle. Similarly, carpet retains moisture and easily grows mold and mildew. You may want to avoid either option in rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens, and if you want one of these types of floors in a basement, you will most definitely need to confine your choices to synthetic carpets or engineered hardwood.


A strong consideration when choosing floors and floor coverings is, of course, comfort, and in the area of softness, carpet undoubtedly is preferable. The preliminary steps to installing the floor and laying out a carpet include putting down a layer or layers of padding. Thus, not only do you have the advantage of the carpet itself, but you also have the underlying material to cushion your feet. You can even treble your comfort by having both carpet & a rug, thereby adding another layer of padding beneath your feet.

Temperature is another detail. Carpets provide a room with insulation, keeping it warmer during the winter months. Unfortunately, you cannot achieve the same effect with hardwood floor by laying out small carpets & rugs, partially because these floor coverings still expose some of the wood floor, and partially because wall-to-wall carpets can have padding underneath especially designed to retain heat. It is possible, however, to install radiant heating systems below both kinds of flooring, which means that your hardwood floors do not have to be cold.

Likewise, regarding the question of noise, carpet has a certain superiority to hardwood. Besides providing protection from cold, carpet gives insulation against sound. Hardwood, on the other hand, is notorious for its loudness and for potential squeaks. You can, however, do something to overcome this fault of hardwood floor by laying down small carpets & rugs.

Necessarily accompanying a hard floor is the danger incurred by falling. On a soft floor, such as one cushioned by carpets & rugs, the impact is not as great and consequently danger of injury decreases. This is an important detail especially for small children and the elderly.

A further and not insignificant consideration is the tendency of carpets & rugs to collect and retain allergens. While regular floor waxing polishing & cleaning can eliminate this problem for hardwood, vacuuming does not always take away all the dust mites, pollen, and other problematic matter. For that reason, people with allergies will generally do better with a hardwood floor. However, there is the option of hypoallergenic carpet, which collects the allergens but does not allow them to float back into the air. If your allergies are an obstacle to choosing carpet, this kind might be an option for you.


The maintenance necessary for hardwood, carpets & rugs may affect your choices for your home. All floors need some sort of care; your choice must depend on the kind and amount of work to which you wish to commit.

Caring for carpet can be fairly straightforward. Besides vacuuming at least once a week, you will need to have it deep cleaned, preferably professionally, approximately once a year. You may also have to deal with stains, which require immediate attention and sometimes strenuous effort to remove.

On the other hand, you will need to maintain your hardwood by some combination of floor waxing polishing & cleaning. All wood floors need sweeping and vacuuming as well as careful mopping, but whether you wax or polish or both will depend on the floor's finish. Then, too, depending on the abuse your floor has received, you will probably need to have the floor refinished at some point after 3 to 5 years.

Hardwood floors require that you take a few additional measures, measures which carpets & rugs do not require. Floor coverings need a layer of protective non-slip material underneath, and the bottoms of furniture legs must have a coating of felt to prevent scratches. What is more, since wood color changes as it ages, you should reposition your small carpets & rugs periodically to avoid uneven aging.


Carpet prices range widely based on type of material and quality, and they do not include the costs of padding and installation. For an average carpet, it is safe to assume that you will be paying a net of somewhere between $7 to $12 for every square foot. Hardwoods also vary depending on the source and type of wood, among other details, but the average range for the floor and laying it is $12 to $20.

Although it may seem that carpet is your less expensive option, when you compare its longevity to that of hardwood, you may decide that the latter is the better economic choice. The lower quality carpets have a lifespan of approximately 3 to 5 years, while the better carpets may give you as many as 15. Hardwood, on the other hand, can remain in good condition for the entire existence of the house. Ultimately, you may spend more money replacing the carpets than you would if you simply installed a hardwood floor, even with any necessary refinishing or professional floor waxing polishing & cleaning.

Whether you choose carpet or hardwood or both is a decision which requires thoughtful weighing of pros and cons. While each has advantages over the other in different areas, no single option stands out as an obviously better choice. You can try to combine both worlds with hardwood and small carpets & rugs, but then such floor coverings cannot give you some of the most notable benefits of wall-to-wall carpet. Whichever option you choose, you will have to surrender some of the good qualities of the other, but no choice will deprive you of a floor of which you can be proud.