Carpet versus hardwood: Pros, cons & questions to ask

Carpet versus hardwood: Pros, cons & questions to ask

Two of the most common types of flooring, carpet and hardwood floors, couldn’t be any more different. Even if with all those differences, both of these floors are still suitable for almost any room in a home. The question, “should I choose carpet or hardwood flooring for my home?” is a question with no clear answer. The answer to the question is different for every homeowner—and dependent on your answers to these questions.

Carpet pros Carpet cons Hardwood
Hardwood cons
Durable Can be scratched or damaged Durable Does not absorb sound; rooms can echo
Affordable May stain from spills Affordable May scratch
Easy to care for Does not add value to a home Adds value to a home Can be damaged by water spills
Softer underfoot than hardwood If not properly cleaned, carpets can trap allergens and trigger symptoms Easy to care for Not suitable for basements
Absorbs sound Pet nails can damage carpet Comes in a variety of styles and colors Not suitable for rooms with high-humidity
Comes in a variety of styles and colors   Hard floor makes it easy to remove allergens Pet nails can scratch softer wood floors
Allergen-friendly carpet are suitable for homes with allergies   Long-lasting  
Long-lasting   Engineered hardwood can be installed in basements  
Can be installed in basements   Can be sanded down and refinished many times  

What kind of look do I want in my home?

Homeowners have described both types of flooring as “warm” and “versatile.” Carpet and hardwoods come in thousands of styles and colors, meaning they can fit with almost any style and décor.

The color of carpet does set it apart from hardwood floors. Carpet comes in a variety of colors while hardwoods are usually finished in neutral tones like brown and gray. The unique colors of carpeting can be great in rooms when using the flooring to add color to a room.

Carpeting is also available in neutral tones and high- or low-piles. High-pile carpets tend to be softer (think of a shag carpet). While high-pile carpets are incredibly soft underfoot, they are also harder to keep clean. These carpets are ideal for usually ideal for low-traffic areas, such as a bedroom. Low-pile carpets are more durable and can stand up to years of feet and paws in the high-traffic rooms.

Hardwoods come in a variety of colors and plank-widths. Wide-planked hardwoods in a rich, warm color fits well with a traditional décor, while hardwoods stained in a gray hue looks great in a modern space. Both styles wear well in high-traffic rooms. Wood floors can be installed in a traditional wood plank floor and finished in the home or can be pre-finished before installation. Another option is an engineered wood floor, which is constructed of layers with a solid wood surface.

Which floor is easy-to-care-for?

Hardwood and carpeting both are easy to take care of, though it depends on the type of care that homeowners want to take on. Carpets should be vacuumed on a regular basis (use these guidelines to choose the right vacuum) and deep cleaned annually.

Hardwoods need to be swept or vacuumed regularly to remove debris that can scratch the floors. In addition, wood floors can be dry mopped or deep cleaned, though homeowners should be careful about leaving water puddles on the floor. Because of the potential for water damage, steam cleaners should never be used on a wood floor.

How long do I plan to keep the floor?

Both carpet and hardwoods are a long-term investment, though the cost is typically higher for wood floors. Carpet and hardwoods last for many years. Because of the cost, carpets are an affordable option for homeowners who want to sell the home.

On the other side of the coin, hardwoods can actually increase the value of a home and last for years. In many neighborhoods, buyers actually prefer homes with wood floors and see it as an upscale addition to a home.

Am I worried about sound?

Many homeowners that swap out carpet for hardwood floors actually report an “echo” that takes time to get used to. This is because carpet actually absorbs sound, while hardwood does not. In homes with pets, the sound of pet nails can reverberate and be heard in other rooms.

In older homes, wood floors can also squeak; this squeak can be repaired, though not always easily. Newer wood installations should not squeak in any way.

Is there water in the room? What room is the floor installed in?

Hardwood floors are not a good flooring choice for rooms with high-humidity, moisture, or the chance for water spills, such as basements, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. Wood floors can be added into a kitchen or mudroom, but homeowners need to be careful to clean up spills promptly. Rugs can also be used to protect floors from water puddles. Any spills that are left on the floor can cause permanent water stains and buckling.

If the flooring is being installed in basements, there is another factor to consider. Porous moisture that seeps through the concrete can damage solid wood flooring. If homeowners want the look of wood in a basement, engineered hardwood might be a good choice. Because of the construction of the flooring layers, engineered hardwood is not affected by porous moisture.

Carpet can be installed in any room, including basements. If the room is very humid, homeowners should consider the type of carpet that is installed to avoid issues with mildew. Some carpet products, especially hypoallergenic carpets, may be the best choice for these rooms. 

Is there anyone with allergies in my home?

The answer to the question, “what is the best flooring for families with allergies?” has changed over the years. Carpet manufacturers now make hypoallergenic products that feel incredibly soft, trap allergens, and release them into the vacuum cleaner. Many carpets are also low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) or VOC-free, meaning that those with allergies won’t have to deal with any issues from gases emitted from the carpet. In addition, a regular schedule of twice-a-week vacuuming (with an allergy-friendly vacuum cleaner) and regular carpet shampoo and deep clean makes it possible for allergy sufferers to enjoy the soft feel of carpet in their home.

Hardwoods are still one of the top choices for home with allergies, because it is easy to remove common household allergens sitting on top of the floors. Some wood products and finishing products are low-VOC or VOC-free, which means lower chemical emissions. (Ask a flooring professional to see wood floors with a low-VOC certification.)

Do I want the soft or hard feel under my feet?

This is the main difference between the two floors. Some homeowners prefer the soft feel of carpets underfoot, especially in bedrooms. Others prefer the feel of a clean wood floor and use an area rug in key areas.

Do I want to install the floor?

Both carpeting and wood floors come in do-it-yourself products, though there are far more options available for wood flooring. Specifically, engineered wood floors can be installed as a floating floor. While homeowners do need to be mindful of leaving an expansion gap and a few other important tips, installing engineered wood flooring is fairly simple to install and piece together. On the carpet side, Mohawk Air.o carpet requires only a cutting tool, double-sided tape, and a T-square to install. This carpet product does not require stretching, making installation a lot easier than the past. Either way, hardwood flooring and carpet can be installed and enjoyed for years to come.