My dear husband and I have lived in a lot of places during our life together, and each one has had its own character. No matter where we lived, I’ve always enjoyed making the place my own.

One great way to customize a space is with flooring. Whether you want to change the floors in your entire home or just one room, updating the flooring doesn’t have to cost a pretty penny. Here are six smart ways to save on flooring:

1. Know Your Objective

The first thing to think about when you consider flooring is your objective. Choosing the wrong flooring could mean having to redo the floors much sooner than you’d like. Take stock of how you will be using the space and how much of a beating the floor will take. If, for example, you’re choosing flooring in a high-traffic area (especially one used by kids or pets), carpeting might not be your best choice.

2. Don’t Discount Repair

Scratches in wood floors or linoleum may be driving you nuts, but don’t jump into expensive replacements until you’ve looked into repairing your existing flooring. If scratches or other imperfections aren’t too deep, you can sometimes refinish your floor using a rented sander and some stain. A resurfacing company may even be able to repair deeper gouges.

Cost savings (especially for hardwood floors) can be significant. In my area, a local hardware store rents floor sanders for $20 an hour, with a special rate of $29 for the first day. But if you don’t feel ready to tackle the project, even paying a professional can pay off. Professional resurfacing costs between $1.50 and $5.00 per square foot. If you need to redo 300 square feet of flooring, you’d pay between $450 and $1500. Compare that with the $2,405.26 to $2,986.54 you’d pay a company to install new retail-priced hardwood flooring. It’s a no-brainer!

If you decide to resurface your own floors, you’ll need be sure you’ve got enough surface to sand before you start or you could end up with holes in your floor. If you’re doing the work yourself, always follow all manufacturer directions and use all recommended safety equipment.

3. Do It Yourself

I may be married to Mr. Handyman, but I am certainly not Ms. Handywoman. I like being active, but I despise doing boring physical labor. Fortunately, DIY flooring is easier to install than ever. Many products simply snap together, so you’ll only need glue and won’t have to spend all day swinging a hammer. If you’re confused, talk to a flooring expert at your local hardware store, or spend some time with Professor Google.

Putting in some sweat equity can save you a significant amount of money. Nearly half the cost of new hardwood flooring comes from the labor required to install it. For example, this Hardwood Flooring Cost Calculator estimates that, for my middle-America zip code, installing a hardwood floor would take 17 hours of labor, which would cost somewhere between $930 and $1080.

4. Overstock Websites

Overstock websites are a great resource for discount flooring. Home remodeling is one of the most economy-sensitive industries, and manufacturers often have a hard time predicting how much product their stores will need. Overstock websites can offer flooring at a significant discount—whether you’re looking for DIY products or you plan on hiring someone to install your new floor. Consumer Reports recommends websites such as iFLOOR and Lumber Liquidators.

So how much can you save? As an example, a nationwide chain of hardware stores sells ¾ inch thick, 3 ¼-inch wide random-length red oak hardwood flooring at $4.89 per square foot. Lumber Liquidators lists an identical product at $3.28 per square foot. That small difference may not seem like much, but it can add up. If, for example, you were installing 300 square feet of flooring, you’d save $510!

5. Haggle

A lot of bargain hunters are afraid to haggle, but you don’t need to be. Since unsold merchandise sitting on the sales floor actually costs the seller money, almost all stores that sell flooring (including retail outlets) are willing to negotiate in order to make a sale. The key to confidence is preparation—know the going rate for the product you want and look for small flaws you can use as bargaining chips. It also helps to speak to a floor manager, as sales associates often don’t have the authority to give discounts. Finally, be polite. When it comes to haggling, the old adage of catching more flies with honey rings true.

6. Pay for Samples

Finally, it’s important that you pay for samples of the floor materials you’re considering. Though just looking around online or in the store can be helpful, nothing is more important than seeing how the material looks in your own home. The lighting in stores can be harsh and might not portray the same color you’ll see in your home. Plus, a web browser can distort colors, especially if you’re surfing in a darkened room. Remember, the cost of samples always beats the cost of redoing your floor.

This is a guest post by Melanie from Greeley, CO
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