How to Buy Flooring Online – A Buyer’s Guide
A Complete, Step-by-Step Vinyl & Hardwood Floor Buying Guide
Flooring. It seems like a simple enough item to purchase, right? Just pick a material, color, preferred installation, and BOOM! A beautiful floor appears right before your very eyes. Not so fast. Before you get to the aesthetics of your flooring, it is important to take the time to plan, research, and sample accordingly. Not to mention, finding the best place to buy hardwood flooring, vinyl flooring and tile flooring.
Phase 1: Plan
Flooring is a large investment that requires diligence to ensure you make the right decision. Take time to research what’s available and compare that to your flooring needs.
- Measure the Square Footage. To do this properly, you must measure the length and width of a room in feet, and then multiply those numbers together in order to calculate the final square footage.
PRO TIP: Add 10% in square feet for “overage.” Overage ensures that you’ll have enough material when cuts need to be made.
- Determine Flooring Needs. What kind of material do you want or need? Some materials are better for certain situations than others. For example, wood flooring is not ideal for bathrooms. It’s best to stick with tile or vinyl for that. Ask yourself these questions to help make this decision:
- Do you have pets and/or kids?
- Does the room experience high traffic?
- Is the room prone to moisture, or have wet areas?
- Set a Budget. You have to think realistically when budgeting for flooring. Here are some key items to calculate:
- Floor material
- Tools (utility knife, saw, tape measure, etc.)
- Removal & Disposal of Old Flooring
- Floor Installer
- Transitions, Stair Nosing, Wall Bases
Phase 2: Research
In addition to leveraging vinyl and hardwood flooring buying guide such as this one, you should also research companies that carry products that meet your needs.
- Check Product Specifications. The specifications of a product should address the following (but not limited to): wear layer, installation method, width, and length.
PRO TIP: The wear-layer, which is the top layer of material above the tongue of a plank, is the best gauge of the quality of the product.
- Know Your Installation Options. Are you a DIY savant, or prefer a professional to take the lead? An experienced retailer can help you decide what is best based on your installation experience and subfloor conditions.
PRO TIP: If the floor of your choice requires adhesive, underlayment, or transitions, ask if the manufacturer recommends certain products or brands.
- Read Warranties Thoroughly. One of the most important things you can do is read the warranty BEFORE purchasing. Find out what the warranty covers AND what the manufacturer will do if you need to make a claim.
Phase 3: Sample
As you research, chances are you will also place sample orders. Flooring is a big investment, so you want to be sure you’ve seen it in person. Keep these three things in mind when ordering floor samples:
- High Quality Photos. Flooring varies in color from piece to piece. Ask the retailer or manufacturer for photos at different angles so that you can see the variation.
- Sample Size. The samples should be of sufficient length (at least 10”), and have detailed information on them to help you assess.
- Full Box Samples. A 10” sample isn’t always enough. Sometimes, a full box of flooring helps so that you can lay it out and see how it looks in its full color spectrum. Search for retailers who will offer to send you a sample box at no commitment.
Phase 4: Buy
You’ve researched, sampled, and found the perfect floor. Now, it’s time to place your order. With large flooring orders, freight companies are used to ship materials.
- Understand Shipping Rates. A retailer can provide an easy-to-understand shipping quote.
PRO TIP: There can be additional costs for lift gate service and residential delivery.
- Fully Insured Delivery. Make sure your retailer offers 100% insurance on your order. Although this should be standard, many retailers try to offer cheap freight quotes by using carriers that do not insure their delivery.
PRO TIP: IMPORTANT! While insurance will free you from any liability, it is always your responsibility to inspect your order BEFORE signing for it. When your floor is delivered or picked-up, make sure to fully inspect for damage, and make any notes on the signed paperwork.
- Tracking. Although it may seem basic, many LTL (Less than Truckload) carriers do not offer current tracking capability. In order to accurately track your order, make sure the retailer you work with can provide you a tracking # (or PRO #, as it is referred to in freight).
- Flexible Delivery and Pick-up Options. A good retailer will provide you multiple options for delivery and pick-up. Whether you want white-glove service (product delivered into your house), curbside delivery, guaranteed date/time delivery, or a terminal will call; make sure you get the service that fits your schedule and budget. Keep in mind – some of these services come at an additional fee. Always ask when may cost extra.
- Full and Transparent Return Policy. Your retailer should provide a reasonable return policy. Although penalty-free returns are not common in the flooring industry, it is important you feel comfortable with the return policy and the risk involved. The best retailers will offer you a 100% return policy, provided the product is still in its original condition.