The Cost of DIYing Your Floors

by Eliana Osborn

I bought my house in 2000: it was 2400 square feet for a ridiculously low price. It was also older with some issues. Every room came carpeted with off-white discount half inch pile — except one bathroom with circa 1978 orange carpet. We took that out immediately.

Other carpet got ripped out after the air conditioner froze over and backed up while we were on vacation, when there was a plumbing problem, when I got depressed and needed a project. The long term vision had been for bamboo throughout with travertine in kitchen and bathrooms. My husband did the tiling, a room at a time, and it looked good. The sheer amount of space involved meant that we never had the money to put in the hardwood floors we wanted, so the hallway and master bedroom was simple concrete slab for more years than I’d like to admit.

Once I went a little crazy and took the carpet out of the living room, wait and see wasn’t a good option anymore. With a little research and some home improvement store wandering, we settled on staining the concrete. If we hated it, at least it wouldn’t be expensive and could delay the big flooring purchase for a while. Amounts below cover two rooms.

Expected Costs

Two colors Valspar concrete stain: $72 x2 = $144

Mop for application: $20

Paper and tape to mask area: $20

Clear topcoat: $72

TOTAL: $256

True Costs

500 razor blades to prep floor: $10

Giant blue scraping tool: $40

Nail puller tool: $17

Chemical to prep floor: $15

Hours to prep floor: $1875 (75h x my rate job rate $25/hr)

Travel costs: $210 (Kids couldn’t breathe chemicals. Drove to friend house so no hotel: $35/tank gas x 2 ways x 3 days.)

Face masks: $10

Floor wax: $7

Application time: $375 (15 hours x $25/h)

Bucket and additional mop: $25

TOTAL overage: $2584


This project had insanely more work than expected. I am probably underestimating the number of hours I spent prepping the floors — it may be as high as 130, I lost count. As people who have more time than money, staining concrete was a good more. If I could have just worked 100 extra hours though, I could have hired someone. But I can’t really do that, so this worked out best. Unexpected supplies weren’t too bad, but we didn’t realize we’d have to get the kids out of the house during the most poison days.

Will we continue? My husband and I fought about this much less than we have over any tile projects, so right now I have positive feelings about concrete stain. Bonus: we love how it turned out and have gotten oodles of compliments.

Eliana Osborn is a writer and part time English professor living in the desert southwest. She’s raising kids, obsessed with sunshine, and trying to stay out of home improvement stores for the sake of her finances.

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