What to Know Before You Buy

What to Know Before You Buy

When you are shopping for carpeting—and for many other types of floor coverings—you often see an offer for free installation. It is a tempting deal. After all, what can be better than free, especially when it comes to expensive purchases like whole-house carpeting? 

With flooring, installation is a service, and all services need to be paid for one way or another. In some cases, free carpet installation might genuinely be beneficial to you; in other cases, not so much. With so much at stake, it is worth considering all angles of this offer to determine whether it makes sense for you and for your particular project.

What You Get With Free Carpet Installation

With many carpet and floor covering companies, the free installation offer sometimes gives you as much as the following services:

  1. Moving the furniture into a different area of the house
  2. Baseboard removal
  3. Removal of old carpeting and padding
  4. Disposal of old carpeting and padding
  5. Installation of the carpeting
  6. Installing a limited number of transitions
  7. Stair carpet installation
  8. Replacing baseboards
  9. Moving the furniture back in place

Transitions smooth out differing levels and/or gaps between your new floor and adjoining floors. Whole-house flooring installation is one instance where you might not need to install transitions.

Often, a free installation offer will not include baseboard removal and replacement in the deal as this can add another hour or two to the installation.

Typical Limitations of Free Installation

Companies that install carpeting for free typically impose limitations:

  • The carpet must cost over a certain amount. Bargain-priced and clearance carpeting are usually not part of the deal. Regularly offered carpeting below a certain price tier will also not be included.
  • Glue-down carpeting.
  • Commercial installations.
  • Apartments, condominiums, and other multi-family housing.
  • Special order carpeting.
  • Certain types of padding.

Note

Requiring a certain type of padding (usually higher priced) is one way that companies offering free installation may get more money from you.

Services That Are Never Included

With some services, it is debatable whether or not the flooring company will include them with the free installation offer. But some services will never be included:

  • Dismantling Items: Floor companies will never dismantle large built-in items. Moving certain types of heavy furniture or furniture that is attached to floors or walls will not be included.
  • Removing Hard Flooring: Removing old carpeting is difficult but manageable by a floor installation crew. Removing hard flooring like laminate, engineered wood, tile, luxury vinyl, or sheet vinyl will never be done by a flooring company offering free installation.
  • Subfloor Preparation: Hopefully, you have a subfloor and underlayment system perfectly suitable for your new floor. If not, you should hire a contractor or contract the flooring company to perform this service. Small areas that need to be leveled can actually be addressed inexpensively with a liquid, pour-on self-leveling compound. Larger areas need carpentry work and can be expensive.

Also, you’ll need to ask whether certain materials are not included in the free offer. A few transitions might be included. But if there is an excessive number of transitions, the company may charge for them.

Most free installation offers apply only to carpeting and laminate flooring. Rarely will you find free installation offers for ceramic tile or hardwood flooring, both labor-intensive activities. Wall-to-wall carpeting is not a do-it-yourself project. Installation is not as simple as unrolling the product and pressing the edges into tack strips.

Hardwood floor and tile installation are both considered as much an art as they are a craft, and you will be hard-pressed to find free offers for either.

Separating Materials From Labor

How can you determine if the free installation offer is good for you? When comparing the free installation offer against other companies’ offers, simply separate materials from labor.

Imagine that you have a 1,000 square foot space that you want to carpet. Flooring Company 1 offers free whole-house carpeting installation on any job over $699. Flooring Company 2 offers you the flooring you want, but installation is not included. Where do you stand?

  Company 1 Company 2
Materials $2,240 (@ $2.24/sq. ft.) $1,850
Labor $0 $600
Total $2,240 $2,450

So, when shopping for carpeting, there is nothing inherently wrong or deceptive about free installation offers. It is perfectly valid to entertain free and low-cost installation offers, but they should be kept separate from materials- and labor-only estimates.

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