In our previous home we had hardwood floors in our great room (that included the kitchen) and really loved them. The home we live in now has carpeting in the main living area. We at first thought to do hardwoods again; however, this home is on a crawl space (the other was on a concrete slab), and I have noticed when I am walking around in my stockings that even with carpeting under foot, the floors seem very cold. Should I perhaps consider just upgrading the carpeting rather than doing hardwood floors?
A - Thanks for the e-mail....
Ehhhhhh, your issue is not with the flooring but with your crawlspace.
Your cool air is leaking up through the sub-floor and into your house.
Lemme get a little Georgia Tech with you...
Basically, as the warm air moves up into your attic and out other air is forced to replace it with air from lower floors, In your situation it is replaced from the unconditioned air in your crawlspace. The crawlspace air is replaced with outside air. This whole process is called the 'stack effect' and it goes on in every house ever built.
Certain things slow down the stack effect, keeping the conditioned air in your house longer, the major of those things being good insulation in the attic, and to a slightly lesser degree, in the crawlspace.
The reason you didn't experience it before is because as air was moving up into your attic the outside air was moving into a conditioned airspace above the floor. Now it is entering through your floor from a non-conditioned, very humid airspace (crawlspace).
So. the absolute best you can do is to have your crawlspace encapsulated. (That is what it is professionally called). A quality company (you can find many listed on this sight under Crawlspace Encapsulation) goes into your crawlspace, puts down a thick plastic base, insulates the walls and under your floors and adds a dehumidifier. This makes your crawlspace warmer (in the winter), keeps the nasty moisture out of your crawlspace (that air would end up in your house due to the stack effect) and makes your home more energy efficient and mucho healthier.
The least thing you can/should do yourself is to spread 6 mil plastic on the floor of your crawlspace (covering the entire floor) and putting R13 batt insulation in the joists in the ceiling of your crawlspace (which is under the flooring in your house). If you use paper faced insulation make sure the paper is placed with the paper side facing the conditioned side - so paper side up.
All these supplies are available at your local big box store.
I would try that first - minimal cost and labor from you, doesn't take long to do, and it will help your house.
Then note whether your floors feel warmer and if the humidity in your house goes down, especially in the summer.
That is what you must do to take the chill away.
If you do that, but want a warmer floor and less humidity, then move on to a professional encapsulation. Well worth the money...
After that - the carpet and pad R value is roughly a 3 while oak with sub-floor will be approx a 2, so yes carpet will be a little better, but not much.
So give that a whirl and report back.