When it comes to choosing flooring for your home, hardwood floors are the best. They not only add warmth and a sense of sophistication to your living space but are durable in the long run.
However, despite all these good qualities, they require a lot of maintenance which is why most homeowners tend to go with more easily manageable floor options like laminate and durable NuCore vinyl plank flooring.
One of the maintenance concerns that most people have with hardwood floors is the wood exposure that can result in damage from decay and rot. How do you deal with that and ensure that your floors last longer?
What Is Hardwood Refinishing
Refinishing your hardwood floors from time to time is as important as the weekly cleaning. Refinishing works by restoring the natural look of your floors since hardwood is prone to scuffs as well as scratches which may leave your floor looking dingy and unkempt.
Hardwood refinishing involves sanding, staining as well as refinishing the floor to restore its natural hardwood look. As a homeowner, you can either choose to refinish or recoat the floor depending on the level of damage and your budget.
Benefits of Refinishing Hardwood Floors
As mentioned earlier, if you are looking for a floor that will last you years and will increase the value of your house should you decide to re-sell it later on in life, then go for hardwood flooring.
While it is expensive to install, hardwood flooring saves you more in the long run since replacing your floor is something you will not be doing in a long time.
Saves You Money
In the long run, scuffs and scratches may leave your hardwood floors looking dingy and old. Without proper maintenance, your floors may also end up getting damaged which may force you to replace them which can be very expensive in the long run.
Before it comes to that, refinishing helps slow down the damage and it is way cheaper than replacing the entire floor.
Increases Home Value
It is normal for a homeowner to choose to sell their house later in life and what determines the value of such a home is the maintenance that has been put in place over the years. To increase home value, refinishing your floors once in a while is a must.
Refinishing helps keep your hardwood floors looking new and prevents damage that may result from scratches and scuffs over time.
A damaged floor not only makes your floors look dingy but it’s an accident waiting to happen. In the battle between vinyl plank vs laminate, unlike premium laminate flooring, hardwood floors tend to splinter if not taken care of which can result in serious injuries, especially if you have kids and pets.
Hardwood flooring is prone to damage especially if it’s not properly maintained. The crevices and craters on the floor end up creating an environment where pests like ants and mites can thrive.
Refinishing your floors every once in a while is one of the best ways of warding off pests in your house.
Types of Hardwood Floor Finishes
Hardwood floor refinishing involves either applying a water-based or oil-based polyurethane as protection but there are other types of finishes.
Water-based finishes are popular among many homeowners for the mere reason that such finishes tend to dry faster such that the house can accommodate light floor traffic within a few days but at the end of the day, their curing time is just the same as that of oil-based finishes which is about seven to ten days depending on the level of humidity.
If you decide to go with water-based finishes you are looking at spending about $51 per gallon. One important thing to note however before using water-based finishes on light-colored woods is that they don’t get rich with age the way oil-based finishes do.
Scratches are more noticeable on floors that have been finished with water-based polyurethane, especially dark-colored floors. The good news, however, is that water-based finishes dry within two to four days and you can move furniture back into the house within a day.
Just like oil-based finishes, most water-based finishes have low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and some tend to be smell sensitive.
An oil-based polyurethane is a polyurethane-modified oil that continues to grow in popularity because such finishes have a more traditional look and get richer with time.
They also tend to last longer than water-based finishes and cost even less with a gallon going for about $30. Scratches on such a finish are not as noticeable like they are with water-based polyurethane especially if a matte or satin sheen is used.
Oil-based finishes also are more resistant to damage and staining, therefore ideal for homes with little kids and pets. However, the downside with such finishes is that when significant damage occurs, you are forced to replace the entire board and then follow it up with buffing and recoating the whole floor.
Acid-Cured, Conversion or Swedish Finish
The acid-cured finish comes in one or two finishes of an alcohol solvent or an acid catalyst. Once applied, the finish takes about two to four hours to dry after which you can recoat after 24 to 48 hours.
This finish is a little bit more expensive than oil-based and water-based finishes with a gallon going for about $62. Despite the high cost, the finish is worth every dime as it tends to be way more durable than the two.
However, such a finish is highly flammable and has a strong odor and you must wear protective gear like full-face respirators when doing the refinishing work.
Wax finish is popular when doing traditional renovations where liquid or paste wax is buffed into the floor and then buffed again when it hardens.
The wax finish goes for about $40 per gallon and has a more natural look than other kinds of finishes. You can easily add more wax to high traffic areas without affecting the quality or look of your floor.
Natural Oil Finish
Natural oil finishes are finishes that contain low or no VOCs and they include penetrating oils that are easily absorbed by the wood, hard wax oils that contain wax and hybrid oils that are usually combined with urethanes.
One of the main reasons why these oils are preferred to other finishes is that they can withstand any kind of humidity. They are, however, more expensive with a gallon going for $80-139 and they don’t hide imperfections on the floor quite well despite the high cost.
Refinishing vs Recoating Hardwood Floors
When it comes to maintaining your hardwood floors so that they can last for years, you can either choose to refinish or recoat the floors. Recoating hardwood floors includes adding a protective layer on the floor’s finish. Refinishing, however, involves a little bit more.
With refinishing, you have to sand the floor’s finish to the original bare wood and then proceed to add a protective layer.
Just like with other home improvement projects, how much you will spend on refinishing the floor is determined by several factors including the condition of the floor, floor materials to be used and your location.
Generally, refinishing hardwood floors cost anywhere from $970 to $1,250 per 300 square feet of floor. This cost, however, may rise or fall depending on the condition of the floors as well as extra enhancements.
Any variations add to the overall cost and these include such things as total square footage, the quality of the finish or coating, floor condition, number of coats or finishes that are required, carpet and other kinds of flooring removal, stairs and accessibility.
Refinishing vs Replacing Hardwood Floors
Besides recoating or refinishing your hardwood floors, you may decide that you want to replace the entire floor. So how do you decide whether to refinish or replace your hardwood flooring?
Replacing basically should be done when you notice that the top coat of your hardwood floor has begun to wear away and water and other liquids can easily seep through the boards.
If you find that most of the floor is soft or bouncy, that is a clear indication that you should replace the floor immediately. If you only need to replace a few boards and not the entire floor, you can do so as you are doing the refinishing.
At the end of the day, if your floors are damaged or have become too old it might cost you less replacing than trying to refinish them so it’s up to you to determine if the floors can be salvaged. In the long run, refinishing is less expensive and restores the color of your floor compared to replacing.
However, it is such a messy process especially if you have never done it before, disrupts your life where you have to find another place to stay for a few days and not to mention sometimes it is not even necessary.
The advantage of replacing your hardwood floors is that it creates a good opportunity to experiment with different floorings and change the entire look of your house if it’s something you have been meaning to do.
All factors considered, however, replacing will cost you more than refinishing, especially if the floor is not so much damaged.
Things to Consider When Refinishing Hardwood Floors
While your budget will play a major role in determining whether to refinish, recoat or replace your hardwood floors, there are several factors to consider when you are refinishing your floors just like when you have to decide on a flooring for kitchen.
Refinishing hardwood floors involves sanding the upper coat down to the bare floor. Hardwood floors come in different thicknesses and this will greatly determine how many times you can refinish your floor before it is completely ruined.
Some hardwood floors can be refinished up to ten or even more times over their lifetime. However, this doesn’t apply to all hardwood floors.
Engineered hardwood floors tend to be thinner and as such can only be refinished once or twice after which you have to consider replacing the entire floor.
One of the greatest enemies of hardwood floors is humidity. Wood floors get ruined when exposed to a lot of humidity in the long run.
However, when it comes to refinishing your floors, the humidity affects the drying time which is something you need to consider when you decided to do the refinishing since it forces you to make alternative living arrangements.
If it’s too humid, the drying process is stretched and that means being out of your house for longer.
Place to Stay During Refinishing
As mentioned earlier, you can’t do hardwood refinishing when living inside the house. In most cases, you have to remove all furniture for thorough refinishing and look for another place to stay until the finish dries.
As such, one of the things that will determine whether the refinishing will happen is if you have somewhere else the family can stay for a few days.
Factors That Increase Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors
Just like with any other home improvement project, most of us want to stay as low on the budget as possible. However, sometimes that is not possible. While refinishing most of the time is cheaper than replacing the entire floor, certain factors may add to the cost.
Exotic Type of Wood
Exotic wood tends to be more expensive to refinish since it may require extra special treatment or a high-end sealer or stain. Some woods also tend to be softer and thinner and therefore can only handle a limited number of sandings which is why you need to be cautious about these.
If your hardwood floors are made of exotic wood, you can be assured that you will pay extra since such floors prove more difficult to work with even when you hire a professional.
Increased Square Footage
The more square feet covered, the costlier it will be. Normally, the cost of refinishing a 225 square feet room is between $340 to $900 and this cost increases as the room size increases.
Previous Finish Quality
The current quality of the finish on your hardwood floor is a major factor in the amount of work required. Sometimes, due to the quality of the finish, a recoating job can end up being a refinishing project especially if the coating is of low quality.
If you have stairs in the house that require refinishing, that becomes a whole other process that brings about its fair share of complications. If you hire a professional, they have to use hand tools to refinish the stairs. In such a case, you can be assured of paying more with the average being about $25 to $35 per step.
Most of the time an average home has about 15 steps so the entire refinishing of the stairs can end up costing you between $375 to $525 which is expensive, adding to the cost of the floors.
During refinishing, the wax is scraped off the floor to prepare it for sanding which only adds to the cost which can be about $0.75 to $4 per square feet depending on how much wax there is that needs to be removed.
If there is any coloring on the floor, that means that more sanding needs to be done to get to the point where a lighter stain can be applied. In such a case, if you hire a professional, a round of sanding will cost about $0.78 per square foot.
One thing that you should know about hardwood floors is that they react to the environment. If it’s too cold, the wood will shrink and will expand when the weather is warmer.
Knowing that you should do any refinishing work over the summer as it will cost you less. If any boards need to be replaced, for instance, it’s much easier to do so when the boards have expanded. If the boards have to be replaced you can expect to pay around $12 to $20 per square foot and $4.80 to $7 for sanding, sealing and staining.
As mentioned, if you have decided to refinish your hardwood floors, furniture must be moved out of the house. When dealing with a professional, this is not usually included in the quote.
As such, you may be forced to part with about $30 to $50 per room if you don’t have anybody to help you move the furniture and return it once the refinishing is done.
Hardwood Floor Stain
While staining is a part of the refinishing process, it is not always required. Mostly staining is done after the floor has been sanded and is only done if you want to change the color of the original wood.
When applied, the stain needs to completely dry before the finish is applied which takes about 24 hours. The overall process will end up costing you about $4.80 to $7.30 per square foot.
Baseboard Removal and Reinstallation
For cleaner sanding and staining jobs, it is important to remove the baseboards before the work begins. Most of the time, this will cost you about $150 to remove and reinstall them.
After refinishing is done, cleanup is important and it’s difficult if the area was not set up well before the work began.
This will end up costing you even more but at the end of the day is worth it, since what you are left with are new looking floors. You could vacuum the place just like you would clean your laminate floor with a vacuum to make the cleaning process easier.
How to Refinish Hardwood Floors
When it comes to refinishing hardwood floors, there are certain steps that you need to follow.
Step 1 – Floor Screening
Not every hardwood floor can be screened so this may not apply to all floors. If the floor needs to be screened, however, it should be done before applying any finish.
Screening involves removing the floor finish without cutting into the wood using clog-resistant sanding disks.
Screening is ideal on floors that have non-waxed polyurethane finish and is only necessary when the floor’s finish is worn but the wood beneath has not been stained or damaged.
Step 2 – Sanding
If the wood beneath the finish has been damaged or there is a wax coating, then the finish is sanded down. In this step, the existing finish is sanded down to the bare wood.
Step 3 – Staining
If you don’t need to change the color of your hardwood floor, then you don’t need staining. Staining involves the application of a stain several times and sanding in between coats which can add to the cost of the overall project.
Step 4 – Finishing and Coating
This is the final step and it involves using a polyurethane finish that is resistant to wear and can withstand heavy traffic.
The time it takes the finish to dry will depend on the type of finish that is used with some finishes taking up to four days before you can return to the house.
How to Maintain Hardwood Floors
Step 1 – Wipe spills immediately they occur
Water can easily damage your hardwood floors, hence cleaning with a microfiber mop will prevent spills from seeping through the wood and causing mold and mildew damage just like when mopping your laminate floors.
Step 2 – Use area rugs
Hardwood floors, if properly maintained, can last for long. In such a case, ensure that you use area rugs or pick a quality glass chair mat to ensure that dust and debris are not dragged back into the house and end up scratching the floor. You could also get soft bamboo chair mats to place inside the house.
Step 3 – Encourage a shoe-free house
If you don’t want to keep sweeping or vacuuming your hardwood floors or even worrying about scratches that may occur, it is best if you encourage everyone to remove their shoes when there are in the house.
This way your floors will retain their look for long before you are forced to hire a professional to do refinishing.
Step 4 – Use furniture pads
Besides dust and debris, furniture, when dragged around, may end up scratching your floors. As such, use furniture pads to prevent this.
Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors with a Pro
When it comes to refinishing your hardwood floors, you can either make it a DIY project or you can hire a professional if you are worried about damaging the floor in the process.
Just like with everything else that has to do with home renovations, refinishing your hardwood floors will depend on a variety of factors like your type of floor, location, the floor’s condition and square footage.
Refinishing involves everything from sanding, staining to applying the finish. If you hire a professional, you can expect to pay about $1.50 to $4 per square foot which is about $340 to $900 for a 15 by 15-foot room.
If the floor is slightly worn but the wood is still in good condition, recoating will work just fine without needing sanding which can cost you about $225.
If you need a custom finish, which involves sanding to applying a stain if you want to change the color of your floors, that will cost you about $3.75 to $5 per square foot which will add up to $850 to $1,125.
When you are trying to determine how much it will cost you to refinish all the floors, consider the labor cost for both staining and sanding and you will get an idea of how much the whole project will cost you.
How to Hire Great Flooring Pros and Questions to Ask Them
If you have decided to hire someone to help you do the refinishing, you need to ensure that you hire the best. Since hardwood floors are expensive to install, the last thing you want is to get someone who will damage your floors in the process.
So how do you hire a great flooring pro and what are the questions that you should ask them?
Step 1 – Meet the contractor
The first thing you need to ensure is that you meet the contract in person, to confirm if they are the ones who will be handling the project rather than dealing with a salesperson.
If the contractor is subcontracting the job, meet the subcontractors also to ensure that they have the right skills to handle the project.
Step 2 – Insurance and worker compensation
To ensure that your house is safe from any kind of financial liability, go for a company that has insurance and workers’ compensation.
Step 3 – Reviews
Go through reviews just like you would with reviews of COREtec flooring or different types of Pergo flooring reviewed and see what other people are saying about the contractors you are about to hire. It will also help if you ask for referrals from others.
Step 4 – Verify what is included in the cost of services
If you have decided to go with a pro ensure that things like debris clean up and dust containment are included in the cost of service to avoid a case where you spend extra in the cleanup after the work is done.
Step 5 – Ask for a signed contract
Ensure that you have a signed written contract that outlines the materials that they will use, cleanup details, the project scope, time frame as well as the total cost of the project.
When you are hiring a pro to handle your project besides having a signed contract and reading the reviews, there are questions that you should ask when you are obtaining a quote:
- How many years of experience the contractor has and whether they can give you at least three references?
- What does the quoted price include: Does it include things like moving furniture and heavy appliances or is that something that you will have to cover on your end?
- Who will be responsible for the cleanup? If the contractor will do the cleanup, what does that include? What kind of warranty is offered? Will you be given free recoats and what is the process of making a claim?
- How much deposit are you supposed to pay upfront and what are the conditions for making the remaining payments?
DIY Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors
If you are on a budget and can’t afford to pay a professional to do the refinishing, you need to know what is involved if you decide to do the work yourself.
Price of Renting a Commercial Sander
Commercial sanders are easily available for rent in many home improvement stores for about $60. Most hardwood floor finishes take about two days to dry and as such you can make it a weekend project and pay $120.
This cost is different in different stores so it’s worth checking out a number of them to settle on what is within the budget. On average, however, depending on the store, the cost ranges from $25 to $65 per day.
Materials You Need
Now that you have calculated how much it will cost you to rent a commercial sander, you need to determine what material you will need.
You will need to buy the finish and stain. You will also spend a lot of time sanding and cleaning up, removing old flooring, scraping and edging which added to the cost of renting a sander should be about $900.
The stain and finish costs between $40 to $60 per gallon. You will also need sandpaper, mops, rags, world’s best vacuum for hardwood floors, wood filler to do the repairs and safety goggles as well as breathing masks.
DIY Hardwood Refinishing Risks
Just like any other DIY project, refinishing comes with its risks. If not done well, you might end up gouging the floors which will end up costing you even more in terms of money and time than if you had let a professional do it.
Another risk is that you end up with more debris than a professional since there is a possibility that you will spend more time on the job.
You may also leave scratch patterns on the floor when using the sander, not being able to remove the original finish if the floor is too old, not filling the cracks between the floorboards and you also run the risk of spending more money.
Since the hardwood floor is prone to damage, it is best if you allow a professional to handle the project unless you really know what you are doing or have done it before.
Quick Tips on How to Save Money When Refinishing Hardwood Floors
If you are worried that you are going to spend a lot refinishing your hardwood floors, there are several ways you can end up spending less:
Ensure the Professional Has the Right Equipment
If the professional you are hiring doesn’t have the right dust control system, you will end up with a lot of mess that will only add to the cleanup cost. Also, if the pro doesn’t have the right tools for the job, they may end up damaging your floor which will cost you even more replacing it.
Ensure that the Company is Licensed
To avoid unnecessary financial obligations in the future, ensure that the company you are using for the refinishing job is licensed and has insurance and provides workers’ compensation.
Do it Yourself
If you know what you are doing, you can handle the refinishing on your own or some parts of it and leave the rest to the professionals.
Does More Spending Mean More Quality
Due to the sensitive nature of hardwood floors, when refinishing, more spending does mean more quality.
For one, you don’t want to hire just anyone to handle the project. You want someone with a proven track record and knows what they are doing which will end up costing you more but it is worth it at the end of the day.
If you have decided to handle the project yourself, ensure that you don’t compromise on the quality of the finish or stain as this can end up doing more harm than good which will force you to spend even more replacing the floor.
Do’s and Don’ts to Do When Refinishing Hardwood Floors
- Do consider the thickness of the hardwood to determine how many times it can be sanded.
- Do ensure that you schedule refinishing in the summer as it will be easier to do it then.
- Don’t handle the project on your own if you have no idea what you are doing. In such a case, you would rather spend on a professional than ruining your floor in the process.
- Don’t compromise on the quality of products or the professional you hire in the name of saving as this may end up costing you even more if your floor is damaged in the process.
Frequently Asked Questions
What affects the cost of hardwood floor refinishing?
When it comes to hardwood floor refinishing factors like the quality of the finish, square footage, stairs, the condition of the floor, baseboard removal and reinstallation and the wood floor stain determine the overall cost of refinishing.
How much does it cost to refinish hardwood stairs?
If you have stairs, the cost will increase and it ranges from $25 to $35 per step bringing the total to about $375 to $525 for an average home with 15 steps.
What’s the cost to repair hardwood floors?
The cost of repairing hardwood floors will depend on the extent of the damage and whether you need to replace the entire floor or just a few floorboards. The average cost of repairing hardwood floors is $900 to $1300 per square foot. DIY scratch repair kits go for about $30 to $60.
Hardwood floors increase the value of your home and are more durable than other flooring options. However, they require a lot of maintenance and one of the ways you can do that is through, once in a while, refinishing or recoating. Hire a professional who has proven experience handling such projects to ensure that your floor doesn’t get damaged in the process.
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