When to Refinish Hardwood Floors?
- 20+ years without sanding
- Visible scratches and nicks
- Dull finish isn’t revived with polishing
- Uneven coloring
Even the best floors eventually need some serious work. If your home has hardwood floors, they should stand up well for a long time while providing your home with beauty and durability. At some point, however, they will need to be refinished and, in some cases, replaced. Before taking either action, you need to do a little investigating to find out which process will work for you.
After a few decades, your hardwood floors will probably have quite a few scratches and perhaps some discolored areas. If your floor has undergone rough treatment, this damage may show up sooner. When your floors look worn and old, you can refinish the wood and make them look like new again. You will be able to have most hardwood floors resanded up to eight times before they need to be replaced.
Before you begin refinishing, you need to make sure that there is 1/32 inch of wood on your floor’s surface. If not, you cannot proceed and will need to consider replacing the floors. You can determine the wood thickness by removing a floor heat register and looking at the surrounding boards. If your home doesn’t have floor registers, you can remove a board from a corner or closet — somewhere it won’t be noticed.
Once your floors pass the thickness test, you should hire professionals for the refinishing job. Unless you have experience in floor refinishing, you risk irreparably damaging your floors with the sander, an expensive mistake.
Once the top of the floor is sanded, the flooring professional will add several coats of polyurethane finish. If your floors were originally stained, the sanding will remove that color. If you want to retain the original color or change to a new one, you will need to have the floor re-stained as well as sanded and coated. Another option is to go with the unstained color, which should lighten the look of your rooms.
In some instances, you may get by with having only the high-traffic areas redone in your home. Often, bedroom floors retain their looks, while the living room floors take a beating. For floors that are looking worn but don’t have any severe damage, a flooring professional can sand the top of the floor and then put a new polyurethane finish over the top. This process is called screening and removes no wood, so it can be done over and over again. Taking this route will greatly reduce your refinishing expenses, which can be up to $7 per square foot, not counting any re-staining. Screening only costs about half of the full refinishing price.
In some instances, refinishing your floors is not practical. If your floor has structural problems, for instance, you can’t bring it back by sanding and coating it. If individual boards are moving, refinishing them will only worsen the problem. Termite damage, warping or stains on more than 30 percent of the boards also mean that replacement is indicated. In addition, if your floor has already been sanded too many times, the wood may be too thin to refinish once more.
If you decide to replace your solid hardwood floors, the 2018 cost will range between $3 and $14 per square foot with installation costing another $3 to $8 per square foot. Softwoods such as pine are the least expensive, with teak, American cherry, and oak costing in the mid-range. The most expensive hardwoods are woods such as Brazilian walnut, mahogany, cypress, and tigerwood.
You can save money with engineered wood flooring, which consists of layers of wood bonded together with adhesives, heat, and pressure. The cost of this type of floor is between $3 and $13 per square foot, with installation costs running between $3 and $10 per square foot. You may choose the same type of wood your home had originally, but replacement offers you the chance to give your home an entirely different look. Your needs may have changed over the years as well. When your floors were first installed, you may have had small children and/or pets. As your life evolves, you will have more freedom in your hardwood choices. You may decide to choose a more expensive wood this time around.
Whether you replace or refinish, you can choose from a number of hardwood stains to give the wood a different look. Creative use of stains can make less expensive hardwood choices look more luxurious. You can make your home look more spacious by choosing light-colored stains, such as whites and oak colors. Medium stains, such as chestnut, are traditional favorites, while dark stains, such as ebony and mahogany, have become popular in the last few years. Stains give you increased flexibility in your hardwood flooring options. Learn more about hardwood floor finishes from our guide: A Guide to Hardwood Floor Finishes.
Investing in solid hardwood floors means you can refinish them multiple times over the years. At some point, the refinishing process may no longer be prudent, due to extreme damage, structural issues or wood thinness. At that point, you should consider having the floors replaced. If your home is new or relatively young, you won’t be faced with replacement for years and even decades. As always, regular maintenance will extend the life of your floors.