Hardwood Floor Maintenance | The bank rate
Inevitably, there comes a time when your hardwood floors start to look a little worn and in need of a refresh. You contact your friendly flooring professional, who asks, “Do they just need to be refinished or completely redone?” ” Can you repeat that please?
Although the terms sound similar (and are sometimes used interchangeably), among contractors, refinishing and resurfacing floors mean two separate things, with different processes and different price tags. Both can be performed on a variety of wood floors, including traditional hardwood and engineered wood (or veneers). Here’s how to distinguish between finishing and resurfacing.
What is a hardwood floor finish?
Renovating a floor essentially means giving it a facelift. Finishing a floor consists of:
- remove existing floor varnish, sealer and stain
- sanding the top layer of the floor, to expose the bare wood and its natural grain
- apply fresh stain and hairspray or varnish
- apply a new layer of putty
As a somewhat superficial operation, ‘finishing’ can be done on a variety of floor types, including tile and laminate, although the exact process differs depending on the surface. If you have an engineered wood floor – that is, a natural hardwood veneer over a plywood or synthetic core – it can only be repainted two or three times (depending on the thickness of the veneer) before exposing the core.
What is hardwood floor resurfacing?
Resurfacing involves all of the above, but more. While finishing is a cosmetic job, resurfacing is more of a structural job. It comes into play when there is actual damage to wood, wooden boards and/or fasteners (nails).
Recovering the floor means repairing it: removing and replacing the boards, sanding the boards to even them out, reinforcing the floor with new nails. After all this, the floor can be refinished – sanded, stained, varnished and sealed.
When to resurface vs. refinish wood floors
If the floors are in good condition – they just look worn and somewhat scuffed or dull – refinishing may be your best option. In fact, you might even be able to just coat them, which skips the sanding process and just involves buffing and applying a fresh coat of finish.
Refinishing can help breathe new life into a worn floor in need of a refresh. It is ideal for floors that are not structurally compromised and are still structurally sound, but outdated.
On the other hand, if a floor needs more than a facelift, you must resurface it, ie replace the old materials. Signs that the floor needs to be redone include:
- Extreme discoloration, fading, or uneven color
- Cracks, holes or missing parts
- Signs of rot or water damage
- Warped, sagging or bent boards
- Missing or bent fingernails
Floor finishing and resurfacing costs
Many factors go into the average cost of refinishing or resurfacing floors, including square footage, floor shape, type of wood, and local labor costs. In general, although finishing costs between $3 and $8 per square foot; the national average range for a job costs $1,075 to $2,520, according to HomeAdvisor. A simple overlay will cost a lot less: $1 to $2 per square foot, according to FlooringStores, an online specialist.
Unsurprisingly, resurfacing will cost more than refinishing, since you will have the added expense of repair and replacement. How much more can vary wildly, depending on the nature and extent of the damage. In general, though, hardwood floor repair costs typically range from $450 to $1,500, HomeAdvisor estimates.
Even so, that’s far less than the cost of completely replacing a hardwood floor, which averages between $2,500 and $6,800.
Do-it-yourself or hire a pro?
Depending on the extent of your floors, finishing may take a few days. Resurfacing can take a few weeks.
That’s if a soil specialist does it. It will probably take longer if you try to do the job yourself. The finish isn’t out of the do-it-yourselfer’s league; although it’s a messy and smelly business, it mostly requires an orbital sander. Unless you are an experienced carpenter, it is not recommended to redo the floor on your own. It requires a whole toolkit of equipment, including power saws, grinders, and nail guns.
Conclusion on Finishing vs Resurfacing Floors
If your floor is simply scratched and scuffed, refinishing is better than resurfacing. It will restore its original shine, and it’s less invasive. Instead of removing old flooring materials entirely, refinishing involves removing only the top layer of your existing flooring (including the finish) and then replacing it with a new layer.
However, if the floor is visibly in poor condition, you’ll probably want to restructure it instead. It will cost more and take more time, but it will actually create a whole new surface.
Whichever method you choose, you shouldn’t leave your floor without proper maintenance for too long. The longer you wait to restore your floor, the more money you will need to make it look new again.