Hardwood Floor Resurfacing vs Refinishing: Which Option is Right for You?

Hardwood Floor Resurfacing vs Refinishing

Last Updated on June 8, 2024 by Kravelv

Hardwood floors are a timeless and elegant choice for any home, but over time, even the most durable hardwood can show signs of wear. Scratches, dents, discoloration, and other forms of damage can detract from their beauty. To restore the original luster and extend the life of hardwood floors, homeowners can choose between resurfacing and refinishing. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they refer to different processes with distinct steps, benefits, and applications. This article delves into the differences between hardwood floor resurfacing and refinishing, helping you make an informed decision for your flooring needs.

Key Takeaways:

  • Refinishing involves sanding and resealing to restore the floor’s appearance.
  • Resurfacing includes replacing damaged boards and addressing structural issues.
  • Refinishing is cost-effective but suitable only for minor surface damage.
  • Resurfacing is more comprehensive and durable but also more expensive and time-consuming.

Understanding the Basics

Refinishing Hardwood Floors

Refinishing is a process that involves sanding down the top layer of the hardwood floor to remove surface imperfections, followed by staining and sealing the wood to restore its original appearance and protection. This method is suitable for floors that are structurally sound but have cosmetic damage.

Key Steps in Refinishing:

  1. Inspection: Assess the floor for deep scratches, stains, and other surface imperfections.
  2. Preparation: Remove all furniture and thoroughly clean the floor.
  3. Sanding: Use a drum sander to sand down the top layer of the floor, removing the existing finish and minor surface damage.
  4. Staining (Optional): Apply a wood stain if you desire a different color or want to enhance the wood’s natural grain.
  5. Sealing: Apply a protective sealant, typically polyurethane, to protect the wood and give it a glossy or matte finish.

Pros and Cons of Hardwood Floor Refinishing

Cost-Effective: Generally less expensive than resurfacing.Labor-Intensive: Requires significant preparation and time.
Aesthetic Renewal: Completely refreshes the appearance of the floor.Dust and Fumes: Sanding generates dust, and sealants can emit strong odors.
Flexibility: Allows for color changes with staining.Limited Lifespan: Can only be done a few times over the floor’s life, depending on the thickness of the wood.

Resurfacing Hardwood Floors

Resurfacing is a more extensive process that involves removing and replacing the floorboards or parts of the floor that are damaged. This method addresses not only cosmetic issues but also structural problems, such as warped, cracked, or heavily damaged boards.

Key Steps in Resurfacing:

  1. Inspection: Thoroughly examine the floor to identify boards that need replacement.
  2. Preparation: Clear the room of all furniture and clean the floor.
  3. Board Replacement: Remove damaged boards and install new ones.
  4. Sanding: Sand the entire floor to ensure a uniform surface.
  5. Staining (Optional): Apply stain if a different color or enhanced wood grain is desired.
  6. Sealing: Apply a protective finish to the entire floor.

Pros and Cons of Hardwood Floor Resurfacing

Comprehensive Repair: Addresses both cosmetic and structural issues.Higher Cost: More expensive due to the labor and materials involved.
Durability: Extends the life of the floor significantly by replacing damaged sections.Time-Consuming: Takes longer to complete compared to refinishing.
Uniformity: Ensures a completely even surface across the entire floor.Disruption: More invasive process, often requiring the homeowner to vacate the premises temporarily.

When to Choose Hardwood Floor Refinishing vs Resurfacing

Refinishing: Ideal Scenarios

  • Surface Damage: When the floor has scratches, minor dents, and superficial wear.
  • Finish Wear: When the existing finish is dull or worn out.
  • Color Change: When you want to change the color of the wood through staining.
  • Budget Constraints: When you need a cost-effective solution to refresh the floor’s appearance.

Resurfacing: Ideal Scenarios

  • Structural Damage: When there are significant issues such as deep gouges, warped boards, or severe water damage.
  • Repeated Refinishing: When the floor has been refinished multiple times and is too thin to sand again.
  • Comprehensive Overhaul: When you need to address both surface and structural issues for a long-term solution.
  • Severe Wear: When the wear and tear are beyond what can be fixed with just sanding and sealing.

Cost Considerations

The cost of refinishing or resurfacing hardwood floors varies based on several factors, including the size of the area, the type of wood, the extent of damage, and regional labor rates.

Refinishing Costs:

  • Average Cost: $3 to $8 per square foot.
  • Factors Affecting Cost:
    • Floor size and condition.
    • Type of stain and sealant used.
    • Additional services like dustless sanding.

Resurfacing Costs:

  • Average Cost: $8 to $15 per square foot.
  • Factors Affecting Cost:
    • Extent of structural repairs needed.
    • Cost of replacement boards.
    • Complexity of the project (e.g., custom patterns or designs).

DIY vs. Professional Services

DIY Refinishing:

  • Feasibility: Possible for those with experience and the right tools.
  • Pros: Cost savings, control over the process.
  • Cons: Time-consuming, potential for mistakes, dust and fumes management.

Professional Refinishing:

  • Pros: Expertise, high-quality finish, time-efficient.
  • Cons: Higher cost, need to hire a reputable contractor.

Professional Resurfacing:

  • Necessity: Due to the complexity and scope of the work, professional services are highly recommended.
  • Pros: Professional-grade repairs, longer-lasting results, expertise in structural issues.
  • Cons: Higher upfront cost, need for thorough contractor vetting.

Hardwood Floor Resurfacing vs Refinishing FAQs

What is the difference between hardwood floor resurfacing and refinishing?

Refinishing involves sanding down the top layer of the floor and applying a new finish, while resurfacing includes replacing damaged boards and addressing structural issues before sanding and finishing.

How do I know if my hardwood floor needs resurfacing or refinishing?

If your floor has surface-level damage like scratches and wear, refinishing is sufficient. If there are structural problems like deep gouges, warped boards, or severe damage, resurfacing is necessary.

How often can I refinish my hardwood floors?

Hardwood floors can typically be refinished 3-5 times over their lifetime, depending on the thickness of the wood.

Is it possible to change the color of my hardwood floor when refinishing?

Yes, when refinishing, you can apply a stain to change the color of your hardwood floor.

Final Words

Deciding between hardwood floor resurfacing and refinishing depends on the condition of your floors, your budget, and your long-term goals. Refinishing is suitable for floors with surface-level damage and those needing a visual refresh. In contrast, resurfacing is necessary for addressing significant structural issues and extending the life of severely damaged floors. Both processes can restore the beauty of your hardwood floors, but choosing the right one will ensure the best results and longevity for your investment.

Kravelv is a full time digital marketer and part time furniture and cabinet maker. During his free time he would like to create something out of recycled woods, this varies from toys, furnitures plant boxes etc. Follow him on Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook