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Is refinishing hardwood floors worth it?

Among the living houses, hardwood flooring is probably the best and most attractive type of flooring surface, that can add to your home most coziness as well as most valuable. But unfortunately, even with all of its pros it still has cons. One of them – they are not timeless, and you still need to maintain them to look presentable. However, with proper refinishing done plus well-timed maintenance they can last up to 25 years before the next refinishing is needed. Which is a pretty long time if comparing it to other surfaces. (link to the article “Compering hardwood flooring to other surfaces”)

In this article, I am going to address, such questions as:

  • How to determine when you need to consider refinishing of your hardwood flooring;
  • How to determine if you can handle it only with refinishing and do not need replacing the wood;
  • what are the benefits of refinishing your wood flooring?;
  • should you do it yourself or should you hire a professional;
  • what is the price range for DIY and for professionals to do it?;
  • cost of refinishing it yourself vs pro cost;

How to determine when your  flooring need restoration

Ok, why you may think about refinishing, several possible reasons:

  1. Water, urine, fire damage;
  2. Dirt is deep in the grains and floors looks always unclean;
  3. You tired of how it looks and want new color in the whole house or just one room, several rooms et cetera;
  4. Deep scratches and severe abrasions;
  5. All of the above;
  6. A lot of mild scratches and abrasions;
  7. Your floors look dull and old;
  8. Your new house - want to invest in it;
  9. Your old house - want to sell it better;

If points 6 to 9 is your situation – you might not need a refinishing and an extra coat of polyurethane finish might fix your situation – link article “Buff-coating – what is this, when do I consider it, pros, cons, cost.”

If the first 5 points represent your situation – then most likely it's going to be refinishing.

However, since hardwood flooring is limited in thickness, this as well means that it is limited in times of possible refinishing. So, first of all, you need to know – would it be refinishing or replacement of wood.

How to determine if you need refinishing or replacement.

Hardwood flooring boards have a special method of fitting them together edge to edge, which is called “Tongue and groove”. This method allows two flat pieces to be joined strongly together to make a single flat surface. These slots are located in the middle of the board thickness with an approximately equal amount of wood under it and above it. And it really matters because the amount above the tongue and groove slots determine exactly how many times your flooring can be refinished.

In the newly installed wood flooring, there is approximately a quarter of an inch above tongue and groove which represents 3-4 possible times that this wood can be refinished. As I mentioned before one proper refinishing can last up to 25 years, we are looking at 75 to 100 years of potential usage, which no other surface can give you, honestly. (link to the article “Comparing hardwood flooring to other surfaces”).

So, you need to look if you still have that space (at least 1/16 of an inch) above the “tongue and groove” slot). If you are having a hard time finding a board with an open side where you can take a look at its thickness (no heating “grills” or transition with other surfaces in your house) you can still, try to determine if you have enough wood by your flooring appearance. By appearance I mean – if your boards look tight to each other with no unusually big gaps in between them and if you are not seeing shiny nail heads right in between your boards – you are most likely fine for one or several more refinishing.

If refinishing is possible, when do you need to consider it, what exactly points to it?

Ok, let’s say your floors are good enough for at least one more refinishing (or if you determine that it’s not please visit – link to the article “How to replace your hardwood flooring, process, price, duration”).

Benefits of wood floor restoring.

There are most obvious benefits, such as you will have nice and shiny floors under your feet, it will instantly increase the cosines of your house, make it more presentable and you can host parties so your friend can enjoy it too.

But if being completely serious, most benefit - is of course proper use of wood flooring resource that left. As I never tried to mention -  proper refinishing plus on-time maintenance may prolongate the look of your floor for more than 25 years which means saving money and your nerves. And by proper, I mean - with the right use of machinery that can guarantee top quality and with the right use of coloring options as well as protective materials to prevent that look for years. More in the article:

(Link to article: “Floor sanding options, their difference and how to choose one”)

To not mention the fact, that you can have flooring with the exact color, sheen, and overall appearance that you would love. Which is probably an even more important factor.

Should you do it yourself or should you hire a professional?

As a flooring professional with years of experience, I found it completely unproductive to discourage people from sanding their hardwood floors themselves. After all, it may save you a good amount!
Nevertheless, it is always worth mentioning what you should expect when planning DIY, which are:

  1. Sanding tools are expensive making your only option available is renting, probably in Home Depot. And the quality of their renting tools could wish better. Not to slander rental business, but their model can not let them rent you high-end premium quality tools. For example, the most basic sanding machine, which is a drum sander costs about $3000 compared to what most professionals use for a $7000 drum sander. And price represents quality proportionally.
  2. There are levels of wood floor restoring and that’s me referring to my (link to the article “Floor sanding options, their difference in quality and price and how to choose one”) Considering that most people that are doing hardwood floor refinishing DIY style, doing it for the first time, they can achieve nothing more than the Basic level of wood floor restoring and that’s - if they will not mess it up. That’s not to be arrogant or protective of my craft, but the average flooring professional has 10 years of experience, which represents approximately 20,000 hours of constantly repeating the same process after process. Plus, you have to deal with lots of tools, that’s operating differently, that most likely you never dealt with before. Highly unlikely that an inexperienced person can replicate a level of a professional job after just the first few hours of trying. Of course, there are “professionals” in our field too, but the one I mentioned spelled with no quotes. (link to the article “How your floors should look like after refinishing vs how they should not”)
  3. Most durable and reliable wood floor protective products – are advanced water-based formulas, that requires certain skill for applying, because of their quick drying. Unfortunately, most people that refinish their floors themselves should expect them to be able to use oil-based formulas only. Which has several disadvantages compared to water-based polyurethane finishes (link to “What is better oil-based or water-based poly?”)
  4. It may save you a good amount of money, but not time, unfortunately. Refinishing 1000 sq. ft. of wood flooring on the Basic level would typically take a skilled professional with the best possible equipment 15 working hours to finish with 3 protective coats of an oil-based poly. If we are talking about the person that doing it for the first time with rental equipment, we are looking at 35-45 hours, which is basically a full working week.

With all of that being said, there is still an important question that remains – “What the price ranges are?”

Cost of refinishing it yourself vs pro`s cost

I will base my estimation on 1000 sq. ft. which is pretty close to the average size of an apartment in the USA and the most round number I can operate with and easily transfer it to price per square foot.

So, DIY would look like this:

  • Renting machinery – approximately $166 per day or $498 per the whole project;
  • Buying some small tools, that you can not rent, like a scraper and palm sander - $100;
  • Abrasives for finishing will cost you around $80;
  • Oil-based protective coats – 3 coats for 1000 sq. ft. typically means $180.

Altogether we are looking at $858 per 1000 sq. ft. or $0.86 per sq. ft.

Pro`s cost:

There are different types of flooring professionals that can give you a broad spectrum of price ranges as well as quality ranges.

For example, 1000 sq. ft. can cost from $1500 to $5000 or $1.5 to $5.0 per sq.ft. If you ever thought about why there is such a drastic difference, here are again link to my other article (link to the article “Floor sanding options, their difference and how to choose one”) Where I tried to put it all together using my experience of working in this sphere. Basically, it all can be boiled down to the amount of detailed sanding flooring the contractor willing to put into work as well as the quality of machinery his using, quality of coloring and protective materials, and his experience of using different types of machinery which can let him spend more or less time on your project.

To make it easier, I would say that the most logical thing for me would be to give you the cost at what contractor can do the closest work to DIY in terms of quality of sanding and material he used. And that would be $1500 to $2000 per 1000 sq.ft. or $1.5 to $2.0 per sq.ft.

Straight to the final numbers:

DIY style refinishing of hardwood flooring - $858 per 1000 sq. ft plus 35-45 working hours or 5-6 typical working days.

Professional refinishing with matching quality - $1,750 per 1000 sq. ft. plus 15 working hours or 2 typical working days.

In summary, I would like to say only that doing your wood flooring by yourself or hiring a flooring professional has both their gains and losses and I only hope that this article would help you to make a more concluded decision. Because most importantly, you can have your newly restored beautiful wood flooring at the end.



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