Hardwood floor resurfacing vs refinishing | What’s the difference?

Hardwood floor resurfacing vs refinishing
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If you have a hardwood floor that’s looking a little scruffy, you might have started wondering, what’s the difference between getting it resurfaced and getting it refinished? A lot of people are facing these decisions!

Hardwood floors wear well, but even they will eventually need resurfacing or refinishing. Refinishing the floor is less drastic. It involves sanding the surface of the floor, and then reapplying the stain and lacquer. Resurfacing involves taking up old boards, grinding down uneven ones, and generally re-making the floor.

Should you refinish or resurface your floors?

Before you can decide whether to resurface or refinish a floor, you need to fully understand the differences between these two options so you can choose the right one for your home. Getting it wrong may result in an unnecessary waste of money, because resurfacing is more expensive, and may not be needed!

Both of these techniques are designed to redo the surface of your hardwood floors, but they are quite different from each other, so let’s look at each method. This will help you to determine which is going to be needed in your home.

What is refinishing?

Refinishing is the milder of these two treatments, and our hardwood floor is currently due for a refinish, which is on this year’s to-do list. Refinishing is generally fairly simple and many homeowners can do this themselves. It is about lightly sanding and refinishing the upper surface of the wood.

To undertake refinishing, you will need a drum sander, some stain, and some lacquer. A refinish is usually suitable if:

  • Your floor is scuffed
  • The finish has faded or worn away
  • The sun has affected the lacquer
  • You want to change the color
  • The floor is otherwise looking dull or tired, but is not particularly damaged

A refinish is therefore about getting the surface of the floor to look good again, a little like repainting a wall. It’s about cosmetic and minor defects, and some people do it themselves, rather than getting a company in to complete the job.

This is probably the route we’ll go down, as we have the tools and equipment, and it’s a lot cheaper. However, you shouldn’t underestimate the amount of work involved!

Refinishing won’t fix big dents, warping, marks in the wood, cracks, chips, or water damage. It does not involve replacing nails or boards, and it isn’t about repairing deep scratches. A refinish essentially reapplies the top coat of your floor, but it won’t do anything for the actual wood.

This is why refinishing is suitable for our floor at the moment. There are a few light stains in the lacquer, there are some dirty spots where the polish has worn away and people have walked, and the floor has lost its luster. By refinishing it, we’ll make it look good again.

However, there is nothing wrong with the floor’s wood and it doesn’t need any major repairs. All the nails are in place, the boards aren’t chipped, cracked, or warped, and it otherwise looks fine. It just needs a fresh top coat to protect the wood and make sure it looks nice.

What is resurfacing?

Resurfacing is a lot more major than refinishing, and it involves:

  • Taking up floorboards if they need replacing
  • Repairing chips or cracks
  • Getting rid of deep discoloration that can’t be removed by light sanding
  • Replacing nails that are missing
  • Dealing with holes in the wood
  • Addressing any boards that move when you walk on them

Resurfacing is a lot more work than just refinishing, but it’s the ideal process if your hardwood floor has any of the above problems, because it is will deal with them directly. It goes much deeper than refinishing, and it’s the sort of process we would consider if our floor was warped or otherwise damaged at a deep level.

Resurfacing tends to be quite a lot more expensive than refinishing, especially if you have to replace the wood. You will also need wood grinding equipment, which can be pricey. Many people need to hire a firm in order to properly resurface a hardwood floor, which will further drive up the costs. However, doing this yourself requires quite a lot of skill.

Is it better to refinish hardwood floors or replace them?

Generally speaking, refinishing or even resurfacing a hardwood floor will be preferable to replacing the floor. Of course, this does depend on how seriously damaged the floor is. Sometimes, a floor will not be worth salvaging, and replacement is your only option. On the whole, though, hardwood floors can either be refinished or resurfaced.

Hardwood floors can often stand up to about six to ten restorations, according to DistrictFloorDepot. After about ten restorations, you will find that the wood is starting to get worn out and it may start creaking and splintering. At this point, it will probably need to be replaced.

The same source also says that hardwood floors can go for 20 to 30 years without you needing to do much to them – but ours has been going for a lot longer than that with minimal care and attention, and it’s in a high use room! That’s one of the best things about hardwood.

It’s certainly true that hardwood floors are not cheap to put in, and they can be costly when they do need maintenance, but they last a long time and they are a lot less troublesome than some kinds of flooring.

Is it expensive to refinish or resurface hardwood floors?

Both processes are quite expensive, and as you would expect, refinishing costs less than resurfacing. Because resurfacing involves a more intensive sanding process and more significant repairs, it is bound to be more expensive.

However, it tends to be cheaper to refinish or even resurface a hardwood floor than it is to replace one. Even if you have to buy wood to replace the boards, you will be using less wood overall than if you had to purchase enough for the whole floor.

Replacing hardwood flooring could be as much as $7000, or possibly even more if the area you are covering is extensive. Refinishing will usually cost between $1000 and $3000, and resurfacing will generally be between the two prices, although the cost can vary.

Prices do vary a lot depending on the condition of the floor and on the prices of materials and labor in your area. The size of your floor will also make a big difference. Our flooring takes up several meters of the house, so it’s not a cheap project when the time comes!

If you have to resurface your hardwood floor and it is in quite bad condition, it may be worth getting a quote to replace it, as sometimes this will be more cost effective. However, in general, a floor replacement is going to be more expensive than just resurfacing or finishing.

When should floors be refinished?

You can do refinishing at any time of the year, but you should make sure the temperature in your home is reasonably consistent and above 65 degrees F when the refinishing is going on. This will help to ensure that the lacquer cures properly.

It is worth noting that if you live in an area with a lot of humidity, you should choose a drier time of year if possible. This isn’t something we need to worry about, but it can make the refinishing process smoother.

It is a good idea to refinish your hardwood floors every 7 to 10 years, according to BobVila. That’s quite often, considering the expense involved, but if you look after your floor, it may be less frequent.

Alternatively, consider doing this yourself if you are reasonably good at DIY. Refinishing doesn’t tend to be too difficult, although it’s certainly not for the inexperienced!

Can I change the color of my floor?

If you get bored of the color of your floor and you fancy a change, refinishing your floor is a good opportunity to do this. You will be stripping off the old lacquer and stain before you start, so you can take this chance to change the stain if you choose to.

This is the simplest way to change the look of your hardwood floor if you are keen to do so. Otherwise, you are looking at taking up and replacing the whole floor, and there’s no point in doing this if your floor is still in good shape.

This can be an excellent way to refresh the appearance of your home, but adding a stain does increase the costs, so bear this in mind.

How long does it take to refinish a hardwood floor?

Because you will be adding a lacquer to the surface of the floor, you will need to think about the drying time and make sure you can avoid walking on the floor during this time. In general, refinished floors will take about 2 days to sand and add lacquer to, possibly with additional time for drying.

This does depend on the size of the floor, how deep the sanding is, and how many people are working on it, so make sure you check this with a company before you agree to a quote. If you are doing it yourself, it will likely take longer, because you will inevitably be slower than an experienced professional.

Consider allowing about a week for the project, depending on the size of the floor. Remember that you won’t be able to walk on the floor while the lacquer is drying.

How long does it take to resurface a hardwood floor?

It’s much more difficult to estimate how long resurfacing will take because this heavily depends on what repairs need to be done and how much wood has to be replaced. Get a quote from the company. If you are going to be doing this yourself, try to overestimate rather than underestimating.

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