Everything You Need to Know Before Refinishing Old Hardwood Flooring

Things to Know before Refinishing Old Hardwood Flooring


Hardwood flooring can last for decades and even centuries when maintained well which is why it is an asset to your home. Over the years, hardwood flooring will lose its sheen and beauty as it’s used. But it can be fixed by refinishing the floor from time to time. Refinishing is cheaper and easier than you think and can be done in different ways. Having a proper understanding of the methods and factors involved will help you to determine the best for your home.

This post discusses some factors that must be considered before you opt for refinishing the hardwood floor.

When to refinish?

Determining the right time to refinish a hardwood floor is important. There are numerous signs which are indicative that the floor is in urgent need of a refinish. Understanding the subtle signs and determining if refinishing is a feasible choice is the first step towards executing the project. Consider the following to determine if your flooring requires a refinishing:

  • When there are visible and excessive scratches on the floor
  • Visible surface stain from spills and pet urine
  • Oxidizing floorboards which are turning grey or black
  • Discolouration due to consistent sun exposure
  • Splinters and deep cracks on the floorboards
  • Unable to pass the water test

These are very obvious signs that the floor should be refinished immediately or else the damage will be beyond repair. You can also read through our previous blog to learn about these factors in detail.

Refinish or replace?

Are your hardwood floorboards thick enough to be sanded? Did you refinish and sand the floor a few times already?

Before you refinish the floor, you must make sure that a minimum 1/32 inch of the wood is left to avoid damaging the boards in the process. If the floorboards can be removed, you can check if they are thick enough to be sanded. If they are not, you have no choice but to replace them. This is a problem that homeowners with engineered hardwood flooring face as the top layer of hardwood veneer are too thin to be sanded numerous times.

What are the types of finishes?

There are different types of stains and finishes which you can apply. But every finish is not suitable for all hardwood planks. You should know the details surrounding your floor type and finishing history to choose the right materials. The following are the three finishes that you can choose from:

  • Polyurethane- This can be an oil or water-based finish and there are a variety of products which are polyurethane-based. You can get different types of lustre though the end results have a plastic-like look. Certain products can lead to darkening or yellowing of the wood but it is advantageous if you experience high moisture and traffic in your home. However, it is very difficult to spot-repair this particular finish.
  • Varnish- The finish of varnish is matte-glossy and it darkens with age, though slower than polyurethane. This too can provide a varying degree of lustre. One major advantage of varnish is that it can be spot-repaired.
  • Penetrating sealer- If you prefer retaining the natural look and graining of the wood, the penetrating sealer will be the right choice for you. It provides good protection, particularly when waxed but it is the least durable and the easiest to spot-finish among the three.

You can check this video to recognize the differences between different hardwood finishes that are available.

What is the estimated cost?

The budget is a vital factor to be considered before undertaking the refinishing project. It has to be estimated first and it depends on several important factors.

  • The area to be refinished- the number of rooms, hallways and the total square footage including outdoor porch or balcony.
  • Removing carpet, vinyl sheets and any such additional flooring material that may interfere with the project.
  • The quantity of the products like stains, sealers, and tools that will be required- this depends on the number of coats your flooring will need for the best results.
  • The condition of the floor and the challenges it may pose while working with it.
  • The labour charge depending on the amount of work and the number of days the contractor has to dedicate to your project.

All the above-mentioned factors together influence the cost estimation you will have in mind. Consulting a professional who is reputed in your area will help you to get an idea about the standard rates. You can also ask for a free quote from them, specifically designed for your home.


Pro tip 1:

Irrespective of the cost estimation your contractor gives, estimate a budget more than the provided amount to ensure the work is not hindered for any reason like shortage of finishing materials or broken tools.

 Do you know your flooring history?

Hardwood flooring can be treated and finished in different ways and when you opt for refinishing the biggest challenge can be posed by the previous finishes used. When you have a clear idea about what has been done before, choosing the products and method of sanding becomes easier.

  • If the room has been cleaned and buffed with oil-based soap before, it will be difficult to buff. Test a corner by applying a little amount of the finishing product and if it sets in, it can be used.
  • Does each room has different finishing, paint and sealers used previously? Be careful to inform your contractor about such anomalies so that they can suggest you the right approach to finishing each of the rooms.
  • Do make sure your flooring can withstand the abrasions of another refinishing project. This entirely depends on the quality of the floorboards you have and how well the previous refinishing projects were executed.

Refinishing the hardwood floor is inevitable after every 8 to 10 years, depending on the utility you have derived out of it and how well it has been maintained on a regular basis. Before undertaking the refinishing project, you should have an idea about whether your flooring can sustain. The above-mentioned factors can guide you to do so easily.

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