Is it better to refinish hardwood floors or replace them with new hardwood?
Well this depends on a number of factors including the condition/age of your hardwood, how much you like your current hardwood and what your budget looks like.
In general, it will almost ALWAYS be less expensive to refinish your hardwood floors. If you replace them, you need to pay for additional wood as well as ripping up and hauling away existing hardwood. If portions of your hardwood are damaged (e.g. pet stains or minor water stains), you can replace these sections and when you refinish them and it will all look new. Even if you have this, it will still be less expensive then replacing the whole floor.
- If your floors are REALLY OLD and have been refinished many times, it may be time for a new floor. I’m not talking about oak floors that have been dinged and scratched up…I mean if your floors have been down for over 100 yrs and refinished at least 5 times. If you can see the “tongue” where the boards fit together, it’s probably time for a new floor. Or, if your floors are rather bouncy and/or don’t seem very sturdy, it’s time for a new floor. This happens more often with pine floors as pine floors are softer and used a long time ago.
- If you want to change the species of wood, you may consider replacing the hardwood. The majority of homes in the US have oak. Some people love the look and graining of oak; other customers prefer a more unique look – such as a brilliant Brazilian cherry or a clear maple or a modern looking bamboo. If this is the type of look you are going for, changing woods may make sense for you. But, please understand that you can stain your current floors a different color than they are now. So, don’t just make a change because you don’t like the color since that is easily changeable.
- If you want to change the width of the wood or the direction of the hardwood, the only way to do this is to get a new floor. The standard in home is oak 2 ¼” strip. Now, it’s more stylish and more common to get wider planks such as 3 ¼” or 4”or 5” planks. These look more modern and importantly make the room look larger. Another design trick to make the rooms look larger is to lay the planks on a diagonal – that way, it carries your eye along the longest length of the room. Or, you can even get fancy and add borders or do a herringbone pattern.
- If you have parquet hardwood floors, you may want to change them to regular hardwood planks. Parquet is rather out of style and it makes the room look smaller given the small squares. Changing to the long strips will make the room look nicer and larger.
- If you want less mess and shorter installation, replacing the floors will usually take less time than refinishing them. Refinishing hardwood floors is messy and time consuming. It’s especially challenging if you are already living in the home and have furniture everywhere. Refinishing you hardwood floors can easily take 4-5 days and during that time you can not have furniture on them nor walk on them. For some homes, this creates logistical nightmares as they can’t stay in the home nor would they want to given the smell and the mess. Alternatively, if you replace the floors with prefinished hardwood, it’s a much faster process, less messy and you can still live in the home fairly easily. I have many customers that have done this simply because they want to avoid the mess created from refinishing the hardwood floors.
Like anything, whether you refinish your hardwood floors or replace them depends on your personal circumstances. If you are about to move into a new home, refinishing your hardwood floors is much easier vs. if you already live there. Clearly the cost to refinish the floors Is much less expensive than replacing them (For perspective, to replace them may cost 3-5 times as much).
You may find these hardwood flooring articles helpful:
- Can you change the color of your hardwood floors?
- Hardwood flooring Stain Color Trends
- Oil vs. Water based polyurethane – Which is better for refinishing hardwood floors?