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Should I refinish my hardwood flooring or replace it?

Is it better to refinish hardwood floors or replace them with new hardwood?

refinish my hardwood or replace itWell 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.

 

color consultation for paint and stain colorsIf you live in Westchester County NY, I offer color consultations to advise customers on paint colors and stain choices. My designer discount at the paint stores usually more than offsets the cost for the hour consultation. Read more here. Due to popular demand, I’m now offering phone consultations as well.

 

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.

Please note that this article may contain affiliate links.  Please read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.

 

So, if it’s less expensive to refinish hardwood floors, why would you consider new floors? Here are some reasons and benefits to getting new hardwood floors.

 

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.

dark hardwood flooring Westchester NYIf 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.

Red oak flooring cherry stain westchester NYIf 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.

 

✅ Are you about to sand your floors? Need help with how long you should wait after you refinish your floors? Check out my timeline here: How long should you wait before…

 

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:

 

color consultation for paint and stain colorsIf you live in Westchester County NY, I offer color consultations to advise customers on paint colors and stain choices. My designer discount at the paint stores usually more than offsets the cost for the hour consultation. Read more here. Due to popular demand, I’m now offering phone consultations as well.

 

Check out my ebook:

 

What to look out for when buying a new home with hardwood floors ebookI wrote this e-book to help new home buyers make smart decisions when looking for homes with hardwood floors…or looking to buy a home and then add hardwood. I’ve packaged all of my best tips into this book and hope it will help you make smarter choices in your flooring choices and in buying a home that can support high quality floors.

 

Buy me a coffeeDid you find my tips helpful? If so, feel free to buy me a coffee and support my blog

 

Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors, whether they are light or dark


Should I refinish my hardwood flooring or replace it?

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10 thoughts on “Should I refinish my hardwood flooring or replace it?”

  1. Hi Debbie,

    My boyfriend and I recently bought a new house that requires many updates, including floors. The house was built in 1960 and has beautiful original hardwood floors that were covered in carpet. The day we moved in (scratch that: the HOUR we moved in), we pulled up the carpet and had ambitious plans to refinish the floors with a more modern stain. After multiple attempts with rented drum sanders and 12×18 sanders, the floors were just OK. We tried using our own belt sander and palm sander to even out hard to sand areas, particularly the edges, but the end-result was not ideal. We tried our hand at staining anyways because we were fed up with staining (not the greatest idea!). Our floors are unevenly taking the stain and are not up to our standards. Now our question is: do we hire someone to professionally refinish the floors (quotes we have obtained range from $4-5 per square foot) OR replace the floors entirely. Do you have any advice??

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Lauren. Thanks for stopping by. I’m not sure if the full comment came through on this, but congrats on your new house. The comment seems to end at “The house was built…” so my apologies if there is a question in there for me. Feel free to leave another comment, if you still have a question.

    2. Hi Lauren. Okay, now I can see the rest of the comment.

      First, most people are unable to successfully refinish the floors themselves. It takes a lot of experience to refinish properly. Most people can’t get it smooth/even and also don’t realize that you need to sand them 3 times before putting the stain on. It’s even harder to do it right if they are pine or maple floors (and if they are, they require conditioner before stain is applied). Also, once the floors have been sanded unevenly by a non-professonal, it’s even harder to correct due to the waves usually created by the non-professional.

      My advice is to bring in a professional to make sure the floors can be refinished (i.e. if there is still enough room/if you didn’t permanently damage the wood), and if so, have them refinish them rather than replace them – that will be much less expensive. I don’t know where you live and the going rates, but in our area, it’s prob. the price is prob. $1-2 lower…but that may be par for your area. Call in 2-3 people to see. I would check Angie’s List (angieslist.com) for some good local people in your area.

  2. Yes, it seems that hardwood floors are what buyers are looking for, so refinishing the wood makes a lot of sense.

  3. We live in a 1924 home with very heavy thick oak woodwork thru out. It also has oak floors, quarter sawn in narrow strips, that In most rooms are in need of refinishing. We had a professional come & take a look yesterday, she said the flooring is too thin to sand & refinish. I was shocked, the floors have never been refinished. I was so disappointed. What can be done, if anything? We also have extended our kitchen & wanted to put oak flooring down to match the rest of the house. She said they don’t make this thickness anymore & the new flooring would be much thicker, therefore making it higher than the dining room that opens to it.
    Our budget doesn’t allow us to replace the whole downstairs with the new oak. And I love the old quarter sawn oak we have. I’m sad! ????

    1. Judy – I’m sorry to hear this. I am surprised, but it does happen once in a while. I would probably get a 2nd opinion just to make sure. If they were solid hardwood and are now too thin, then it sounds like they’ve been refinished many times. Generally solid hardwood flooring is 3/4″ thick and that is what you should get if you put in anything new. That will then last a long time and you won’t have this issue in the future.

      I have come across a few floors from 1900-1925 that are thin and unusual thickness (i.e. they are thinner) and they can’t be matched.

      If you get a second opinion and they can’t be refinished, then your best option will be replace them…or wait until you can replace them. Given when the house was built I’m doubting the floors are even, so putting a floating on top will be a really bad option as they will wobble. And, installing wood on top of thin wood is a really bad solution. If your foundation is weak, your floor will be weak and it will creak and separate.

      So, assuming you can’t refinish existing and you can’t afford to replace it now, then focus on the new kitchen and put solid oak there. It’s okay and very common for this to be higher than the rest and it’s easy enough to add a wood transition. And, then later, you will need to replace the existing worn down floors w/ solid oak, so they will eventually be the same height.

      So assuming you can’t refinish, the question you need to ask yourself is whether you like quartersawn enough to pay the extra cost. Then, this will define what you put in new area and what you will replace in the existing area later.

      I hope that helps. It’s hard to give you more advice without seeing it. So call in a local professional.

  4. Hi there,
    I read on your blog that you said it is usually very feasible to change the color of a hardwood. A new house I’m buying has tigerwood flooring with a reddish hue to it. Would it be possible to refinish this (sand, stain) with a light-brown color?

    1. Michael – The exotic woods are a bit more challenging to work with stain wise because they are naturally darker and redder. Yes, you can refinish them and make them darker and browner. But, you will still have some underlying red tones. So, you may need to go darker than what you’re thinking to drown out the red more. Definitely test colors. Most likely, dark walnut will come out the darkest. Use duraseal…it’s a better stain, dries faster and is a bit darker than minwax.

      You can use a lighter brown, but you the lighter you go, the more red and less brown it will look.

      I’d probably test dark walnut, antique brown, coffee brown and special walnut to see what you like best. I’m guessing that special walnut (the lightest of those) won’t be dark enough for the red.

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