Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors: Ultimate Guide

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It’s amazing what hardwood flooring can do for a room. Not only will it improve its looks exponentially, but it adds value to your home, as well. Hardwood flooring is also one of the top picks when it comes to durability and resilience.

Unlike linoleum for vinyl flooring, hardwood is permanent. If you should decide to change it in the future, it’s going to require a complete tear-out, unless you decide to simply cover it.

It has many excellent benefits, and yet there are some downsides, too. So to help clear things up for you, we’re going to talk about hardwood flooring and the costs that go into refinishing it. We’ll talk about doing it yourself, and why you might want to hire a professional to do it for you.

A Few Things to Consider

Before we go any further, there are some aspects of your hardwood flooring that you need to consider. This will help either you or the professional know how much can be sanded down before refinishing.

It’s also important that you check to ensure that what you have is actually hardwood. There are some really great imitators out there that look and feel like the real deal. It’s very possible that you have some kind of engineered flooring.

Thickness

Typically, most hardwood flooring is going to be ¾ of an inch thick. There’s also going to be a thin layer of wear on top of it. This is what protects the actual wood from scratches, scuffs, and dents. This layer of wear allows for refinishing of the flooring several times over, although you won’t want to do anything heavier than a light sanding.

Age

It’s a good idea to try and figure out the age of your existing hardwood flooring. If it’s something you had installed, you should have a pretty good idea of how old it is. If it was there when you moved in, this can be a little trickier.

If that’s the case, it’s possible that your current flooring has already been sanded and stained many times already. How thick the top layer of veneer is can affect how much of it you can freely sand down.

If you’re going to do it on your own, it’s important that you are careful with this aspect. You never want to sand more than 2 millimeters of the veneer. However, if the planks are thicker than ¾ of an inch, you’ll have more room to experiment.

Damaged Floors?

Once you have safely determined what can be sanded, pay close attention to the overall health of the flooring. Hardwood is some pretty tough stuff. But once its finish is worn down, all bets are off.

Most hardwood flooring’s veneer is going to have a lifespan of around 25 years. If it’s not overly scuffed or dented, a light sanding and staining will do wonders in breathing new life into the floors.

If you’re just looking at some light scuffing, a floor sander can usually take care of it with a couple of passes. But any damage that’s deep into the wood is going to be beyond the help of a floor sander.

If your hardwood floor has big pits and scrapes, you’ll have to remedy this before refinishing. A good filler is going to be the easiest route. But if a plank is severely split and cracked, you’ll need to replace the entire piece.

Really light scuffing and scratches can likely be taken care of by yourself. Even if you don’t have experience with this kind of work, the right guide should walk you through the process. You’ll save a lot of money, but not necessarily time.

If you’re looking at damaged wood or bulges in the floor, you might have a subfloor issue. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to stop what you’re doing and give a professional a shout.

This kind of work can get hairy, fast. You’d be better off letting someone else do it who specializes in flooring. It’s an added expense, sure. But you risk making things a whole lot worse by tackling something you’re unfamiliar with.

Cost Factors

To keep things under control and within your budget, you should factor in the cost of everything that’s going to go into refinishing your floors. From renting equipment to paying for additional labor, a lot can go into ensuring that this job is done correctly.

You may have to spring for a trip to the hardware store and invest in some new tools. In this section, we want to talk about all the tools you’ll likely need. Check each of these off as you acquire them. Once you have everything at the ready, you can safely move on to the refinishing process.

Doing It by Yourself

Now let’s cover everything that goes into doing the refinishing by yourself. This will help you determine if you’re the right person for the job. After reading through all of this, you may decide that it’s best left to a professional.

And that’s OK! Don’t take on something that you think is beyond your capabilities. No amount of money saved is worth putting yourself at risk for injury.

Tools You Will Need

Regardless of the type of flooring, you plan on refinishing, you’ll first have to get a few things. You might have one or two of these items lying around, but you’ll most likely have to buy some new ones.

And if you plan on redoing your baseboard, that’s another expense you’ll need to factor into the grand total. Since you’ll need to remove all of the baseboards before refinishing begins, you’ll need to get the proper tools for that task, as well.

Be prepared to shell out a few hundred bucks on supplies alone. This is a delicate process that requires a lot of attention. The goal here is to further extend the life of your floors while injecting new character into them.

Here is a concise list of the tools you will need to have ready before moving forward with refinishing.

  • Paint scrapers
  • Polyurethane
  • Dust masks
  • Drop cloths
  • Sandpaper
  • Nail punch
  • Hammer
  • Pry bar
  • Finish
  • Rags
  • Stain

Specialty Tools

With that out of the way, let’s move onto specialty tools. Most of what’s listed above should be easy grabs from your local hardware store. You may already have a few of them at home. But it’s highly unlikely that you have a floor sander handy.

For this, you’ll want to head to a rental and supply store. Renting equipment can turn into a costly venture in no time flat. You can’t take on a big job like refinishing without a floor sander. And doing it by hand is out of the question.

A walk-behind hardwood drum sander is necessary for refinishing, and it can get pricey. If you’re going to need it for a week, expect to pay a few hundred bucks to rent it out. And before you think you’ll just go out and buy one before paying that, know that they cost well over $1,000. And that’s probably for a used one.

You’ll need plenty of sanding belts, too. You’ll want to pick up an orbital sander, as well as a buffer. You can certainly buy your own orbital sander if you think it’s something you’ll make use of in the future.

You can get them for less than $50, although a good one is going to run a couple hundred bucks or more. A floor buffer, however, is going to be right up there with a drum sander. Price what you can and decide on whether you should invest in the smaller items.

You will also want to get a dust vacuum to suck out as much dust as possible. Refinishing hardwood flooring creates an insanely high amount of dust. If you’re not properly prepared, you’re going to have a major mess on your hands… and face, and in your hair, and all over your home.

When renting any kind of equipment, a deposit is both expected and required. Be sure that you get all the information that you can on what your responsibilities are when renting their equipment.

Time

To do this job properly, you want to carve out plenty of time. Trying to rush through it will result in bad work, potentially worsening your hardwood flooring. If this is your first time taking on a project of this magnitude, plan on it taking a couple of days at minimum.

If you’re fairly experienced, you should be able to knock it out in a day. It’s also important to factor in any prep that’s required beforehand. This can sometimes take longer than the actual refinishing job. So make doubly sure that you have all prep out of the way and completed long before you rent any equipment.

This includes shifting furniture and appliances around from room to room. You may need a few extra hands and backs at the ready to speed this up. The longer you have the rented equipment, the more it’s going to cost you.

That being said, don’t rush. If you’ve taken the proper precautions and have done the right prep, you shouldn’t have to.

It’s also important to note that once you’ve stained your floors, you won’t be able to walk on them for several days. So make sure you have alternate paths around your home to avoid the newly refinished floor or floors.

So, with all that being said, you should be ready to fork over $1,000 for tools, rentals, and supplies.

Hiring a Professional

If you decide to hire a professional, it’s going to be costly. There’s no way around it. But if you feel that the refinishing process is too much for you, it’s best that you don’t attempt it. Always err on the side of caution.

You’ll save both time and sanity by letting someone else do it. Refinishing hardwood flooring is a big job, no matter how you slice it. But a trained professional can knock it out a whole lot faster. You’ll be able to use your floors a lot sooner by going this route.

The good news is that if your floors are in pretty decent shape, the cost of hiring someone is going to be a lot lower. Not having to do a lot of prep work will save you a handsome sum of money.

However, you’re likely going to want them to haul off any old carpeting if it factors into the job. This will add to the overall cost. If there was carpeting over the hardwood floor and it’s in pretty good shape, you may want to set it out on the curb.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. It’s possible someone else will be more than happy to take it off your hands, thereby saving you some money in the process.

When it comes to pricing a refinishing job, you can expect to pay a professional around $5 a square foot. Most will come to your home and give you a free estimate, so be sure to take advantage of this and go with the one you feel most comfortable doing business with.

This will help you determine if it’s within your budget, and you can make adjustments where needed. But be prepared to pay anywhere between $4,000 and $8,000 to have a professional do it. If your floors are in good shape, it’s going to be on the lower end. If there’s a lot of prep work involved, expect it to be on the high end.

Conclusion

It’s expensive to have someone else refinish your hardwood floors. But if you can knock out a large majority of the prep work yourself, you can effectively keep costs low. Whichever route you ultimately decide on, the end result will benefit you greatly.

Not only will you be protecting your floors for years to come, but you’ll also be adding significant value to your home. It’s a big job, sure. But the advantages of doing so are more than worth the effort.

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