Hardwood floors are incredibly durable, and if cared for, they can last for years and years, and even last a lifetime. However, if a client has a large family or has pets running around the house, or even if they live in an area that’s prone to fluctuations in temperature, you can expect their hardwood floors to show some signs of wear and tear much sooner.
How can you tell when it’s time to upgrade and refinish hardwood floors in a home or an office? And when should you advise your client to replace their hardwood floors instead of refinishing them? What does the process of refinishing hardwood floors entail, and how much does it cost? We’ll try to answer all of these questions, so that whenever a client requires an estimate or has questions about the refinishing process, you’ll have all the answers at the ready.
Signs that it’s time to refinish hardwood floors
It’s normal for hardwood floors or engineered wood floors to show signs of wear over the years. When it comes to hardwood, a little wear and tear can actually make them look better and create a vintage, worn-in look, if you will. However, there are certain signs that signal that the floors are in need of an upgrade:
- The floors show visible dents, holes, or deep scratches
- There are visible stains that can’t be easily removed
- The color is off or uneven
- The floorboards have lost their shine
- There is moisture damage
- The hardwood floors have thinned out
These are all signs that it’s time to suggest a refinishing of your client’s hardwood floors, to make sure that they stay in good shape and look good for years to come. However, if the floors have significant water damage, it would be best to advise your client that they need to replace the floors instead of refinishing them. Water damage will continue to erode and damage the wood over time, and will further infiltrate the space, and the floors won’t serve their purpose as they should any longer.
What does the process of refinishing hardwood floors entail?
Many clients will be tempted to try refinishing their hardwood floors on their own, to save money. However, we strongly advise everyone to hire a professional to handle the refinishing process. Otherwise, the hardwood floors might become damaged or thinned out too much, or the color/staining won’t come out as desired.
The process of refinishing hardwood floors is not as easy as it might seem. The floor needs to undergo preparation before the actual refinishing can take place, to avoid further damage. There are a lot of materials needed for the job, including a drum sander, a sanding belt, vacuums, stains, a topcoat, and other accessories. It can also be a messy process, so all the furniture and appliances will need to be removed from the space or protected with plastic sheeting.
When clients go the DIY route, they often fail to pay enough attention to the floor prep process. Depending on the condition of the hardwood flooring, the extent of the prep process will vary. Floors that show deep scratches or visible damage will require a lot more prep work and even some repairs, and these steps can take a lot of time and require more materials. Sanding the floors also needs to be done carefully, by a professional, to avoid thinning out the floorboards too much or achieving an uneven result.
How much does it cost to refinish hardwood floors?
According to research by HomeAdvisor, the typical price range when it comes to refinishing hardwood floors is between $1,074 and $2,485, with the national average in the U.S. at $1,757. Close to 80% of this cost is spent on labor, and the rest is spent on materials and accessories. Obviously, the total cost to refinish hardwood floors will depend on the size of the project, the type of flooring, the level of damage, and the materials required. You can also have extra costs if the project involves removing or replacing carpeting, moving furniture, and cleaning.
A homeowner might be thinking, ‘that sounds expensive, why don’t I just do it myself?’ A lot of clients think that refinishing hardwood flooring will be much more cost-effective if they just do it themselves. However, the actual price can be two to three times higher compared to a professional job, because the client will need essential items like sandpaper, drum sanders, edgers, nails, brushes, rollers, safety gear, cleaning materials, and many other things. Even if they decide to rent certain tools, it won’t be cheap: renting a drum floor sander, for example, can cost between $50 and $80 per day or up to $200 for a full weekend.
Refinishing hardwood floors takes a lot of work, and a lot of materials and tools, as well. The larger the working area and the more damaged the hardwood floor, the higher the final cost will be. Larger areas will require more prep time, and more materials, including more stain and topcoat. Prepping the floors can also be time-consuming, and often involves replacing damaged wood boards, removing furniture and carpeting, dusting and cleaning. Sanding hardwood floors can cost anywhere between $0.50 to $3 per square foot, and the process requires the use of large drum sanders and belt sanders around the edges. This usually has to be done several times to ensure that the flooring is smooth.
Staining hardwood floors can cost up to $3 per square foot, and prices can vary depending on the type of stain – lower-end stains are roughly $30 per gallon, while higher-end products can go for $100 per gallon. Some floors will need to be stained several times for best results, with a wait time of 24 hours between applications.
The next step of the finishing process involves the application of a topcoat, which is crucial to ensure durability and protection for hardwood flooring. Oil-based coating can hover between $20 to $50 per gallon, while water-based coating can vary from $25 and $50 per gallon. Once again, depending on the type of project and the extent of the damage, it might be necessary to apply more than just one layer of topcoat.
Hiring a professional is the most cost-effective option
These are just some of the costs of refinishing hardwood floors, excluding labor costs. The process might require extra materials, accessories, and special equipment, so doing it as a DIY project isn’t as simple as it might seem. The costs can often be much higher for a client who decides to handle the refinishing process by themselves. Hiring a professional is consequently the best, most efficient, and most cost-effective option. A professional job will also ensure that the floor is handled with care and protected from further damage, and that the hardwood will be in good shape for years and years to come.