Hardwood floors offer natural strength and durability, making them a solid choice for homeowners who prefer low-maintenance materials. Despite wood's strength, however, it can develop scratches, dents and worn spots after years of frequent use and abuse. Refinishing -- a process where the floor is sanded and recoated -- can eliminate these signs of wear and restore a floor to its former glory, but when it comes to refinishing, not all floors are created equal. Check out these tips to see whether your floor can be refinished, or whether it may be time for a replacement.
Solid hardwood represents the gold standard in wood flooring. Around 95 percent of the time, a hardwood floor can be repaired and refinished without incident. You should not attempt to refinish a hardwood floor with serious structural defects, or one with lots of movement between the boards. If your floor is so worn down that many of the nails are showing, or the tongue-and-groove connectors are broken, your floor probably needs to be replaced rather than refinished. As a rule of thumb, a typical 3/4 inch thick wood floor can be refinished a total of 6 to 8 times.
Some wood floors may look like solid hardwood, but are actually made from engineered wood. This material consists of a real wood wear layer bonded to a plywood base. Because it's real wood, it can usually be refinished, but since it's thinner than solid hardwood flooring, refinishing may be limited by the thickness of the wear layer. Engineered wood with a 1 mm wear layer can't be refinished, while a 2 mm wear layer allows for 1 to 2 rounds of refinishing. Wear layers measuring 3 mm allow for 2 to 3 rounds of refinishing, while a 4 mm wear layer can be refinished 3 to 5 times. Check the product data or consult the manufacturer of your floor if you're not sure of the wear layer thickness.
Laminate floors may look like wood, but contain no actual hardwood, and cannot be refinished. Instead, the best option for these floors is to simply replace worn out planks individually, or replace the entire floor as needed.
If you've examined your floors and determined that refinishing is an option, call in the pros, such as J Maintenance Co; this is not a DIY job. Plan to spend between $1.50 and $4.00 per square foot depending on the condition of your floor. Refinishing contractors will sand and clean the floor, fix any loose fasteners or damaged planks, then stain and/or seal the floor.
If your wood or engineered floors can't be refinished because they are too thin or old, consider screening them instead. This process, which costs $1 to 2 per square foot, involves removing the existing polyurethane without sanding the wood, then applying a new coat of sealer to restore lost luster and reduce the signs of surface damage and wear.