Wood Floor Refinishing: 5 Things to Know


Wood floors look great and are quite durable. However, the finish will eventually get damaged and worn down from normal wear and tear. Some examples of wear and tear include walking on wood floors with shoes, spilling water on the wood and dogs running across the floor.

Once the finish has worn off, you will need to have a contractor refinish the wood to keep it looking good. Neglecting to refinish your wood floor may result in costly or even permanent damage to your wood floor.

Here are five things to know about wood floor refinishing before your next refinishing project.

Find the right contractor

Refinishing floors is a very specialized task that requires the use of very specialized equipment to do it properly. It also has a low margin for error, which makes it very easy to mess up a floor with one minor mistake. Finding the right contractor is especially important when refinishing your floor.

wood floor paint image

The best way to find a contractor for wood floor refinishing is through a referral. Once you do pick a contractor, you should check references from previous customers and ask to see a few examples of their work. Any contractor that does respectable work will have no problem giving references or showing previous work.

Also, if the contractor has an NWFA Certified Sand and Finisher designation that is a definitive positive. An NWFA Certified Sand and Finisher designation requires two years of refinishing experience and passing a sanding and finishing test.

Finding the right contractor is one of the most important parts of refinishing your wood floor. A good contractor will explain all the steps involved in the refinishing process and answer any questions you may have.

You might not need a refinishing

Did you know you might not even need a refinishing? Your contractor will explain this further if this applies to your floor. If the finish of the floor hasn’t completely worn off, then you might not even need to get your floor refinished.

wood floor maintenance image

This process is called a maintenance coat, and it can save you a lot of money and time. For a maintenance coat, the contractor will simply sand the wood floor and then add a polyurethane coat to the top. A full refinishing involves removing wood with a drum sander, which a contractor can only do about six times before there is no wood left to sand. A maintenance coat does not remove any wood, which means there is no limit to the amount of maintenance coats a wood floor can have done to it.

Further than that, your floor may not even require a maintenance coat. Dust and dirt will often pile onto the floor and make it look dull after about a year. If this applies to your floor, then you will simply need a deep clean of your wood floor to make it look new again.

Knowing whether a wood floor needs a refinish, a maintenance seal, or a deep clean is oftentimes hard to know for the average homeowner. A reputable wood refinishing professional will know the difference and will recommend the best choice for you.

The color may change

If you have your floor refinished, then the color of the floor may change. The color may not change because it depends on whether your floor has staining or not. If it does have staining, then the refinishing will remove the stain and the color.

wood floor color change image

If you want to keep the current color of your floor, then ask your contractor if they can stain your floor to the original color. Most contractors will offer this service, but keep in mind that it could cost an additional 30%-50% of the project. The contractor can also stain the wood to a completely different color. Homeowners will often do this if they do not like the current color of their floor.

Remember, a maintenance coat does not remove any significant amount of wood and will therefore not change the color of your floor.

The color of your wood changing is just one of those things to keep in mind before you have your floor refinished. You do not want to unexpectedly have your floor change from a dark color to a light color.

You might have to move out

The floor cannot be walked on during the refinishing process. If your whole house requires refinishing, then you will likely have to move out. Even if only some of your house needs to be refinished, then you still might want to move out for at least one day. The polyurethane smells very bad, and the drum sander makes a lot of noise.

empty home with wood floor image

Most people will move out of their house for at least one day during the refinishing process. Often that day will be the day when the contractor sands your floor down as that day involves the most noise and disruption. The rest of the days usually involve waiting for the polyurethane to fully dry and not stepping on the floor.

The total time it takes for refinishing a wood floor will vary. You can usually expect five to seven days for a refinishing job and three to five days for a maintenance job. You can expect an extra day for refinishing if you want the contractor to stain your floor.

The time estimates are just estimates. The actual time it takes will depend on the contractor and the size of the area you need refinished. The most important thing to remember is that refinishing a wood floor will take even the most experienced contractors more than one day. The sanding process might take one day, but the drying will take longer than a day. You simply cannot call a contractor and expect to have a wood floor fully refinished in one day.

Make sure to account for this time and expense before agreeing to have your wood floor refinished.

Not all wood floors can be refinished

Some wood floors just cannot be refinished. This mostly applies to older wood floors in older homes that have been refinished too many times. Removing any more wood from an older floor, the process involved in refinishing a floor, will result in permanent damage to the floor. A contractor cannot refinish brittle wood due to the likelihood it will crack during the process.

old wood floor image

The damage that could result from refinishing these types of floors could be spots where no wood remains, which would make the foundation visible. No homeowner wants a wood floor that has spots with visible foundation. Thankfully, no reputable contractor would attempt to refinish a floor in that type of condition.

The good news is that most modern homes can still have their floors refinished.

In the unfortunate case that your wood floor cannot be refinished, then a maintenance coat can usually be applied to the floor. When the contractor inspects your floor they should let you know the best course of action.

Final Thoughts

Having your floor refinished is a large project and will require some degree of planning before moving forward with the project. Choosing a contractor is the most important step in this whole process.

A good contractor should tailor the project to your needs and wants. They will also have the knowledge to answer any question you might want to ask them. Knowing that you might not need a refinishing is one thing that not many homeowners will know about, but a good contractor will point you in the right direction.

Finally, knowing that you might have to move out of your home for a week will definitely save you from any unexpected headaches or possible conflicts.

Overall, refinishing a floor is a relatively simple and routine household project, but knowing exactly what it involves will hopefully save you time and money.

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