On this page:
- Estimating the Cost of Refinishing Hardwood Floors
- Is it Worth it to Refinish My Hardwood Floors?
- What Influences the Cost of Refinishing Hardwood Floors?
- What Details Make a Difference?
- Preparing for Your Refinishing Project
- Cost Comparisons
- Level of Difficulty
Hardwood remains one of the most popular flooring materials used in homes today. Part of its appeal comes from the option to refinish the flooring to restore its original appearance, adding to the longevity of an already long-lasting material. The process of refinishing most hardwood floors is fairly consistent, but there are a few details that could affect the cost to refinish hardwood floors.
Estimating the Cost of Refinishing Hardwood Floors
How It’s Priced
Most flooring work is priced by the square foot, so the overall surface area of your floor will be one of the main considerations in pricing the job. It is common to pay between $2.00 and $6.00 per square foot for typical refinishing, and the price per square foot is often less on large jobs than for a single, small room.
What to Expect
When a pro prepares an estimate or quote for refinishing your hardwood floors, he or she will need to take a firsthand look at the site in order to provide an accurate price for the job. In addition to measuring the area of the floor, a pro will check the overall condition of the flooring and determine the type of existing finish in order to plan for needed repairs and for the best preparation methods.
Is it Worth it to Refinish My Hardwood Floors?
When properly installed and maintained, a quality hardwood floor is a lifetime material. Although refinishing can be a pretty disruptive process, it can make flooring look like new, protect it from damage, and maintain or extend its lifespan. Refinishing is usually only necessary a few times in the life of a home, so it is generally worth the short term inconvenience to avoid the expense and difficulty of replacing an inferior material more frequently.
Hardwood flooring has a timeless quality that suits many design styles, but is infinitely customizable to suit any taste. Features like a custom inlay must be incorporated during installation in order to bring things up a notch, but refinishing presents an opportunity to change the character of a space without having to start over. Making a dramatic change with stain colors and techniques can reinvent a room without having to install a whole new floor.
Cost and Value
Hardwood flooring in generally good condition can usually be refinished for a fraction of the cost of installing new hardwood flooring. For the price of replacing hardwood with new wood or tile, a homeowner could probably afford to refinish the existing hardwood two or three times. Additionally, hardwood is generally considered an upgrade item, so maintaining what you have could increase the value of your home when compared to replacing it with inferior flooring.
What Influences the Cost of Refinishing Hardwood Floors?
Location and Labor
Your location and the type of professionals available to refinish your hardwood floors may have quite a bit of influence on the cost of the job. In urban and high-cost areas it is common for labor expenses to be higher than in less populated or expensive places. However, in denser areas you may have a wider selection of professional refinishers to choose from, and since the focus of their business is specialized their rates are often more affordable than those of a carpenter, installer, or other contractor who isn’t setup to do this type of work on a daily basis.
Methods and Materials
A full refinishing of hardwood flooring involves sanding the surface of the boards to remove the existing protective finish and stain and to even out scratches and minor blemishes. With the surface smooth and clean, new stain and clear coat can be applied to make the floor look like new.
In some cases, when the flooring and finish are both in good condition, the surface may simply be cleaned, scuff sanded, and recoated to restore its appearance. If recoating is an option for your floor, it may cost considerably less than refinishing; as low as $1.00 to $3.00 per square foot.
What Details Make a Difference?
Since floor refinishing is priced by the square foot, the size of the job will naturally influence the bottom line. However, the price doesn’t always increase proportionately with the size of the floor. Since accessibility and setup can make working in small spaces more challenging, it’s common for a pro to charge more per foot to refinish a small room than for a larger one, or for multiple rooms in the same home.
Condition and Existing Finish
The condition of the floor and the type and hardness of the existing finish can affect the time and materials needed to prep it for a new finish. If extensive repairs are required to get the floor back in good shape, or if the use of solvents or extra time is needed to remove its finish, the job could cost considerably more than if standard sanding is all that is needed to get the floor ready for the application of stain or polyurethane.
Level of Preparation
In addition to the wood itself, the condition of the room may be an issue when pricing your refinishing project. While prepping the surface to accept a new finish is a typical part of the process, removing furniture or other belongings from the room is not, so you may pay extra for a pro to do the heavy lifting. Similarly, if your refinishing project involves removing carpeting, the added work to take out and dispose of the carpet, pad, tack strips, and staples could add $1.00 or more per square foot to the job.
Access and Layout
If the layout of your home is complex or if accessibility is limited, refinishing floors can take more time and manual work than if the work areas are large, wide open, and adjacent. Refinishing floor with several corners, closets, or unusual features is more difficult than in large, straight areas where a large sander can be used. Additionally, refinishing stairs is often priced separately from flooring, with costs typically ranging from $20 to $50 per step.
Finish and Features
The new finish and details you choose for your hardwood floor will affect the cost of both time and materials. The number of coats of stain or protective finish applied will be significant, and the incorporation of special features like a border or other custom staining can quickly increase the scope and cost of the job.
Preparing for Your Refinishing Project
Know Your Options
It is important to know what type of flooring you have in order to choose an appropriate and effective method for refinishing. For example, laminate and some engineered flooring products cannot be refinished at all, while other engineered floors can be sanded up to three or four times before their wear layer is compromised.
Solid wood floors can be refinished more times than most engineered products, but even they can be permanently damaged after too many trips with a sander. Likewise, depending on the finish and condition of your flooring, recoating may be a viable and more affordable alternative to complete refinishing. If you don’t know the history of your floors, get a few professional opinions and recommendations before choosing a refinishing method.
Do What You Can
Refinishing hardwood flooring is a bit of an art, but even if you leave the specialized work to an expert, you may be able to pitch in to save on the cost of the job. Emptying the room of furniture and removing carpeting ahead of time will let the pros get straight to work and save you from paying $25 to $60 per man hour to do the extra tasks. If you need a hand with that type of prep work, you can probably hire a handyman instead and still come out ahead.
Refinishing hardwood floors is a time consuming, dusty, and relatively smelly job. Also, since drying time is required to make sure your floor has a strong and durable finish, you may not be able to use the area for a few days. Be sure to plan ahead for the logistics of navigating around the work area or staging displaced furniture, if necessary.
|$800 - $1,000||$1,100 - $1,400||$1,550 - $2,600|
While there are a several details that might affect the cost of refinishing a hardwood floor in your home, our examples may help you get started. In each scenario below, a full sanding and refinishing of 200 square feet of solid oak flooring is assumed.
Just Freshening Up: $800 - $1,000
- • Site Prep: The perfect time to refinish a floor is before moving in; scheduling this job while the house is empty makes it simple for the pros to get in and set to work.
- • Floor Prep: With no special preparation or repairs required, this job is straightforward and uncomplicated.
- • Services and Features: Working in a wide, open area makes the work uncomplicated, and with services limited to sanding and the application of three coats of polyurethane, it is a relatively quick job.
A New Look: $1,100 - $1,400
- • Site Prep: Working in an occupied home is always a little tougher than in an empty one, and having a pro move furniture and other items out of the work area adds some time and about $150 in labor charges to the job.
- • Floor Prep: This floor needs a little TLC before applying the finish. Replacing a few damaged boards and filling surface blemishes adds about $200 to the bottom line.
- • Services and Features: Prior to the application of the standard three coats of polyurethane, this floor will receive a coat of stain to give it a whole new look. The extra time and material adds $150 to $250 to the tab. Working in a room with a closet makes the job a little more complex as well.
Uncovering a Gem: $1,550 - $2,600
- • Site Prep: Leaving the heavy lifting to the pros on this job tacks about $100 on the bill.
- • Floor Prep: In order to restore this floor to its original beauty, a pile of old carpeting must be removed first, along with hundreds of staples and many lengths of tack strips. The extra work is tedious, and adds $300 or more to the total.
- • Services and Features: This project is more time consuming and complex than a standard floor, as it includes a stairway and narrow hall and much of the work is done manually.
Level of Difficulty
Refinishing hardwood flooring requires an advanced level of skill and the use of power tools that can easily damage your floors if not handled properly. If you are equipped to do the job on your own you can save a tidy sum on the cost of an expert’s labor, but it takes considerable experience to get a professional finish.