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Refinishing vs Installing New Hardwood Floors

Refinishing vs installing new hardwood floors is the question that hardwood floor owners will have to ask themselves when their floors are looking badly worn. Over time, even the most beautiful hardwood floor will show signs of wear and tear and it’s time to consider the advantages and disadvantages of refinishing vs. installing new hardwood floors.  Apart from its beauty, the best feature of hardwood floors is that they can be refinished, however, it’s not always the most cost-effective option.

Before considering our options, it’s always good to

Know What Kind of Floor You Have

West Coast Floor Co, Vallejo CA
hardwood and engineered hardwood

Is it solid hardwood or engineered? To find out open a floor vent and take a look at a cut edge of the flooring material or remove a plank from the floor from a closet or other hidden place.

Are you looking at a solid plank that is one type of wood about ¾ to 1” thick? In this case, you are looking at a hardwood floor. On the other hand, if you are looking at layers with a strip of thin veneer on top, you are looking at engineered hardwood, which typically cannot be refinished because you only have a thin layer of wood veneer to work with.

You can always take the plank to a flooring business if you are not sure.

Know the Extent of the Damage

Take a good hard look at your floor. Better yet, let a professional look at the damage. How deep are the scratches, dents, and gauges? Are there signs of water damage, mold, or planks that have buckled? In that case, it may be time to shop for a new floor.  If only a small area is damaged one could consider replacing just a few boards and have a seasoned craftsman match the new boards to the rest of the floor.

If your hardwood floor only has surface damages all it may need is just a little TLC. If that is the case you can read an article we posted on how to care for hardwood floors on our website.

If after a proper cleaning your hardwood floor you are still unsatisfied with how it looks, you might want to consider the

Pros and Cons of Floor Replacement

Here are some reasons you may want to choose to replace vs refinish your hardwood floor.

  • A new look. It affords you the option to choose some of the latest styles and technologies.
  • The floor has been extensively damaged by moisture, mold, or pet stains. These are issues that can’t be fixed with refinishing.
  • The ability to have access to your space almost immediately upon completion. Many people successfully live in their home during the project.

Pros and Cons of Refinishing

West Coast Floor Co  Vallejo, CA
hardwood floor refinishing
Photo by West Coast Floor Co

Refinishing, on the other hand, is messy because one first needs to strip off all the layers – including the stain right down to the bare wood – so that new stain and layers of protective coatings can be reapplied.

Hardwood refinishing should be done in accordance with the NWFA sanding procedures to ensure the finished for is of high quality.

A good floor refinisher can fix many blemishes, such as minor dents, gouges, and scratches, and even replace problem planks that can be stained to blend in with the rest of the floor.

A big plus to refinishing is that you get to keep the floor you love. And if you want a clean finish, update the color, change the texture, or to just have it restored, refinishing is definitely the way to go.

Refinishing can bring a floor back to its former glory but there are also limitations, such as

  • Water damage, split or buckling planks cannot be sanded away.  Those planks will have to be replaced.
  • Stay in your home if you suffer from breathing problems and are sensitive to dust* and fumes. Depending on the cure times of the finish products used, you may not have access to the space again for several days or more.
  • Refinishing a floor is a noisy, dirty, dusty, and smelly process.
  • You can only sand down a floor so many times before it’s compromised. If you aren’t sure how much life it has left, call in a professional to give you an assessment.
  • There are some floors that should not be refinished. Some of these include most engineered floors, floors that have been previously refinished, some bamboo floors, or floors finished with aluminum oxide.
  • Floors still under warranty. Refinishing or screening** will void the manufacturer’s warranty.
West Coast Floor Co, Vallejo CA
dust containment
Photo by West Coast Floor Co

*Dust containment is a hot topic for many of our customers and we do everything we can to properly contain dust by investing in dust containment equipment including the top of the line vacuum system. The vacuum system is the best on the market for dust control. Traditional sanding machines and vacuums are inside your home and require bags to be removed which introduces unnecessary dust. We are 99% dust-free. 

Hardwood flooring changes constantly and we have seen some big advancements in the finishes in the last 20 years. Water-based finishes eliminate many of the drawbacks of other finishes while still providing durability. High-quality water-based and UV products have lower V.O.C.’s which reduce smells greatly. V.O.C.s can be harmful to your health and flooring finishes can gas off for 60 days while UV and water-based products generally only gas off for 2-36 hours. The lifespan is also improved and maintenance coats are needed every 5-8 years. 

** Screening is a process that only buffs off the top of the finish layer to get rid of surface damage, then a new protective coating is applied.


Costs associated with refinishing vs installing new hardwood floors can vary. Refinishing might seem to be the most cost-effective option but that is not always the case.

For basic sand and refinishing project you can expect to pay anywhere from $2-$5 per square foot. If your floor is in bad condition, needs planks replaced, requires an upgrade of the finish, or other repairs, the cost will go up. Moving of furniture, and removal and replacement of baseboards would increase the cost.

You can expect to pay more if you choose to replace your hardwood floors. The hardwood flooring material can cost $2 and up per square foot plus labor averaging at $3 to $5 to install the wood. The removal of the old floor, furniture moving, removing, and reinstalling baseboards is not included.

Additional charges would be applied to trims, transitions, and underlayment, and can vary as well.

In Conclusion

If you want to rejuvenate the old floors in a cost-effective way, refinishing vs replacing is an obvious choice. On the other hand, if your floor shows signs of damage that are beyond repair, or you don’t want to deal with the mess associated with refinishing, or you want a new look, installing a new floor would be your option. With so many beautiful flooring products to choose from, you will not have any problem finding one that will fit within your budget.

If you’re still not sure which way to go – refinishing vs installing new hardwood floors – reach out to us and schedule an in-home design consultation appointment to get a professional’s opinion of what would be your best solution.