Refinishing Or Replacing A Hardwood Floor: Which Is Best For You?

Installing a hardwood floor is one of the most important investments any homeowner can make. There is nothing quite as appealing as the look and feel of an original wooden floor. Not only does hardwood provide your home with notable aesthetic value, it also lasts a long time (in most cases up to 30 years).

As time goes by though, your hardwood floor will begin to show signs of ageing. The colour will begin to fade and it will start picking up scrapes and dents that show years of use. When you get to this point, you’re faced with two decisions: to refinish your hardwood floor or replace it.

There are different factors that can influence your decision to refinish or replace, as each solution has its strengths and advantages. Here are a few of them:

How old is your hardwood floor?

A quality hardwood floor can last for many years. This means that before you even consider replacing your hardwood floor, it must be really old. As hardwood is one of the most durable materials for floors, it can be refinished multiple times before you even think of replacing it. At the very least, it can be refinished five times during its life span before it needs to be replaced. If you consider that a quality hardwood floor is usually refinished every 20 years or more, you can tell how old yours should be before you begin to think of replacing it. Even if your floor is missing boards, it is simply a matter of replacing the missing boards and sanding, before refinishing the whole floor to give it a uniform look.

After a certain time though, there’s no longer any point refinishing your floor. At one stage or another, a replacement will be in order. Checking the age of your home will help you quickly determine if it’s time for a new one.

How bad is your hardwood floor?

There are rare cases where even though the hardwood floor isn’t old, it has suffered a lot of abuse due to footfall and lack of maintenance. In such scenarios, refinishing will not restore your floor; on the contrary, it will only expose the damage, wear and tear, dents and dirt that you’re trying to remove. If your hardwood floor has become significantly damaged, you’ll need to replace the entire thing. On really old or damaged floors, you can easily see where the boards come together, or that your floor lacks adequate thickness. All of these make your hardwood floor a candidate for replacement. However, if the damage is not too obvious (such as minor dents and stains) and you can see that the boards are not warped, then a refinishing will most likely give you the results you desire.

How much are you willing to spend?

Many homeowners would rather replace the hardwood floor completely, rather than bother with refinishing, even if the floor isn’t very old. There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as you have the money to pay for a new floor. As you can imagine, replacing your hardwood floor is a lot more expensive than refinishing. There are different costs to consider when it comes to replacement; these include the costs of new wood, labour, equipment and so on. Refinishing on the other hand involves only the cost of sanding, paint or stain used in refinishing. This is almost a fraction of the cost of a new floor.

If you have a limited budget, refinishing your hardwood floor will save you a lot of money, even if you want to restore the original appearance of your floor (despite it being very old).

What are you trying to achieve?

Before embarking on any home improvement project, your first step is to evaluate your expectations, so that you can know what can be realistically accomplished. If you simply want to fix your worn out hardwood floor, so that it returns to its original level of shine and luster, then a refinish is a suitable option. However, if your goal is to change the overall appearance of your floor, so that your home can have a refreshing new look, then you should consider replacing it. A complete replacement gives you the opportunity to change the wood type, design, colour and finish.

Certainly, knowing what you want before commencing the project will help determine the best solution for you.

How fast do you want the job done?

Firstly, refinishing or replacing your hardwood floor is not a DIY project, which means it’s not recommended to do it yourself. Because of the level of expertise required, you’ll need to find a professional who can do it for you. However, the time you’re willing to commit will also affect your choice of refinishing or replacement. Refinishing a hardwood floor can take anywhere from five days to one week to complete, while replacing a new hardwood floor takes much less time.

Additionally, refinishing is usually a messy business and is even more challenging if you already live in the home, as you may have to move out and look for somewhere else to stay during the refinishing process; this can result in serious logistical complications. On the other hand, replacing your hardwood floor with prefinished materials like engineered hardwood or laminated wood will take less time and involve less mess. Subsequently, you can move into your home faster than if you were refinishing.


Your hardwood floor will eventually need to be replaced -if not immediately, then sometime in the future. However, before it gets to that point, you can prolong the life of your floor by constantly maintaining, cleaning and polishing it. If your floor is made of solid hardwood, then ensure spills and moisture are taken care of immediately. Furthermore, to prolong the life of your hardwood floor, it’s a good idea to sand and refinish at least once every 20 years. However, make sure you engage the services of a professional, so that you don’t end up damaging your floor.

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