So, your hardwood floors are starting to look a little scuffed, scratched and scarred, huh? Maybe your dog’s claws have done a number in certain places. Perhaps your kids have spilled things that can’t be fully cleaned up. Or perhaps moving furniture around has left deep divots in certain spots.

Now you have a decision. Is it worth redoing your hardwood floors? Or is it time to bite the bullet and fully replace your flooring.

Cost is most likely the most important factor. How much does it cost to refinish hardwood floors? And how much does it cost to replace hardwood floors? And then ask yourself one last question: How long will refinished hardwood floors last after refinishing?

After all, you want to get the most value possible out of a project like this. To help you determine what the “value” decision for your home is going to be, here’s our look at the cost to refinish hardwood floors and the cost to replace hardwood floors — plus a few thoughts on trying to do it yourself.


Average Costs to Refinish vs. Replace Hardwood Floors

The average cost to refinish hardwood floors is $3–$4 a square foot. Of course, the price is going to vary based on your unique circumstances. Ask the following questions to get a more precision figure:

  • Are you refinishing or just recoating? Refinishing is more expensive than just recoating.
  • What’s the total square footage for refinishing? You may be able to get a lower price per square foot for larger projects.
  • What condition is your floor currently in? Floors in poor condition will cost more than floors in fair condition.
  • How many coats will your floor require? The more coats, the higher the price.
  • What quality of finish or coating do you want? The better quality you choose in finish or coating, the more you’re going to pay.

Also, refinishing wood on stairs and/or removing carpet or other flooring will also raise the price.

What about replacing hardwood floors instead? At minimum, the full cost of installation (all labor and materials) is going to run $8 at a minimum per square foot, and more likely $10 or more per square foot.


What Does the Refinishing Process Involve?

Refinishing hardwood floors is an arduous process that involved 4 steps:

  1. Prep: Getting the floors ready by repairing damages, cleaning thoroughly and removing particles and moisture.
  2. Sand: The existing hardwoods must be ground down to the point where blemishes are gone and the floor is as even as possible.
  3. Stain: Once your floor is perfectly even and free from blemishes, it’s going to need an attractive stain. This is the wood-like appearance that you’re used to seeing from quality flooring.
  4. Finish: A protective coat is added to preserve and protect the hardwoods from the rigors of serving as flooring.

Thinking about doing it yourself? Well, more power to you. The prep and finishing portions of the project aren’t too tough. But you should count the cost of sanding and staining before passing on the pros and turning this into a DIY weekend project.


Sanding Your Own Hardwood Floors

Sanders are heavy — typically 100 pounds or more. And they tend to move like they have minds of their own. If you’ve never used one, it’s going to take you a while to get used to navigating this heavy piece of machinery.

What makes sanding even tougher is achieving evenness. After you’ve sanded, it may look like you’ve done an outstanding job. But, after you’ve stained your floor, the many imperfections and uneven areas are impossible to miss.

Trust me when I tell you. I’ve learned from experience.


Staining Your Own Hardwood Floors

If you’ve never stained before, don’t use oil-based products. Getting oil-based products to look good on floors requires experience, patience and an incredibly even hand. And, in extreme cases, the mishandling of oily rags can lead to a fire.

Choose an acrylic stain instead. But acrylic stains require experience patience and an even hand, too, even if they go on easier than oil-based stains.

Staining with any product requires evenness, just like sanding. If you don’t stain evenly, your floor is going to have tons of different shades — dark spots, light spots and spots somewhere in between. Needless to say: This isn’t a good look.


Should You Do it Yourself?

I wouldn’t recommend it. Hardwood flooring can make or break your home’s value. Good flooring can help attract a premium price, while poorly installed, sanded or stained flooring can sink your sales price.

I don’t do hardwood flooring on my own. This is one area where I call in the experts. But, if you do try it, make sure to check the following boxes:

  • Learn how to use the sander before you get started.
  • Test your sanding and staining on a small portion of the floor that’s hard to see.
  • Work slowly at all times — going too fast creates many more mistakes.


Final Thoughts on Refinishing Hardwood Floors

What’s going the best value for your home? That’s the real question to ask and answer. If you feel like a refinished floor is going to give you more good years and deliver greater value, go for it. If you feel like a full replacement is the best path, then take it.

Just make sure that you get the job done in a professional way whether you choose refinishing or replacement. Flooring is so important to your home’s value. A poor job is going to lose you money at resale, while a quality job is going to help you maximize your sales price.

Have you tried refinishing floors? If so, let us know about your experience in the comments section below. Or, use our contact page to send us a message directly.