A gorgeous room with hardwood floors really changes the look of your home while increasing its value. Hardwood floors can tip the scales when you’re shopping for a home, and it’s one of the top flooring options in terms of durability as well. While one of the more permanent types of flooring, it’s not without its faults although it’s easy to repair surface damage.
The cost to refinish hardwood floors is something you should know if you have scuffed up floors or are considering installing solid hardwood in your home. Our guide will let you know the cost of refinishing flooring and what to expect if you want to refinish them yourself or bring in a professional for the job.
Things to Consider Before Refinishing
Before we get to pricing or talk about floor refinishers, you need to think about the floors in your home. Do you know how thick the hardwood is? That’s a question most homeowners don’t consider, and it can dictate how much they can sand off of your hardwood floors. It’s also a good idea to think about whether those floors are truly solid hardwood or just a really convincing style of engineered flooring.
Most solid hardwood flooring is ¾” thick, and while it’s not visible, it has a wear layer. You can sand or refinish this type of flooring until you get close to the groove where the boards lock together. New solid hardwood can usually be refinished at least 4 to 6 times or more if it’s only a light sanding over the years.
It’s also important to consider the age of the flooring if the hardwood was there before you purchased the home – those floors could have been stained and sanded several times. It’s something that’s hard to tell without knowing the history of the house unless you’re experienced with refinishing hardwood flooring.
With engineered hardwood, it all depends on how thick the veneer or top layer is. In other words, proceed with caution if you’re going to do it yourself. You don’t want to sand any veneers thinner than 2mm, so be careful unless those engineered planks are thick.
Are your floors dull, scuffed, or damaged?
Once you’ve got an idea of how much you can take off your floors, it’s time to take a look at how damaged they are. While hardwood is tough, it can become dull and lifeless once the finish wears off. That’s typically 25 years, and a light sanding with a slick stain job is as simple as it gets.
Scuffs can be erased with a pass or two depending on the belt used in the machine, but major damage isn’t something a floor sander can fix with additional prep work. Cracks will need to be filled, and boards that are splintered or severely damaged should be replaced.
If your floors are just dull or a little scuffed up with some lights scratching, you may be able to handle things yourself. When boards are damaged, or you have issues with your subfloor, it’s usually better to call in a pro.
Cost Factors with DIY Floor Refinishing
When refinishing hardwood floors in your home yourself, it’s wise to consider the cost of everything that goes into the process. While the equipment and techniques used are comparable to a professional refinishing job, there are some things you’ll want to know before deciding to do it yourself.
Tools of the Trade
To refinish solid or engineered flooring, you are going to need a few hand tools. Most homeowners will own a hammer, but do you have a nail punch or pry bar handy?
You’ll need both of those items considering the baseboard will have to come up, and you’re going to have to set nails as well. On that note, if you can’t replace your baseboard, that can be a costly additional expense between $200 - $1500 depending on the style of the molding and size of the job.
Paint scrapers, dust masks, drop cloths, and rags are all easy to come by. Sandpaper is something you’ll need to pick up, however, along with any stain or finish you plan to use. Expect to spend a few hundred bucks on supplies of this nature at a minimum as a gallon of water-based polyurethane can cost around $20 to $50 a gallon. Stain is usually cheaper, but it all depends on how much you require and the quality of the product.
You can pick up a hammer or stain at any hardware store, and you may even have some supplies you can use for your refinishing project. What you won’t have on hand is a machine that can sand your flooring, and it’s not something you can do by hand unless you’ve been trained by an old-world artisan. That means you’ll require specialty tools from a rental service, which can become costly.
The first thing you’ll need is a walk-behind drum sander for flooring. These run between $50 to $70 per day to rent or around $250 to $300 per week. You will also need to buy sanding belts for the machine, a smaller orbital sander, or edger to into tight spots and a buffer to finish things off. While cheaper, you’re still looking at $30 per day or around $150 a week for small handheld sanders and buffers are priced similar to drum sanders.
Sanding flooring produces an extreme amount of dust, and indoors it can overwhelm you quickly. That’s where a good shop vac comes in handy. While it’s something you can rent, it’s a piece of equipment every homeowner should own, in our opinion. That said, a dust vacuum built for this type of work is the best solution, and those are around $20 to $30 per day.
A deposit will be required on tool rentals of any kind, but the prices we quoted will vary to a degree depending on the rental company. You should also understand that tools like buffers aren’t necessarily simple to use for beginners…
The last thing we want to discuss is time. As the old saying goes, time is money, and that’s true whether you hire a contractor to refinish your floors or handle all the work yourself.
While it’s difficult to give an accurate time frame on how long it takes to finish one room, you should expect it to take a day or more. If you are installing hardwood throughout an entire house, you’ll want to take the week off. Prep work can take add a considerable amount of time to the job as well if your flooring is in rough shape.
Consider the time it takes to move things around as well, like couches, refrigerators and anything else that will be in your way. You also have to take into account the drying time for top coats and stains. That can slow things down, and it can be several days to a week before you can set foot on the floors you just refinished.
Overall, you can expect to spend at least $200 to $500 on supplies if your flooring is in good shape. Tool rentals can be between $300 to $1000 depending on how long you need to rent the equipment and the number of tools required for the job.
Professional Hardwood Floor Refinishing Cost
Hiring a professional to refinish your flooring will be more expensive than doing it yourself. That said, you won’t have to deal with all the headaches that come with the job, and they can handle repairs that would be too tough for the typical homeowner.
The price of hiring a hardwood flooring refinisher largely depends on the condition of your floors. If you have old hardwood that’s been covered in carpet for decades, there’s going to be a lot of prep work involved. Carpet and other flooring materials that need to be removed will have to be hauled off, which will cost extra.
Working with harder woods can take extra time as well, along with exotic species that don’t take stain easily. Do you have stairs that need to be stained? That can get expensive as you could pay between $40 to $80 per tread to have those manually refinished. Furniture removal, clean up, and the size of the rooms can also increase the price although you can save some money by handling a few things yourself.
In most cases, a flooring refinisher will price the job by the square foot, but estimates generally include everything. Unfortunately, you’re not going to have much luck calling around and asking how much they charge per square foot either, although most companies are happy to come out and provide you with a free quote. This allows them to properly gauge the scope of the job and address any potential issues with you before giving you a price.
On average, we feel that $3 to $6 per square foot is a good guideline to go by when hiring a professional to refinish your hardwood flooring. A 1,500 square foot with floors in good shape may come out at around $4,500, but the price can rise to well over $8,000 if a lot of time and labor are involved. If you’re interested in hiring a pro, our tool will help you find estimates in your area.