When to Refinish Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are popular for their durability and timelessness. After all, some of the oldest homes in the country, dating back to early colonial times, still have their original hardwood floors. Hardwood floors are probably the only flooring choice that can grow to look better with age.

But just like with people, aging gracefully takes some work and regular upkeep. That might mean frequent deep cleaning, lots of moisturizer, staying out of the sun and the occasional nip and tuck. I'm talking about hardwood floors, not your face.

Even the hardiest of hardwood floors will begin to look a bit ragged after years of wear and tear. You'll know when they've crossed over from "well-worn" to "worn-out." Refinishing hardwood floors is as inevitable as death and taxes.

Refinishing hardwood floors should be a last resort because it can be done too often. Some hardwood floors are solid wood that can be refinished many times throughout their long life. But most newer floors are engineered flooring with only a thin veneer of finished wood. Engineered floors can only be refinished two or three times at most before they need replacing. Ironically, they generally need refinishing more often than traditional hardwood floors.

If your floor is marred by surface scratches and fading, it may just need a deep cleaning and one coat of finish. Spot repairs can be made to cracks and holes, or you can leave them as marks of character.

If the scratches are deeper, if dirt and grime are deeply embedded and the grain has lost its richness, then refinishing is in order. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, refinishing hardwood floors is a big job that may take up to a week from start to finish. You'll need to remove all the furniture from the room, drape plastic over all doors, windows, built-in cabinetry and divert all foot traffic from the area.

So before you undertake a floor refinishing project, give your floors a close inspection to determine if a light refurbishment can be done instead-or if they're too far gone and need replacement. If you decide to proceed with refinishing, clear your calendar for the week ahead and start clearing the room.

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