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Refinish or replace: which is better for a hardwood floor?

Some factors worth considering include the state of the wood, budget restrictions, age of the flooring, and flooring preference.

Installing hardwood floor
Photo by alacatr from Getty Images Signature on Canva
Photo by alacatr from Getty Images Signature on Canva

This article is Sponsored Content by Hardwood Planet

Replacing or refinishing hardwood floors is a personal decision. However, some factors worth considering to make an informed decision include the state of the wood, budget restrictions, age of the flooring, and flooring preference.

Budget Range

The cost of refinishing hardwood flooring differs from that of replacement. Installing new flooring material costs more than refinishing the existing one. It also involves more labour, especially in a bigger room. The process is also more complicated because it involves various steps, such as removing the old flooring material, shopping around for new flooring, and acquiring all the additional materials for a successful installation.

Refinishing is a better option for homeowners on a tight budget, especially if the floor is significantly new. You can tackle specific floor sections instead of a whole room. However, the time and effort it takes to complete such tasks also matter. Sometimes replacement is quicker when the process is more straightforward than refinishing planks surrounded by others. You may not use the room as the refinishing process continues, which could take up to one week. Professional installers could take shorter with the new flooring material.

Repetitive refinishing can also be burdensome. You could end up procrastinating the task until the damage becomes too extensive, increasing the repair costs significantly.

Longevity of the flooring material

Hardwood is naturally long-lasting, but more problems can arise as the material nears its lifespan. However, that is not a big problem because refinishing can give the floor a fresh look. Sanding, sealing, or staining are refinishing alternatives that can produce excellent results by giving the floor a brand-new appearance.

Although the best maintenance solutions for a longer-lasting hardwood floor have many benefits, they also have disadvantages worth considering. For example, sanding for longer durations can wear down the wood, making it too thin and vulnerable to damage. That means there is a limit to refinishing – too much can interfere with the structural integrity, causing regular damages like cracking.

If the floor is old, a replacement can be a cost-efficient and durable solution. Some old floors have extensive damage, translating to pointless repair attempts. Examples include structural damage that affects the frames, warping, chipping, termite infestation, or missing planks on a larger floor area. Wiggling floors can also signify underneath issues that require inspection. Refinishing is not economical if the damage is more than 30%.

Note: Most hardwood floor problems arise from poor installation, especially issues that manifest within one year after placement. An example of such problems is cupping, whereby the edges of the wood planks rise, and the middle part dips down. The issue is common in houses with excess moisture problems underneath. The planks absorb the water and expand, causing the edges to lift. Proper sealing during flooring installation can prevent cupping. If the issue presents in a small section of the room, replacing the few affected planks and installing an effective vapour barrier can suffice. Otherwise, you have to replace the entire room. Unmitigated moisture issues can also present as crowning, where the wood dips in the middle and rises along the edges. Sometimes crowning occurs if you sand cupped planks. Failure to address the underneath water problem results in recurrence.

Improper nailing can also cause cracks and chips on the wood regardless of its lifespan. Failure to use cleats, the correct nail gun, or too much pressure on the planks can cause them to crack. Replacing or refinishing the wood depends on when you notice the problem and the extent of the damage. If other planks surround the damaged one, making successful removal impossible, consider rejuvenation measures to sort it out.

Flooring preferences

Another common reason for changing the flooring instead of revamping it is the wood species. Most homes have oak because of its unique graining, but that may not be your preference. Preference can also depend on the functionality of the room. For instance, you may want a flooring material that is more resistant to moisture in a room with high humidity to reduce the chances of warping and other water-related problems.

The only solution would be to buy and install different wood types. Since you cannot replace specific floor sections, you must plan for the whole room. Other wood types you may come across include solid hardwood that can last at least twenty years with minimal to no maintenance, engineered hardwood that has layered wood and is the most versatile, and softwood from cedar, or pine, among others. Each wood type and specie has pros and cons you should consider before using it as a replacement.  

Replacing the floor is not always mandatory, even where preference is the point of reference. The existing flooring and the type you want can influence you to refinish instead of replace. For instance, you can stain the existing hardwood floor with a different colour to get the same aesthetics you desire. Weigh all possible options instead of rushing into a replacement. However, refinishing cannot work if you want to rearrange the wood grain structure or get a different plank size for a more modern finish. You may prefer bigger width to give the room the illusion of being big or align the floor with the interior decor.

Tip: Laying hardwood planks aslant can make smaller rooms appear bigger while maintaining visual interest. The layout attracts attention along the longest side of the room. If that is your intention, you will have to reinstall the wood.

To refinish or to replace?

Personal circumstances, including the factors above, should guide you in choosing between replacing and refinishing. Weigh the merits and demerits of each one as you include possible future implications. For example, refinishing the floors can be a cheaper option if you are relocating to a new property. You can also consult professionals for further guidance if unsure of the best choice.

The tips and details above are provided by Hardwood Planet, the reputable flooring manufacturer and distributor in Canada, with expert knowledge in various flooring material types. Visit Hardwood Planet for more information.

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