Your Hardwood Floors - Time to Repair? Refinish or Replace?

Your Hardwood Floors - Time to Repair? Refinish or Replace?

Tired of squeaks and creaks? Scratches and gouges? Ripples and warps? Maybe you’re getting ready to sell your house. Or has the situation become so bad with that old floor, you’re starting to lose your coins and jewelry down the cracks?

If you’re like many people, maybe you’re probably just ready for a change of scenery. Nothing revives your office or living environment like a professionally installed floor.

It’s easy to forget how important floors are to the overall look and feel of our homes. When we think about remodeling or redecorating, we tend to think about windows, lighting, and paint first. However, for defining the dominant mood and, more importantly, establishing the feeling and comfort of a room, it’s the floor which really does all the heavy lifting.

Floors Anchor Your Design

Your floor anchors the entire experience of a room and sets the mood. Everything else above the floor builds on that foundation. Lighting, windows, paint color, and furniture all get the attention and are certainly easier to change around than flooring. As design elements, however, they can only really complement – or detract from – what your floor has already decided the room is going to feel like.

When it’s installed correctly and of sufficient quality, your floor is going to be around for a very long time. Considering that along with how much your floor influences the feel of your home or office, flooring options should be your primary focus at the beginning of any home remodeling or renovation project.

Before You Pick Your Colors…

Here’s a practical tip for getting started: When you first start imagining that remodeled kitchen or living room, try to picture it without any furniture in it at all – ideally just four walls and a floor. This is a lot easier if you are moving into a new place, of course, but try to do it either way. If possible, go ahead and move those tables, couches, and lamps temporarily into the next room (always be sure to use good quality furniture sliders, please!), so you can focus on the most important element of your remodel – your floor.

Consult with an Expert

Eventually as your project takes shape, schedule time to look at that same bare room along with an experienced flooring consultant who can share industry knowledge and tips for coordinating with the rest of your interior design plans.

While you’re getting started, however, it’s important to gather your own ideas and develop a sense of the room you’ve always wanted. Don’t hesitate to give us a call during the earlier concept stages of your project. It helps us get you the best possible floor, and you’ll learn a lot about design in the process.

A competent flooring contractor’s knowledge extends beyond the important structural considerations like acceptable humidity range, joist movement, and foot traffic tolerance. After seeing thousands of finished rooms over a lifetime, an experienced installer possesses the thorough and detailed understanding of what works and why.

For instance, our knowledgeable and courteous sales consultants can help you with flooring design ideas and questions like:

  • How the width of hardwood strips affects the perceived size and intimacy of your room.
  • Whether you should consider a diagonal run pattern in certain rooms to create the illusion of size, or stick with conventional.
  • How penetrating finishes (eg, tung oil) compare to surface finishes (urethanes, eg) when exposed to natural sunlight.

Repair, Refinish, or Replace?

So, when should you consider repairing or refinishing your floors instead of a total replacement? It’s not always the case, but in our experience, homeowners and designers tend to get ahead of themselves on this question. Often, they assume their old wooden floors are just too dinged up, scratched, warped and bent to be good for anything besides the scrap heap.

Now, I’m going to disclose a secret here. Truth be told, we actually make a little more money when a homeowner decides they want to replace all their floors instead of fixing and refinishing their old ones. We simply put more labor into resurfacing and refinishing than we do when installing new materials.

So, it might surprise you that more often than not, we actually recommend taking the restoration route instead of replacement. Why would we do such a thing? There are good arguments for doing it both ways, and we help our customers understand those, but for us it boils down to the sheer beauty of the final product. That and we just hate seeing perfectly redeemable old wood just tossed out before its time.

As sought-after flooring contractors for remodels of historic registry homes throughout the Southeast, we have seen time and again how a little expert T.L.C. and some of today’s amazing finishes can bring aged and antique wood floors back to better-than-new. All else being equal, a professionally resurfaced and refinished older wood floor can surpass just about anything you can purchase new today.

Here are a few practical tips to keep in mind when making your choice:

When to Repair

Did you know even an older wood floor with broken, warped, or missing pieces can almost always be mended and blended back together without any noticeable difference between the old work and new?

Don’t tear it all out before you consult with a competent and qualified flooring contractor who can fix those gaps, gouges, and burn spots without anyone knowing the difference. Your remodeling budget will thank you.

  • Repair strips matching your exact wood floor species, density, and color can almost always be obtained from our suppliers. Any unique or specialty pieces are easily manufactured with custom milling.
  • Repairing creaking or squeaky floors is possible but typically involves more than just tightening up the floorboards and adding nails. Often, but not always, floor noise has to do with your subfloor, movement in your joists, or expired underlayment. In these cases, we’ll carefully take up your old floor, have a look at the underlying problem, and put it all back together like nobody was ever there.
  • Not everything can be repaired. Problems like serious water damage, mold, or termite infestation means it’s time to head on over to the showroom to look at new floor samples!

When to Refinish

Most older wood floors can be refinished with sanding, staining, and sealing at least 6-7 times before they get too thin. And, a typical solid wood strip floor only needs to be resurfaced every 15-20 years. So, at a minimum, that means that hard-working floor isn’t even thinking about retirement until it’s past 100 years of service. We’ve done plenty of jobs on 150 year old floors that give today’s latest flooring materials a run for their money.

  • Refinishing is almost always more cost-effective vs carpet or any other new floor replacement.
  • A professionally refinished floor will almost always provide more value and appeal in a home sale than new wood flooring or alternate coverings.
  • Remember, you don’t have to replace to recolor. Today’s advanced finishes can take a freshly sanded older wood floor any color and style direction you want to go. Ebony, white-washed, natural, red mahogany, weathered oak—you name it. It will work.
  • Because you aren’t discarding your old floors and acquiring new materials, refinishing is much more sustainable and eco-friendly than any other flooring restoration option.

Did we already mention we think it looks the best too?

When to Replace

We admit it. We’re biased. Nothing matches the warmth and beauty of a solid or real wood floor.

Perhaps you’ve been putting off that upgrade thinking it’s beyond your reach. We’re here to tell you you can and you should. Over the life of your project, no flooring option competes with wood flooring for value, reputation, or beauty. And, the good news is wood flooring now comes in traditional, solid strips and planks and in more budget-friendly engineered hardwoods that look and feel just like the real thing.

  • No fuss; no muss. It seems people either have time or money – never both at the same time. Rip-and-replace with pre-finished product from the factory offers your project the quickest turnaround and least disruption. Where sanding and finishing can take 3-4 days, replacement jobs typically complete in 1 or 2.
  • If you want rare or exotic hardwoods without paying the rare and exotic price, then engineered, pre-finished exotics such as Rosewood or Brazilian Cherry are the way to go. Because you are paying for a thin veneer layer atop hardwood composite instead of an entire solid strip of the same, you get the look of luxury without the prohibitive pricing. Better yet, it means sustainable forestation to provide us with beautiful floors for years to come.
  • For addressing structural issues below the floor involving excessive noise, moisture, or movement, chances are good you’ll need to pull up that old floor and think about replacement. Working with a professional to upgrade your subfloor and underlayment during this process means a lifetime of gorgeous, worry-free comfort in your home.

As with so many choices you’ll have to make during your home renovation project or office design makeover, the answer to whether to refinish vs replace your hardwood floor is, “it depends.” Trust us, no two flooring projects are the same, and this keeps the work interesting.

We love hearing new ideas from our customers and always give 100% to ensure you get the floor of your dreams. Call us for a free in-home consultation or come by the showroom and let us know how we can help.