Hardwood floors look beautiful and add value to your home—providing as much as a 70 to 80% return on your investment, according to Realtor.com. Though they’re extremely durable, they need to be refinished from time to time in order to remain in good repair. The average cost of a professional floor refinishing project is $1,800, but can range depending on square footage and other factors. Below, we break down the cost to refinish hardwood floors, give a brief how-to, and answer some FAQs about the refinishing process.
Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors
Flooring pros usually charge $3 to $8 per square foot, so a single bedroom could cost $300 to $800, while a whole home will range from $2,400 to $6,000. These costs vary based on the following factors:
- Size: The more square footage that needs refinishing, the more it will cost.
- Materials: Some wood types need more care and take more time to refinish than others.
- Labor: Up to 80% of the final project cost can go to labor.
- Coating or finishing: Different treatments and topcoats will add to the total.
Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors by Project Size
The square footage of your hardwood floors has the greatest impact on the total cost of your refinishing project. Fortunately, the cost per square foot often decreases the larger the project is. Since the flooring contractor will already have their equipment set up, they can price the overall cost for a whole-home refinishing project a little lower.
|Area||Square Footage||Approximate Cost|
Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors by Material
The refinishing process is the same for most hardwood floors, but some types of wood require extra care and time. Common wood types like oak and cherry are durable and popular, so most contractors have ample experience working with them and can finish the project quickly. On the other hand, softer woods that scratch easily or harder woods that struggle to absorb wood stain may take longer and cost more to refinish.
|Type of Wood||Cost per Square Foot|
Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors by Labor
As with many home improvement projects, a large chunk of the cost of refinishing hardwood floors—as much as 80%—goes to labor. Refinishing hardwood floors requires significant preparation and cleanup, plus the use of heavy equipment. Flooring contractors more often charge by area than by time, but most estimates say that professionals can refinish 100 square feet of hardwood flooring in approximately five hours. That puts the cost of labor at about $60 to $160 per hour.
Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors by Coating or Finishing
The term “refinishing” can refer to a few different things. At its most basic, it means sanding down the old finish and applying a top layer of polyurethane finish. Many homeowners also choose to apply stain or whitewash to the sanded wood. Topcoats come in several types of finish and may be oil-based or water-based; wax finish is another option. If your floor is in exceptionally good condition, you may be able to recoat the floor without sanding it first. However, by the time most homeowners think about refinishing their floors, sanding is necessary. Finally, buffing will make your new floors shine.
|Sanding||$0.50–$3 per sq.ft.|
|Staining||$1–$3 per sq.ft.|
|Whitewashing||$2–$7 per sq.ft.|
|Oil–based topcoat||$20–$40 per gallon|
|Water–based topcoat||$25–$50 per gallon|
|Wax finish||$35–$55 per gallon|
|Recoating||$1–$2 per sq.ft.|
|Buffing||$1–$2.50 per sq.ft.|
Other Factors in Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors
Refinishing the wood is only part of the process—preparation, repair, and cleanup are also important steps. Work that may or may not be included in the base price is as follows:
- Condition: Refinishing will take care of dings and light scratches, but deep scratches, gouges, and loose floorboards must be repaired before the process begins. This can cost from $2 to $20 per square foot.
- Subfloor: If your home has sustained water damage, the subflooring will likely need repair for $6 to $8 per square foot.
- Carpeting: Removal and disposal of old carpet usually costs $0.25 to $1 per square foot.
- Furniture: Flooring contractors may or may not move furniture. Hiring someone to do so usually costs $20 to $50 per room.
- Cleaning: Contractors will typically clean between sanding and refinishing, but if you want the floor cleaned before or after, it usually costs $0.60 to $1 per square foot.
- Type of Refinishing: The sanding included in traditional refinishing tends to make a mess. Some contractors offer dustless refinishing using commercial vacuums, but this will usually add $2 to $4 per square foot to the total cost.
Hardwood Flooring Types
The kind of hardwood floor you have is more than just the tree it came from. Read on to learn about the most common types of wood floors.
Solid Wood Flooring
This type of hardwood floor, consisting of solid wood boards, is the most familiar. However, it’s expensive and isn’t always the best option. For instance, it can warp in high humidity, so it’s not suitable for damp climates or below-grade flooring, like basements. On the other hand, it can last for decades and be refinished up to 12 times, making it a popular choice. Cherry, oak, maple, walnut, and mahogany are the most common solid woods, but you can find more exotic woods, like acacia and tamarind.
Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Engineered wood flooring contains a top layer of real hardwood attached to a plywood base that provides more options for subflooring and installation. The pieces snap together and include an expansion space around the edge of the room so the floor won’t develop gaps or warps. Some types of engineered hardwood can be refinished, though usually only once or twice in a usable lifetime.
Instead of long boards of wood, parquet flooring consists of smaller pieces of wood, like tiles, that create geometric patterns such as herringbone, basketweave, and checkerboard. Parquet flooring offers a retro look and has many of the same benefits as solid hardwood. However, the tiles have wood grain that goes in many directions, so it’s best to have parquet refinished by a professional.
Faux Wood Flooring
Even engineered wood and parquet are expensive, and it’s no longer necessary to install real wood to get the cozy look of wood grain. Vinyl, laminate, and porcelain tile flooring are all available in finishes that look like real wood. They can’t be refinished, but they’re much less expensive to install and repair.
Signs That Your Hardwood Floors Need Refinishing
When properly protected, hardwood floors only need refinishing every seven to 10 years. You’ll strip off a thin layer of wood each time you refinish, so you shouldn’t do it too often. Consider refinishing your hardwood floors if you notice the following signs:
- You can see multiple dents, scratches, or gouges.
- Water soaks into the wood, turning it gray or black.
- The stain is fading, particularly in areas exposed to sunlight.
- The finish looks dull in high-traffic areas.
- The boards are warping or separating.
How to Refinish Hardwood Floors
Whether you’re doing the job yourself or just want to know how the process works, here are the typical steps that go into a refinishing project:
- Remove all furniture and carpeting from the room.
- Seal off doorways with plastic sheeting and seal electrical sockets and other crevices with tape to prevent sanding dust from spreading.
- Wearing a dust mask, begin sanding with a medium-grade disc and work up to a finer grit. Use an edging sander to get in corners.
- Vacuum the room in between sandings. When finished, wipe the floor with a damp cloth.
- If using wood stain, apply a thin, even layer, working quickly and methodically to avoid leaving overlapping marks. Use a rag to wipe away excess stain and allow it to fully dry.
- Wearing a respirator, apply three layers of polyurethane topcoat. Wait at least an hour between coats, and sand the first two coats with a very fine grit.
- Wait at least 48 hours before walking on the new hardwood finish, and wait several days before moving furniture back into the room.
DIY Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors
If you choose to refinish your floors yourself, you can expect to pay a total of $500 to $1,000 for materials, rentals, and safety equipment. Here are the major expenses to expect, aside from common tools like hammers, paintbrushes, scrapers, and rags:
- Drum sander: $50–$80 per day
- Edger: $35–$45 per day
- Belt sander: $15–$25 per day
- Shop vacuum: $40–$180
- Sandpaper: $30–$60
- Plastic sheeting: $12–$25 per roll
- Tape: $5–$7 per roll
- Nails: $5–$15
- Stain: $20–$60 per gallon
- Polyurethane topcoat: $20–$50 per gallon
- Rollers, roller covers, and extension poles: $30–$60
- Knee pads: $10–$20
- Safety goggles: $5–$15
- Respirator: $30–$70
DIY vs. Professional Hardwood Floor Refinishing
Hiring a professional to refinish hardwood floors means high labor costs, so some homeowners opt to do it themselves. This is a DIY project of at least moderate difficulty that entails more than just running a floor sander and painting on a layer of varnish. If your floor needs substantial repairs and you don’t already have the tools and materials to perform them, you may end up spending more money than if you had hired a professional.
If you have experience refinishing floors or your wood is still in very good condition, you can attempt to refinish hardwood floors yourself. Be aware, though, that it will likely take you longer than it would a crew of professionals. In most cases, you’re better off hiring experienced floor contractors to do the job.
How to Save Money on Refinishing Hardwood Floors
It can be expensive to have your floors refinished. Here are some ways you can lower costs:
- Do as much prep work as you can yourself. Remove all furniture and sweep or mop the floor. If you’re removing carpet, pull it up and dispose of it yourself.
- Do the final buffing and cleaning yourself. Let the contractor know that their job is complete after the varnish dries.
- Contact at least three flooring contractors for price estimates. Beware of potentially unprofessional contractors charging far below-average prices.
- If you can, purchase some materials, like the stain or topcoat, yourself. Ask your contractor beforehand if they’ll work with the materials you provide.
- When possible, schedule the refinishing at a time when demand is lower. For example, flooring contractors usually aren’t as busy during winter and may offer lower rates.
Though some homeowners may feel comfortable attempting it themselves, most of the time, refinishing hardwood floors is a job for professionals. It can be expensive, but it will make your valuable hardwood floors shine like new. Plus, you’ll likely only need to refinish your hardwood flooring once per decade to keep it looking its best and lasting its longest.
How to Hire a Flooring Contractor
Choosing the right contractor can be daunting. Here are some things to look out for when comparing flooring contractors.
- Contractors don’t need a license to install or refinish floors, but many states have a licensing or certification process, so look for refinishers who meet these criteria.
- Any contracting business should be insured and bonded.
- Look at the company’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating and customer reviews to vet its reputation and how it handles complaints.
- When receiving an estimate, ask which stages in the process are included. Be sure to ask whether things like prep work and cleaning are extra.
- Ask how long the job is likely to take and how long the rooms will need to remain clear of furniture while the topcoat hardens.
- If price is a concern, ask about financing or payment plan options.
Frequently Asked Questions About Refinishing Hardwood Floors
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