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    What to do With Hardwood Floors in Less Than Pristine Condition

    hardwood flooringHave you decided to put your home on the market, but need to address the less-than perfect condition of your hardwood floors? Or have you found a fixer-upper that could be great if not for the major wear and tear to the hardwood floors? To determine whether it’s worthwhile to refinish hardwood floors in your own home or in a home you might want to purchase, begin by establishing whether or not the floors actually need refinishing (sanding off the finish down to the bare wood) or if they simply need to be screened and re-coated (lightly sanding the existing finish and coating with polyurethane.)

    The cost of refinishing hardwood will depend on the condition of the floors, what type of wood you’re refinishing, the size of the area to be refinished and even where you live. But as you probably already know, the expense is an investment in your home that will add warmth, beauty and value indefinitely.

    Pad and re-coat

    Like most things worth having, hardwood floors can last a lifetime without being refinished if they’re cared for and regularly maintained. That includes periodically cleaning the old layer of protective polyurethane from the wood and then abrading the finish layer so the new polyurethane coating has something to latch on to. The process, called “pad and re-coat,” is a preventative maintenance measure that can cost around $1,000 to $1,400 for an 800 square foot area to complete and save you thousands over total hardwood floor refinishing.


    If your hardwood floors need refinishing and you want to hire a professional to do the job, start asking friends and family for recommendations. Before you hire a professional to refinish your hardwood floors, ask a few questions, including:

    • How much experience they have.
    • Who will do the actual work? Sometimes you are hiring a business owner who will have an employee or subcontractor do the actual work. Make sure you know who the person is that will perform the work, and who will be supervising the job.
    • Who will be responsible for moving furniture and appliances, and what precautionary measures will be taken to protect built-in cabinetry and woodwork.
    • Who will be responsible for cleanup and debris removal when the project is completed.
    • How will the contractor protect the rest of the home from dust during the project.
    • What is the specific payment agreement, and to what extent does the contractor guarantee their work?

    Since costs on a hardwood floor refinish can vary greatly it’s hard to offer a definitive estimate, but the average professionally refinished hardware floor costs $3.32 to $3.70 per square foot in 2014.That amounts to $2,656 to $2,960 for an 800 square foot project.

    Keep in mind, if your floors are made of a particularly exotic wood such wenge, ipe or cumari, you are probably looking at a higher refinishing cost. Some exotic woods are very reactive to moisture, while others are so hard they can burnish during the sanding process. In addition, dust from some of the exotic woods used for flooring can make people ill and therefore require handling with extreme care.

    Hiring a professional vs. DIY

    If you’re up to taking on the amount of work involved and have the time, skills and patience, you can try refinishing your floors by yourself.

    You’ll need:

    • A drum sander (available to rent at hardware and home improvement stores for about $60 per day.)
    • Claw hammer ($25)
    • Belt sander ($60-$100)
    • Sandpaper for both sanders ($60)
    • Shop vac for cleanup ($70-$170)
    • Nail set to countersink nails ($10)
    • Paint roller, roller covers and extension pole for applying varnish ($50)
    • Water-based polyurethane clear varnish (4 gallons will cover 800 square feet at a cost of $165 to $360)
    • Painter’s rags for dust cleanup ($15)
    • Safety glasses (10)
    • Respirator ($30)

    If you don’t already have some of these items, see if you can borrow a few of them from a friend. Otherwise, you can expect to spend $600-$900 to refinish 800 square feet of hardwood floors as a DIY project—an enormous savings over hiring someone to do the work.

    If you’ve never before operated a drum sander, keep in mind that they are big and noisy, and if you handle your incorrectly it can gouge the floor in mere seconds; ask a staff member where you rent the machine for advice and best practices.

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