How to Decide Whether to Repair or Replace Old or Damaged Hardwood Floors

Hardwood Floors Kitchen

Whether you have just moved into a home with old hardwood floors, or you have been living with your hardwood floors for years and have noticed that they are starting to look their age, you may be facing the dilemma of whether you should refinish your floors or tear them up and put in new ones.

Most old or damaged hardwood floors can be repaired. Whether or not you choose to refinish rather than replace your floors can depend on several factors, including:

  1. Your desires and expectations of the finished product. A brand new hardwood floor won’t look exactly the same as a refinished older floor. Depending on the overall look you want your home to have, one or the other might be more appropriate. In addition, it might not be possible to make severe stains or scratches completely disappear by sanding; so before you decide to refinish older floors, consider whether you will be willing to live with any imperfections that might remain.
  2. If you are dealing with flooring that is only damaged in one particular location, then refinishing may be an ideal solution, particularly if the damaged floor matches with the floors in adjoining rooms. It would be much more difficult to find a perfectly matching replacement floor than it would be to refinish the damaged area.
  3. Timing. Think about how much time you want to devote to refinishing or replacing your floors. A professional can install new hardwood floors pretty quickly. If you choose a pre-finished flooring product, you can start walking on them right away. Refinishing your existing floors, on the other hand, can involve a lot of waiting for stains and polyurethane to dry.
  4. Budget. Depending on the amount of damage that your floor has suffered, and its overall size, it is generally less expensive to refinish a hardwood floor than it is to replace it. This may not be the case, however, if you have thousands of square feet of severely damaged flooring that requires extensive patching and repairs. At some point, refinishing will require so much labour that it will become cheaper to just tear out the floors and replace them.
  5. Whether the condition of the floors will permit refinishing. Older hardwood floors can generally be sanded and refinished between 5 and 7 times in their lifetime. Your floors likely haven’t been refinished more than once every 20-30 years (if that often). If your hardwood floors have been sanded so thin that nails are starting to stick out, then it may not be possible to refinish them again. Other conditions that might prevent you from refinishing an older floor include: if the flooring needs to be removed so that the subfloor can be repaired; or if there is so much movement between the individual floor boards that it will be difficult to sand and stain the floor evenly.