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Updated October 15, 2021
Wondering about the cost to refinish hardwood flooring? We get it.
If you’re lucky enough to have one or two types of wood flooring in your home already, it may be time to give them some TLC. Or, maybe you’re waist-deep in a search for the best hardwood floor brands and just want to know what maintenance looks like down the road.
Or, maybe you’re just a home renovation fanatic and find yourself googling things like cost to replace carpet with hardwood and disadvantages of vinyl plank flooring before you go to bed. Whatever the case, we don’t judge.
No matter the reason, we’re glad you’re here. That’s why below, we’re going to answer all of your questions about the cost of refinishing hardwood flooring. Will you save money with a DIY project? Does it matter which hardwood species you have? And of course, what’s the average cost to refinish your floors?
Then, we’ll walk through every aspect of the refinishing process and how it impacts your overall cost. And we’ll even show you a couple of tips to save yourself a little money along the way.
What Exactly Does it Mean to Refinish Hardwood Floors?
Imagine having the power to erase years of scratches and scuffs from your floors, making them look brand new. That’s refinishing, friend!
Essentially, the process involves sanding off a super-thin layer from the top of your floor and then slapping a new layer of finish on it. That’s about it!
Traditional vs. Dustless Hardwood Refinishing
There are two methods for refinishing hardwood floors. They have the exact same effect on your flooring, but one method involves a high-powered vacuum that’s connected to the sanding tool—making it the process “dustless”.
In truth, no refinish is completely dust-free. However, the dustless sanders do make a significant difference, especially for people who suffer from asthma or other respiratory issues.
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The Refinishing Process: Overview
In case you don’t know this stuff already, it’s probably good to learn about the different steps of the refinishing process for when you dive into it yourself (or hire a pro to do the same).
Step 1: Sanding
By sanding off the top layer of your floor, you remove all the scratches and scuffs from the wood. And once you’re back to a clean slate, you can refinish your floors however you like.
Step 2: Staining
Some people choose to re-stain their hardwood at this point, but it generally depends on the types of wood flooring they have. For example, if you’ve got hickory, you probably won’t want to stain it too much because it has a super-distinct grain pattern. So distinct, in fact, that some people even think of it as one of the disadvantages of hickory flooring.
Step 3: Recoating (& Bringing it Back to Life)
Once staining is done (or skipped), the floor gets recoated with a finish, polished, and shined. It’s important to note, though, that refinishing isn’t an option for all hardwood floor alternatives. For example, you can refinish bamboo flooring and hemp flooring, but you cannot refinish vinyl plank or laminate flooring.
The Benefits of Refinishing a Hardwood Floor Instead of Replacing It
It’s More Environmentally Friendly
As environmentally friendly flooring becomes more and more important to homeowners, it’s important to point out one big benefit of refinishing instead of replacing: it saves products from going to the dump! There’s no better sustainable wood flooring option than one that’s already in your home.
It Allows You to Change The Way Your Floors Look on a Budget
Another great perk of refinishing is the ability to change the look of the floor. You can choose different wood floor colors to match your personal style and decor—though as we said, some wood flooring types are easier to stain than others.
Either way, it’s a great way to change the look of a room without having to pay to replace your entire floor!
You Can Swap Out Damaged Planks
Sometimes, even the best hardwood floors suffer some damage. The great news is that you can swap out damaged boards with ease during the refinish process—because you can match the new boards to the rest of the floor when you restain! But the biggest question is…
Is it Cheaper to Refinish or Replace Hardwood Floors?
Drumroll please… the answer is that it’s cheaper to refinish your hardwood floors rather than to replace them! In fact, compared to the cost of new floors, the cost to refinish hardwood flooring is relatively low. Here are some more specifics.
The Cost of Refinishing Hardwood Floors vs. Buying New Floors
The cost to install new hardwood floors ranges from $12 to $20 per square foot (including labor and materials). Compare that to a $3 to $8 per square foot cost to refinish hardwood flooring and it’s easy to see that the second option is cheaper.
Is it Cheaper to Refinish Hardwood Floors or Replace Them With Laminate?
Let’s look at the cost of installing laminate vs. hardwood. The national average for a laminate floor install ranges from $4 to $9 for labor and material. However, that price increases with specialty items like non-toxic laminate flooring or waterproof RevWood.
If you want to find new floors that are a little closer in price, the cost to install vinyl plank flooring is between $2 and $6 per square foot—though some options are very inexpensive. Vinyl has its perks—for example, it’s a great mudroom flooring option, and if you compare vinyl plank vs. laminate, you’ll find vinyl is often the more durable choice.
Exactly How Much Does it Cost to Refinish Hardwood Flooring?
Let’s look at some sample-size rooms so you can predict how much the cost to refinish hardwood flooring is going to be for your space.
As we said above, the cost to refinish hardwood flooring generally ranges between $3 and $8 per square foot, and we’ll price out both traditional and dustless methods below.
The average cost to refinish 500 square feet of hardwood flooring
- For traditional methods, 500 square feet will cost between $1,500 and $3,000 to refinish
- For dustless methods, the price will be between $2,500 and $4,000
The average cost to refinish 1000 square feet of hardwood flooring
- For traditional methods, 1000 square feet will cost between $3,000 and $6,000 to refinish
- For dustless methods, it will cost between $5,000 and $8,000 to refinish
The average cost to refinish 2000 square feet of hardwood flooring
If you have a very large space like this, many contractors will work out a deal rather than doing it by square foot—but we’ll show you some national averages so you have a place to start.
- For traditional methods, 2000 square feet will cost between $6,000 and $12,000 to refinish
- For dustless methods, it will cost between $10,000 and $16,000 to refinish
The Cost to Refinish Hardwood Stairs
The cost to refinish hardwood stairs is a little different because they require more labor and attention to detail. Most contractors will charge per stair tread, and prices generally range from $40 to $75 per stair.
The DIY vs. Hiring-a-Professional Cost to Refinish Hardwood
Labor is a big factor in the cost of any flooring project. If you’re looking to save some money and you’re extra handy, DIY refinishes are possible. But if you find yourself googling questions like “what is subflooring” or “Help, I’ve ruined everything! Quick—what’s the easiest flooring to install?” …well, it’s probably better to hire a professional.
The DIY Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors
There are a few costs to consider if you’re taking this project on yourself.
- You’ll need to rent an upright sander, which generally costs around $60/day. That number goes up if you opt for a dustless sander.
- Finishes can cost between $40 and $90 per gallon depending on the thickness and quality.
- Stain averages about $0.33 per square foot.
- Other materials you’ll need include sandpaper, smaller tools like chisels and levels, and lots of plastic sheeting and materials to keep the dust contained.
Altogether, you’re looking at a DIY cost to refinish hardwood flooring between $1.50 and $5.00 per square foot. Of course, the quality of materials you choose and your local tool rental prices are the biggest factors. Whatever the case, it’s going to be cheaper than the cost to install engineered hardwood floors, so at least that’s something.
The Professional Cost to Refinish Hardwood Flooring
There are many talented contractors that offer a wide range of prices for refinishing hardwood floors. As we’ve said a couple of times now, these often range from $3 to $8 per square foot.
The higher end of that range will include most dustless methods, and will keep your space a bit more breathable.
It’s Important to Know When a Professional is the Best Option
There are some situations where hiring a professional is always best. If there are significant repairs or replacements to make to your floors, it’s almost always better to have a pro do the work. Find a top-rated flooring store near you for help with that.
Another reason to hire a pro: if you have engineered wood floors. Many of the best engineered wood flooring products can be sanded and refinished at least once. But one of the big disadvantages of engineered wood is that, if you’re not careful, you can sand right through the veneer.
Even products from the best engineered wood flooring brands can only be refinished a few times at most—so it’s a project that requires an extreme amount of care.
What Other Factors Affect the Price of Refinishing Hardwood Floors?
Now that we know how the overall costs to refinish hardwood floors shake out, let’s take a look at a few other factors that can impact the price.
There are Some Pretty Significant Tools and Materials Needed
You can’t refinish any types of wood flooring without a drum sander. Don’t have one lying around in the closet? For shame.
All kidding aside, big tool rental prices can really affect the cost to refinish your floors. Just another reason we prefer to let the pros take care of this stuff.
Your Finish Choices Will Also Impact Price
Your finish choices will also affect the price of your project. Oil-based polyurethane is less expensive ($20–$40 per gallon) and easier to use than water-based polyurethane, which costs a little more at roughly $25–$50 per gallon.
It’s also easier to cover mistakes with oil-based polyurethane, but it will turn an amber color over time—whereas water-based polyurethane dries faster and keeps its color.
If you want more water-resistant wood flooring, you can get water-repellent finishes. And if you want scratch-resistant flooring, you can get scratch-resistant finishes. Just remember: no real wood floor is completely waterproof or scratch-proof. That’s why decorators overwhelmingly choose tile vs. wood floors in bathrooms, and it’s why the best wood flooring for dogs might not even be made of wood.
Factor in Any Furniture Moving Costs Too
The process of refinishing hardwood flooring is messy, even if you spend more on dust removal. Everything needs to be removed from the area. If you’re paying someone to do this, it’ll add to the overall cost. If you choose to prep the areas yourself, you’ll need a place to put all your items.
If you’re looking to refinish hardwoods that are hiding underneath carpet, it’s cheaper to remove the carpet yourself if possible. But if you’re weighing your options on carpet or hardwood in the bedroom, just remember that the hardwood will last a lot longer and will be worth the work of removing that old carpet.
If Repairs are Needed, It Could Be More Expensive
Are there some planks that have damage that can’t be sanded out? Those planks will need to be replaced. Because hardwood isn’t as easy to swap out as, say, snap-together tile flooring, this process takes extra time and will add some cost.
Remember: Restaining Will Also Usually Cost Extra
Even if you have the most durable wood flooring in the world, if you aren’t in love with the color, you’re not going to love the floor.
If that’s the case for you, staining a great option. Just be aware that depending on the materials you pick out, it can add $1–$3 per square foot to your overall cost to refinish hardwood flooring.
Knowing the species of your floor is important when choosing whether or not to stain. As we mentioned, if you look at some hickory flooring pros and cons, you’ll see that hickory has a wild grain that doesn’t need to be stained in order to stand out. Ash flooring, on the other hand, is a little more subtle—so it can really benefit from a stain.
And of course, it’s all cheaper than just buying hardwood floors!
Some Exotic Wood Species Need Extra Care…
Exotic wood floors are often a little more expensive, so it makes sense that their maintenance would be a little more complicated. There are wood species that require a lot more care when refinishing. If you have ebony flooring or another exotic type of wood, you’ll want to make sure you consult a professional about what materials and tools to use.
…As Do Hardwood Floor Alternatives
The same is true for faux wood flooring. One of the big disadvantages of cork flooring, for example, is that you have to be extremely careful when sanding so you don’t ruin the material. And even the best vinyl plank flooring brands can’t be refinished at all.
If you aren’t sure about the types of wood flooring you have, it’s best to check with a flooring professional near you to discuss your options. Not all wood is created equal, and it’s better to be prepared.
Refinishing Parquet Floor Patterns Can Be Complicated
When wood grains are running in different directions, it’s easier to accidentally ruin your floors while sanding. The good news: the cost for a professional refinish won’t increase for most wood floor patterns. But if you were set on a DIY project and your house has parquet flooring… you may be playing with fire.
4 Tips for Saving Some Cash on The Cost to Refinish Wood Flooring
1. Do Your Own Prep Work
Even if you aren’t super handy, prep work is pretty simple—it just requires some muscle. Each room needs to be completely cleared out, including all furniture and personal objects. Doing this yourself will save you some money.
If you need to pull up carpet that’s on top of an existing hardwood surface, you can do so yourself and save. Most old houses don’t have low-VOC flooring installed, though, so make sure to wear a mask, gloves, and goggles to protect yourself when pulling up any types of flooring.
2. Be Smart When Picking Your Contractor
Make sure to read reviews of different flooring stores and ask questions about their work! It’s common to find a range of prices in your local market for labor. Maybe you’re looking for someone that focuses on eco-friendly flooring and practices, or maybe you want a small company that is local and has the best reviews. Everyone is different, so have a few questions ready.
3. Take Care of the Clean Up Yourself
Refinishing hardwood floors is a messy process. If you’re OK cleaning dust off your surfaces, you’ll be able to save some money on the cleanup.
4. Consider a Recoat Instead of a Refinish
One final option to save some money is to choose a recoat instead of a refinish. When you recoat your floor, it simply gets buffed with an abrasive pad and then recoated to restore the gloss and sheen. It does not get sanded down, though.
Translation: this is not the best choice if you have scratches, discoloration, or dings you want to fix. But if you just want to restore some shine to the floor, this option might work for you!
Is The Cost to Refinish Refinishing Hardwood Flooring Worth It?
Maintenance is key to extending the life of hardwood flooring. Plus, a refinish will make your floors look brand new—and who doesn’t want that?
So: unless you’re planning on replacing your surfaces with a fake wood flooring product altogether like wood-look tile or low-VOC vinyl flooring, we’d recommend refinishing your hardwood floors as needed.
Ready to get started? Find a flooring store near you to talk to the pro installers themselves.
And don’t forget to read up on:
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About The Author
Steph is a book nerd, rule follower, and pizza lover who can't get enough of playing outside. She was raised on the ice rinks of MN and currently resides in sunny San Diego. As a freelance writer, she loves research, producing content, and organizing information for a wide variety of clients. She currently has at least 10 browser windows open at all times.