Hardwood Floor Resurfacing vs Refinishing: Which is Right for You?

Dec 3, 2023

If you have hardwood floors that have seen better days, you may be wondering whether resurfacing or refinishing is the best option. Both processes involve repairing and restoring worn floors – but they work in different ways.

In this blog, we’ll explain the key differences between hardwood floor resurfacing and refinishing. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each process and provide tips on deciding which route is right for your needs and budget.

What is Hardwood Floor Resurfacing?

Hardwood floor resurfacing is a relatively quick process that involves sanding off only the top layer of your floor’s finish. The floor is then prepped and covered with a fresh coat of stain, sealant or paint to give it a facelift.

Resurfacing removes scratches, scuffs, discoloration and other minor imperfections. It evens out the overall appearance of floors that have superficial surface damage.

Unlike refinishing, resurfacing does not strip floors down to bare wood. It sands lightly to smooth roughness and improve adhesion of the new finish. This makes it less invasive, disruptive and dusty than a full refinish.

Hardwood Floor Resurfacing

Benefits of Resurfacing

  • It’s faster: Refinishing can take 5-7 days including drying times for stains and sealants. Resurfacing usually takes just 1-2 days. Floors can be walked on much sooner too.
  • It’s more affordable: On average expect to pay about 50% less than a full refinish. Resurfacing avoids the intensive labor and materials costs of stripping and re-staining.
  • Less disruptive: As it requires less equipment and work overall, resurfacing creates less dust and debris. Furnishings also don’t necessarily need to be removed.
  • Retains existing stain: The wood’s stain and essential character remains largely the same. Only the top finish gets replaced.

When to Choose Resurfacing

Resurfacing hardwood floors is best for giving tired, worn floors a revived appearance. It works well for superficial scratches, scuffs, pet damages and uneven gloss. It can also tackle slight color changes caused by sunlight.

If your floors suffer from these types of blemishes but still have an even base stain, resurfacing can likely restore them affordably.

However, certain types of damage penetrate too deeply for resurfacing to fully repair:

  • Deep scratches, gouges or pet urine stains exposing bare wood
  • Warping or patches with irreparable water damage
  • Heavy staining that penetrates beyond surface level
  • Severe color inconsistencies or large discolored areas

In these cases, a full refinish would be needed to strip the floor and remove stains in the wood pores.

What is Hardwood Floor Refinishing?

Refinishing involves completely stripping off your hardwood floor’s top layers until its bare wood is exposed. This allows for deep cleaning, repairs and the application of new stain and finish coats.

The refinishing process is more labor-intensive than resurfacing. Old finishes like varnish, acrylics and polyurethanes have to be completely sanded away. Damaged planks may also be replaced.

Once stripped, the wood is stained to the desired tone with either oil-based or water-based stains. Then, sealants and protective top coats of polyurethane are applied.

Oil-based finishes tend to enhance wood grain but have stronger odors. Water-based are lower odor options but may raise grain more.


Benefits of Refinishing

  • Repairs deeper damage: Unlike resurfacing, refinishing can remove stains in the wood pores, replace warped planks and address uneven patches.
  • Enhances appearance: Stripping to bare wood allows for altering color tones, concealment of flaws and a “like new” make over.
  • Extends floor lifespan: Hardwoods can last over 100 years. Refinishing preserves these lifelong investments of resilient wood.
  • Eco-friendly: Existing floors are restored rather than torn out. This avoids landfill waste and the need harvest as much new hardwood.

When to Choose Refinishing

Refinishing brings floors in poor condition back to peak quality. It’s the best option for restoring hardwoods with:

  • Deep scratches, staining or markings exposing bare wood
  • Visible patches, splits, cupping due to historical or water damages
  • Warping requiring plank leveling or partial replacements
  • Heavy discoloration which resurfacing cannot remove from within wood pores
  • Severely worn or peeling finishes needing complete removal

Hardwood Floor Resurfacing vs Refinishing: Key Differences

Sanding ProcessLightly sands only finish layerHeavily sands down to bare wood
Time Frame1-2 days5-7 days
DisruptionMinimalSignificant time spent without use of floors
DustModerateHeavy amount requiring protection for furnishings
Stain ChangeUsually maintains current toneAllows altering color tones
OdorSome from adhesivesPotentially more from chemicals
Ideal ForSurface scratches, minor pet damage, restoring lusterDeep gouges, moisture damage, large stained areas

As shown in the table, refinishing is the more involved yet transformative process. Resurfacing offers a lighter update focused on rejuvenating and protecting floor surfaces.

Choosing correctly ensures you get the desired changes with minimal impact on budget and lifestyle. An analysis of your floors by a trusted hardwood professional can help weigh options.

How To Decide if Resurfacing or Refinishing is Right For You

Determining whether simple resurfacing or full refinishing is needed is an important first step. Here are tips on evaluating which route makes sense for your floors and priorities.

How To Decide if Resurfacing or Refinishing is Right For You

Assess Damage Carefully

Get down and thoroughly inspect areas in different lighting for flaws. How your floors get used day to day also gives clues to whether surface resurfacing can stand up long term.

  • Do you mainly have light scratches and scuffs? These usually indicate resurfacing is sufficient.
  • Are there indentations, staining or bare patches you can feel with your hand? If yes, consider refinishing.

Determine Desired Changes

Think about changes beyond damage you hope to make:

  • If you wish to significantly alter color tones, refinishing allows restaining bare wood.
  • For minimal disruption at a lower budget, resurfacing retains much of the original look.
  • Unsure about committing to a major darker or lighter change? Resurfacing keeps your options more open in the future.

Evaluate Your Budget & Timeframe

Cost and downtime for repairs can vary significantly:

  • For relatively quick turnaround on a budget, resurfacing saves over 50% vs refinishing.
  • If timeframe is very pressing, resurfacing also gets your floors operational faster.
  • If you can invest more for an extensive restoration with 5-7+ day downtime, refinishing may suit needs better.

Ensure Hardwood Flooring Repairs Last

Whichever revitalizing process you choose, some care steps promote longevity of repairs:

Maintain Proper Home Environment

Wood naturally expands and contracts with environmental moisture changes. Support stability by:

  • Using humidifiers or dehumidifiers to keep indoor humidity around the 30-50% recommended range based on your climate.
  • Having heat on 60-80°F when using air conditioning to avoid drastic temp changes.
  • Using area rugs in high traffic zones to prevent localized premature wear.

Clean Carefully

Follow all finish manufacturers’ instructions on cleaning products usage. Key tips:

  • Sweep, dust mop and vacuum with hard floor attachments when needed to remove abrasive dirt and debris.
  • For damp mopping, use only approved cleaners and avoid excessive moisture.
  • Blot spills promptly with a soft cloth to avoid potential staining or swelling damage.

Handle With Care

Protecting against dings, scratches and furniture movement is also key:

  • Attach felt pads to chair and furniture legs for smooth gliding.
  • Lift objects when moving rather than sliding over the floor.
  • Avoid walking on floors with spiked heels or shoes with debris stuck to soles.

Want Professional Guidance?

As you evaluate whether your floors need resurfacing or refinishing, consider scheduling a consultation with a hardwood specialist.

At Floor Sanding Co, our team has decades of combined experience with all types of hardwood. We visit homes across the UK evaluating floor conditions and damage circumstances.

Based on your goals, lifestyle factors and the specifics of your existing hardwood, we can advise whether resurfacing or refinishing is the smartest investment. We partner with you to achieve the most stunning results possible within your budget and timeline.

To schedule a consultation or estimate at no obligation, contact us at 0800 335 7565 or schedule a consultation free of charge.

Strong Process From Start To Finish

Key Takeaways on Hardwood Floor Resurfacing vs Refinishing

  • Resurfacing involves quick, light sanding and new protective coating for affordable revitalization.
  • Refinishing completely strips floors for deep cleaning, fundamental repairs and altering wood tones.
  • Resurfacing restores floors with mostly surface level damage; refinishing addresses penetrative flaws.
  • Choosing the right process depends on types of wear along with budget, disruption tolerance and desired changes.
  • With some care for conditions and usage, results of either process can better stand the test of time.

Thinking through your priorities for reviving tired hardwood floors is key. In many homes, both budget-conscious resurfacing and transformative refinishing each can have their place over long term care.