If you have original timber floors that are looking worn or damaged in your London home or office, wood floor restoration is often a better option than fully replacing them. Refinished wood floors can regain their former beauty through a thorough sanding and refinishing process while still retaining their character, quality craftsmanship, and value.
This how-to guide will cover the key considerations around restoring versus replacing, the refinishing process from start to finish, estimated costs and timelines, as well as maintenance tips and how to choose the right floor restoration service in London for the job.
Should You Restore or Replace Your Wood Floors?
Many London homes, especially in older Victorian or Edwardian buildings, contain original wood floorboards often made from high-quality oak, pine, or maple. While these floors acquire scratches, stains, and other signs of wear over decades of use, the timber itself remains structurally sound and can typically withstand professional refinishing multiple times. So when is restoration preferable to fully replacing your floors?
When to Consider Wood Floor Restoration
Refinishing is usually the better option if your floors:
- Have surface level scratches, gouges, discoloration or staining only – no structural damage
- Do not show extensive signs of rot or insect/termite damage
- Have not already been refinished multiple times already (2-3 times is usually the max)
- Are made from quality hardwoods like oak, maple, etc. (not soft woods like pine that can only be refinished once or twice before needing replacement)
- Retain their dimensional stability without loose or warped planks
If your floors meet these conditions, bringing them back up to scratch with sanding and refinishing is often much cheaper than replacement, enables you to retain the craftsmanship and period character of older floors, and has less environmental impact.
When to Replace Instead of Refinishing Floors
In some cases, it is better to replace floors altogether. This includes if they:
- Have extensive structural damage like broken or warped planks that cannot be repaired
- Show signs of rot or termite damage
- Are badly scratched or gouged deeper than the surface level
- Have already been refinished multiple times to the point where the wood cannot take additional sanding
- Are made from low quality, soft woods like pine that do not stand up well to repeated refinishing
If the damage goes beyond the surface level, replacement becomes the better option as it’s unlikely refinishing will restore the floors to adequate condition.
Step By Step: Refinishing Wood Floor
The process of revitalizing worn and aged timber floors in London homes involves multiple steps. Here is an overview of the end-to-end wood floor restoration process:
1. Evaluate Floor Condition and Plan the Job
The first step is to have an experienced wood flooring contractor evaluate the current state of your floors. This gives them insights into what level of repairs may be needed along with the best process for refinishing them efficiently. Be sure to ask about their plan for each step – from removing existing coatings to sanding techniques to the types of stains and sealants they recommend applying. A quality contractor will describe their process in detail and answer any questions you may have.
2. Deep Clean Floors
Next, your contractor will do an intensive deep clean using their professional equipment to remove all dirt, debris, wax residue, and previous layers of broken down sealant coating from your wood planks. This prepares the surface for effective sanding.
3. Repair Any Damaged Boards
If certain sections of your floor have warped, cracked or broken planks that cannot be sanded level again, the damaged boards will be pulled up and replaced at this point. Occasionally, entire sections need replacement if deterioration is too extensive across contiguous boards.
Skilled technicians will source new timber boards that closely match the existing floor in terms of wood species, grade, and color. They expertly fit replacement planks into the layout seamlessly using joining methods that align the new boards securely while allowing for natural expansion and contraction of the wood.
4. Sand Away Scratches, Gouges and Discoloration
Sanding removes several thin layers from the surface of your floorboards using coarse to very fine abrasive paper and a weighted floor sander. This sands out dents, heavy staining, and old layers of polishing or varnish until fresh bare wood is revealed.
The level needed – from light sanding to remove scratches to deep sanding for more extensive damage – depends on your floors’ condition. Your contractor should use the least aggressive method suitable for preparing your particular floor for refinishing. This retains as much of the existing timber as possible.
5. Apply New Stain If Desired
If you want to change or enhance the color of your floor, the contractor will apply professional wood stains after initial sanding. Common options include darker oak or walnut tones or grey washed effects. Without stain, floors are sealed to retain their natural tone. Multiple thin coats of stain may be applied for full coverage with adequate drying time between coats.
6. Seal and Finish Floors
The final step protects floors and enhances their shine through applying two to three thin coats of high-quality water-based or oil-based polyurethane. Water-based is common for domestic floors as it dries faster with less fumes while oil-based offers a glassy finish yet takes longer to cure. The coating type factors into the overall project duration. Your contractor will advise on best options.
Between coats, fine sanding with extra-fine (360+ grit) paper ensures maximum smoothness. This seals the natural wood grain to resist stains, spillages, and scuffs so your floors stay protected with daily use.
What Does Wood Floor Restoration Cost in London?
The extent of damage and repairs needed directly impacts how much restoring your floors will cost. As a general guideline for typical London properties:
- Light refinishing (minor scratches and wear only) ranges from £1000 – £3000
- Medium refinishing (moderate gouges, staining, plus some warped planks) ranges from £3000 – £5000
- Extensive refinishing (widespread deep damage, replacements) ranges from £5000 – £10,000+
On average, most jobs fall between £2500 – £4000. Get quotes from 3-4 local contractors on your specific project. Many provide free on-site estimates after inspection. While hourly rates range from £150-£250 for experienced professionals, total charges reflect the size of your home, access constraints, uniqueness of your floors, and repairs included like replacements. Discuss what is covered to compare quotes accurately.
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Do keep quality in mind over just price when evaluating floor refinishers – this is skilled workmanship that makes a big difference on how your restored floors ultimately look. Often paying slightly more for highly specialized professionals with excellent references is worth the investment.
How Long Does The Refinishing Process Take?
Another major factor in quotes is the project timeline. This varies based on your floors’ square footage, number of rooms involved, materials used, and types of repairs needed. As a general guide:
- Light refinishing takes 1-3 days
- Medium refinishing takes 3-5 days
- Extensive refinishing takes 5+ days
Time estimates account for adequate drying and curing time between steps like stain and sealant coats. Work is also typically completed in phases to allow for using some rooms in your home while others undergo refinishing.
Discuss schedules with your contractor to ensure realistic expectations. Most aim to minimize disruption without cutting corners on allowing each step the proper time to set.
Tips for Maintaining Refinished Wood Floors
While quality refinishing makes wood floors highly durable for years of use, some care and precautions help them retain their revived look. We recommend:
- Placing durable mats at exterior doors to catch grit and damp from shoes that can scratch and stain
- Using felt pads or soft rubber casters under the legs of furniture to prevent scuff marks as they move
- Lifting furniture or sliding softly across floors rather than dragging which can dent wood
- Quickly wiping up spills and liquids to avoid warping planks or staining the grain
- Sweeping regularly with a soft bristle broom and damp mopping with approved hardwood cleaners only
- Avoiding using wax or oil soap products which lead to buildup over time
Your refinishing contractor can provide additional tips on protecting your freshly refinished investment for enhanced longevity. Taking steps to care for your wood floors preserves their integrity and your sizable restoration expenditure.
How to Choose a Timber Floor Restoration Company in London
With numerous contractors advertising wood floor refinishing services in London, it can seem daunting to pick the right professional for your project. Here are our top tips on selecting a truly qualified floor restoration company:
Seek established London contractors who specifically specialize in wood floor sanding and refinishing rather than general builders. These professionals have immense expertise from transforming hundreds of floors over years in business. This level of specialization also means they invest in state-of-the-art equipment like professional drum sanders and edging machines for flawless results.
Look for Extensive Refinishing Experience
Ask potential refinishers pointed questions about their background restoring various wood species and damage levels. Enquire about the number of floors they service annually and typical project size. You want an experienced firm with at least 5-10 years dedicated to timber floor repairs and refinishing. As mentioned, this is skilled workmanship that makes a noticeable difference compared to amateur DIY attempts.
Verify Qualifications and Licensing
Reputable London contractors should hold industry qualifications like NFCA membership that adheres to quality standards. They should also carry full public liability insurance and licenses related to operating professionally in your area. Checking that key documentation exists protects you from rogue traders.
Check Online Reviews and Past Work Examples
Real-life refinishing projects shown online and client testimonials offer credibility. Browse local review sites alongside contractors’ own galleries and websites to ensure consistently positive commentary and beautiful floor outcomes reflecting their quality of work. Beware very low ball quotes and floor restorers with no real online presence.
Get Personal Referrals
Neighbors, friends or colleagues who have had exceptional refinishing work done by a local company can provide trustworthy recommendations. While online reviews help, first-hand referrals reinforce credentials.
Compare Quotes Carefully
When narrowing down your shortlist, compare apples-to-apples quotes outlining similar services covered. As outlined above under pricing, ensure you understand exactly what extra repairs like timber replacements may incur additional costs over the estimated rate. But do emphasis quality of work over bargain pricing.
Protecting Health & Safety During Wood Floor Restoration
An essential aspect of any floor restoration project is maintaining health and safety precautions for both homeowners and workers. When old layers of varnish, stains and sealants get sanded away, this generates fine wood dust containing hazardous substances if lead paints were previously used. Extra planning is critical.
Here are key considerations around safety:
Isolate Work Areas
Seal off rooms undergoing sanding and refinishing with plastic sheeting taped around doorways. Switching off central heating/cooling systems prevents dust circulating elsewhere. Cover all furniture, soft furnishings, curtains and other household items with dust sheets as tiny airborne particles spread easily.
Use Powerful Extraction Systems
Your contractor should continuously run advanced dust extraction kits on all sanding equipment to capture most airborne fragments. High-volume systems remove over 90% of dangerous particulates when fitted properly to machines – vastly reducing risks.
Contractors must use proper tight-fitting respirator masks with filters that trap microscopic particles from old paints and varnishes. Homeowners should also wear disposable masks if needing access to isolated workrooms temporarily. This prevents inhaling chemical particulates.
Clean Up Thoroughly
Once sanding finishes, contractors use industrial grade HEPA filter vacuums to meticulously clean all surrounding surfaces. This specialised suction captures infinitesimal dust lodged in nooks, light fittings, soft furnishings and more. Thorough cleaning removes all harmful remnants before carefully dismantling room containment.
By following best practices around isolating, extracting and cleaning up hazardous dust, reputable London contractors prevent long-term health issues. Do clarify all safety steps the refinishers will implement – this minimises risks for your family and their workers when restoring your timber floors.
We hope this guide gives you confidence in what to expect from the wood floor restoration process. While refinishing requires major effort, the dazzling results breathe new life into ageing timber floors. Choose your contractor carefully and maintain realistic expectations around timeframes. Follow our maintenance tips afterwards and your restored floors should provide many additional years of beauty and practicality while adding value to your London property.