When Should You Install An New Hardwood Floor Rather Than Refinish It?

When should you install an new hardwood floor rather than refinish it? When to replace rather than refinish hardwood floors. Hardwood floors can last over 100 years. Unless you want a look so different that...

Hardwood floors can last over 100 years. Unless you want a look so different that it cannot be achieved by refinishing, such as a different grain or much lighter color, there are very few circumstances which call for replacing a hardwood floor. Beki Willis has been repairing, restoring and remodeling homes in the greater Austin area since 1989. She says, "It's not very often that you need to replace a hardwood floor. They are very durable. They have been down for 100 years and may have some wear on them and might want to be refinished."


Floors that have already been refinished several times may not have enough material left to withstand another sanding. According to Beki, "You need to replace it if it needs sanding but you can see the nail heads at the seams. If you see nail heads there, it's been sanded too far, and you can't sand it anymore."




Flooding can damage a floor beyond repair. Severe water damage can cause hardwood floors to buckle, cup, bulge, or warp. In some cases the damage is localized and the damaged boards can be replaced, rather than replacing the entire floor. However, in many cases the entire floor will need to be replaced. With flooding, the damage often goes deeper than the flooring surface and into the structure and extensive repairs will be required before the flooring can be replaced. Safety problems are not the only concern when the underlying structure is damaged. New flooring can begin to show stains, buckle and bulge if the underlying problems are not solved.

Signs of structural damage do not always mean that the flooring surface is lost. A bulging, buckling, or squeaking floor often means that the underlying structure needs repair. If the surface is not damaged, or damage is only in small areas, the flooring can be saved.

Those considering a full replacement of their hardwood floors should consult with a professional for an assessment. Often there are alternatives to replacing the entire floor. "A lot of times hardwood floors, especially in houses that have been rented, have stains because wood will absorb stains and won't release them," says Beki, "That would be a time to replace those boards and not the whole floor."

Mold damage is another situation that may call for hardwood floor replacement, but in some cases the floor can be saved. Beki explains, "There are options. If it is mold damage, you can use a fungicide to kill all of the mold in the floor, and go on top of it. That would probably be, structurally, a good idea and cheaper than taking up the old floor. It depends on how the house is built. A lot of houses have a sub floor, which is a not-as-pretty wood running diagonally or perpendicular, but if the floor boards of the hardwood go under the wall, they have to be cut off at the wall because they are holding the wall up. Then they should be replaced."

Often when homeowners discover a hardwood floor buried beneath other flooring they are at first elated, but as they remove the old flooring begin to fear that the entire wood floor will need to be replace, due to old adhesives or carpet pads that have bonded to the hardwood floor, or other damage. This can usually be solved be refinishing rather than replacing the hardwood floor. Even floors that have been painted can be refinished as long as there is enough material left to withstand sanding.

Replacing an entire hardwood floor is a huge job and very expensive. Most floors can be refinished. Hardwood floors are one of the longest lasting flooring options available, and almost never have to be replaced.

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