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The Pros and Cons of Refinishing Old Hardwood Floors

There’s something nostalgic about old hardwood floors that just feels like home. The rich patina, the creaks and groans, the faded flaws — it’s wood that tells a story. But over decades of living, those flaws can become more eyesore than charm. Refinishing offers a chance to refresh well-loved floors and reveal their hidden beauty. A proper refinish can work wonders, transforming worn floors and bringing new life to your home’s heart. Before taking on a floor refinishing project, it’s important to carefully consider the pros and cons.

Pros of Refinishing Hardwood Floors

Increased Property Value

Refinished hardwood floors can increase a home’s resale value by as much as 5-10%, according to real estate agents. A survey by the National Association of Realtors found that 87% of potential home buyers said hardwood floors were an important factor in their purchase decision. Updating worn floors with refinishing provides a beautiful hardwood look for less cost than installing brand-new floors, which can add to a home’s appeal.

Refinished hardwoods are an attractive selling point that positively impacts property value and marketability. Many buyers are willing to pay more for homes with refinished original wood floors over newer synthetic flooring options. It’s a smart investment that typically recoups costs upon resale. When done properly, wood floor repair and refinishing can make old floors look brand new again while preserving their value and appeal.

Improved Appearance

Refinishing old hardwood floors can dramatically enhance their appearance by removing scratches, stains, discoloration and other damage. According to the National Wood Flooring Association, up to 90% of old floors can be restored to like-new condition with professional refinishing. The process involves sanding the wood down to bare frames, applying stain or finish, and coating it with 2-3 protective layers of polyurethane. This provides a clean slate for improving the aesthetics of worn hardwood floors.

Refinishing makes old floors look brand new by erasing imperfections and damage from heavy use over time. It restores the beautiful natural wood grain patterns and colors that fade with age and wear. The results showcase the character and charm of your home’s original hardwood floors.


The refinishing process makes hardwood floors more durable and long-lasting. The average lifespan of a professionally refinished floor is 30–50 years with proper care and maintenance. Applying fresh polyurethane finish coats helps protect floors from future scuffs, scratches, dents and excess wear. This is especially beneficial for high-traffic areas that experience a lot of daily use and activity.

Refinished floors better withstand pets, kids, parties and other heavy use. The new protective finish makes floors highly scratch and stain-resistant compared to untreated wood. Refinishing also levels out minor imperfections that can catch toes or trip pedestrians.

Eco-Friendly Option

Unlike replacing hardwood floors entirely, refinishing reuses existing floor materials. Preserving quality wood that would otherwise end up in landfills. According to the EPA, over 11 million tons of household flooring waste enters landfills each year.

Refinishing is a green, sustainable option that reduces unnecessary waste and use of new resources. It gives your floors a fresh look while minimizing environmental impact. Hardwood is a finite natural resource, so refinishing preserves these materials longer. The process also avoids toxic glues and adhesives used in new flooring installation. Overall, refinishing is an eco-conscious choice for updating home floors.

Cons of Refinishing Hardwood Floors

Dust and Disruption

Refinishing hardwood floors creates a lot of dirt, dust and debris. According to the National Safety Council, sanding hardwoods produces over 10 pounds of fine dust per 100 square feet. The sanding process kicks up these wood particles into the air, coating surfaces throughout your home. It takes thorough cleaning and preparation work to protect furnishings, belongings, ductwork and living spaces. You may need to temporarily relocate while the refinishing work is completed. Dust can penetrate textiles and fabrics, so extra time is required for extensive clean-up after the job. Some find it easier to move out entirely rather than seal off rooms and deal with residual dust.

Time and Labor

DIY refinishing projects require a substantial time commitment. The work involves moving furniture, extensive floor prep, sanding, staining, finish application and multiple coating layers. Each coat must dry thoroughly before the next can be applied, prolonging the timeline. Working around vents, railings and built-in cabinetry also adds time and labor. The total process can take 20–40 hours for an average-sized room. Many homeowners opt to hire professionals to avoid the hassle and ensure quality results. However, contracting a refinishing job also takes planning, coordination and oversight of workers in your home.

Potential Damage

If the refinishing job is not performed correctly, mistakes can damage floors. Sanding too aggressively can cause uneven spots, weaken floor structure or penetrate through exterior finish layers. Staining errors also may result in blotchy discoloration or mismatched boards. Employing an experienced hardwood flooring contractor helps minimize risks. But even professional jobs can encounter hidden issues like prior substandard repairs or layers of old flooring adhesives. Correcting damage or a poorly executed refinish requires repeating the entire process, multiplying costs in time and labor.


Stains, solvents and polyurethane finishes involve toxic fumes and strong odors during the refinishing process. The products contain volatile organic compounds and chemicals like formaldehyde. Proper ventilation, personal safety equipment and adherence to usage directions are important. Hiring a professional who can refinish off-site further limits your fume exposure. But neighbors may also be impacted by noticeable odors during and after the job. People with respiratory issues may need to avoid the premises entirely while harsh refinishing smells linger.


Refinishing hardwoods requires an initial upfront investment. DIY costs typically include rental equipment, materials and protective supplies. Contractors charge $3-6 per square foot or more. Whole home refinishing projects can cost several thousand dollars. While refinishing may add value, it still represents a significant expense. Larger homes with extensive square footage drive the price up substantially. Unforeseen issues like repairs or a need for multiple refinishing rounds also greatly increase overall costs. It’s an expensive endeavor that requires sufficient budgeting.

Decision Time: Is Refinishing Worth It?

When considering a refinishing project, assess your floors, budget, timeline and expectations. Refinishing successfully updates worn hardwoods but requires weighing drawbacks like disruption, fumes and cost. Review the pros and cons and consult with qualified contractors to determine if refinishing your old hardwoods makes sense. With proper planning and execution, refinishing can provide beautiful, rejuvenated wood floors to enjoy for years to come.

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