Hardwood Floor Refinishing Cost

The average cost of refinishing hardwood floor is $850-$1,260.

In this guide

Reasons to refinish
Floor types
Prep work
Steps of the refinishing process
Dustless refinishing
Finishes
Labor
Maintenance
Refinishing vs replacing
Enhancement and improvement costs
Additional considerations and costs
FAQ

How much does it cost to refinish hardwood floor?

Hardwood floors are beautiful and durable, which is why they’re so popular. However, hardwood floors have to put up with a lot of wear, like walking, furniture moving, and general activities of day-to-day life. Eventually, those hardwood floors need to be refinished, which is the process of sanding 1, staining, and refinishing the floor so it looks new again.

As with most home renovation projects, there isn’t a one size fits all model. A few factors that go into the total cost include the size of the floor, the location and layout (including the presence of impediments like radiators), condition of the original floor, whether you need furniture moved, and the cleanup process (which can be extensive).

For a 200 sq.ft. room, expect to pay around $850-$1,260 for sanding, staining, and applying a water-based polyurethane finish.

Reasons to refinish

With as much time as we spend in our homes, it’s natural to see some wear and tear over time. A household’s worth of shoes, chairs, and heavy furniture will eventually start to damage the finish and the finish can actually start to break down over time.

There isn’t a set period of time when your floors need to be refinished, but there are a few signs that can indicate that it’s time to refinish:

  • Black stains: these may be a result of water or pet stains and indicate a deeper level of damage.
  • Water damage: if you’ve had serious water damage recently, your floors will need to be refinished, and some floorboards may need to be replaced.
  • Major scratches: minor scratches are normal, but when the scratches start to damage the floor and dig beyond the stain, the scratches become more obvious and unsightly. If you don’t want to hide the scratches with an area rug, it might be time to consider refinishing.

Water-bead test: as we mentioned, sometimes the finish can start to wear, which means your floor isn’t as well-protected against moisture. To test how your finish is holding up, try the water-bead test: apply a couple of drops of water to the floor. If they absorb quickly into the floorboards, it’s time to refinish. If the water beads on the surface, you should be okay for a while.

Floor types

There are a few different floor types, which will make a difference in how your floor gets finished.

TypeDescriptionCan it be refinished?
Solid woodA single, solid piece of wood for each floorboardYes
Engineered wood

A layered product

Has a top layer of natural wood on top of layers of plywood 2

It depends on the thickness of the top layer

Top layers that are 0.5-1mm cannot be refinished, only recoated with polyurethane

Top layers that are 5-6mm can be refinished 3-6 times

PrefinishedFloorboards arrive already prepared with a finish

Yes

Provided there is at least 1/8th inch from the top of the board to the tongue

Our tips on how to tell when a floor needs to be refinished can apply to all of these floor types, but be aware of the status of an engineered floor, as it may not be eligible for refinishing. The top layer may be too thin, and the floor (or individual floorboards) may need to be replaced ($12-20 per sq. ft.).

Prep work

There is a lot that you need to do to prepare a floor for refinishing. The whole room needs to be cleared out, including wall hangings. Dust from sanding will go everywhere, so everything needs to go. If you need help moving furniture, a short-term mover will cost about $200-$300 per hour. The flooring professionals will cover your floor vents to make sure dust doesn’t get in there, but you may want to cover doorways to avoid dust spreading.

Additionally, you could go an extra step and remove the baseboards before refinishing. It’s not necessary, but it does make the process a little bit easier in terms of refinishing the floor. You could remove the baseboard yourself, or a carpenter would cost about $70 an hour to do the work. Plan for one hour for removal and one hour for reinstallation for a total of $140.

Steps of the refinishing process

There are certain steps and terms related to hardwood floor refinishing that may seem familiar but should get some clarification:

Sanding

Sanding is required when there are deeper issues with your floor beyond superficial scratches. If the finish has worn away in some places but not others, the whole floor may need to be sanded. This is also true if you want to change the color of your floor, since you’ll need to sand beyond the current stain. The sanding process is very messy, creating a lot of dust, but it’s sometimes necessary.

Refinishing

The refinishing process refers to anything from sanding to recoating and is a broad reference to making a hardwood floor look fresh again. You need to refinish if there is water damage, or if water easily seeps into the wood, or if there are significant scratches across the floor.

Screening and recoating

This is a more simplified version of refinishing. The surface of the floor is lightly buffed, which makes the topcoat stick to the surface more easily. This is really only suitable for light refinishing, but it does create less mess without the sanding process. Screening and recoating costs $1.50-$2.25 per square foot.

Dustless refinishing

Some flooring experts offer a service that is known as “dustless” refinishing. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t sanding, but that professionals will use advanced vacuum technology to keep dust from landing on everything in your home. Contractors won’t charge for this via a line item, but the contractor may give you a slightly higher quote for using specialized tools. Expect to pay on the higher end of the price spectrum, closer to $6.30-$7.30 per square foot.

Finishes

There are different ways of describing the type of finish on your floor, namely satin and glossy. A satin finish looks smooth to the touch but lacks the luster of a glossy finish, which looks wet.

There are three main materials for finishing a floor:

FinishDescriptionMaterial cost
Oil

Low-gloss approach

Brings out wood textures

Has to be reapplied every 3-5 years

$56 per gallon
Water-based polyurethane

High-gloss finish

Easy to apply

$100 per gallon
Wax oil

An older approach to floor refinishing

Has less shine than polyurethane

Easy to maintain

$100 per liter

(around $30 per gallon)

Labor

The refinishing process has several different components, depending on what your floor needs. The floor may need to be sanded down to bare wood, which will be done by your flooring crew. This process can take about 3-4 hours, and then the floor will need to be vacuumed, probably more than once (again, the crew will do this for you).

If you’re not doing a full refinishing job, the floor crew may only buff the floor and recoat it. There is buffing equipment for this process that lightly scuffs the surface, which will make it easier to apply the finishing coat.

After the sanding process, the floor may be stained, but this is only if you want to change the color of the wood. After the stain dries (which takes about 24 hours), the floor will be finished with a final coat for protection, either wax, oil, or polyurethane. Some flooring contractors will apply more than one coat. It takes about 24 hours for one coat of polyurethane to cure.

Contractors charge by the square foot to sand, stain, and finish, but special considerations will need to be made if you have radiators, cabinets, or an unusual floor plan that may require hand sanding. In average climate conditions, the refinishing process can take 3-5 days from start to finish, but some of that time includes waiting for the stain or finishing coat to dry.

While you could, in theory, do some of the refinishing process yourself, it’s really better left to the pros. Professionals have their own sanding equipment, industrial vacuums, and better tools for completing a refinishing project in a neat, efficient manner. Expect to pay between $4.80-$7.30 per square foot for a professional crew to sand, stain, and finish a hardwood floor, which includes the cost of materials.

Maintenance

The best way to avoid frequent refinishing is to take good care of your hardwood floor. There are many different ways to maintain a hardwood floor, but the main way to help out your floor is to keep it clean. Sweep often, making sure debris that can cause scratches is in the trash where it belongs.

In addition, using area rugs can protect the floor, though you miss out on some of the beauty of the floor. Use soft pads on the underside of furniture legs such as chairs and tables. That way, when you have to move furniture you can spare your floor potential damage.

Finally, clean spills as soon as they happen. While the finish on the floor does protect against moisture, don’t rely on that entirely, as water and other liquids can cause stains. The finish is not totally impervious to moisture, but serves as a temporary barrier.

Refinishing vs replacing

Refinishing should be done when the top coat on your floor has started to wear away and water can easily seep into the floorboards. You may need to replace part or all of your floor if water damage is too severe, or if you have an engineered or prefinished floor that’s too thin at the top. If the majority of your floor is soft or bouncy, it probably needs to be replaced rather than refinished. If only a few floorboards need replacing, that can be done during the refinishing process.

ProcessProsCons
Refinishing

Less expensive than replacing

Change the color of your floor

Possibility to replace individual boards

Messy process

May interfere with daily life

Not always an option

Replacing

Less messy than refinishing

Change the species of your floor wood

More expensive than refinishing


Enhancement and improvement costs

Repairs

Wood is a natural substance that reacts to the environment around it. As it gets colder wood shrinks, and it expands in warmer weather. With that in mind, it’s always best to save your floor refinishing for the summer time. If any boards need to be replaced, it’s best to do it when the wood is going to be at its largest. Making repairs when the wood has contracted can sometimes lead to complications once the weather starts to get warmer. Gaps in the floorboards may result in needing to replace the boards, but usually it involves simply using a filler, which is often included in the price of refinishing. If you need to have any boards replaced, expect to pay $12-$20 per square foot for materials and $4.80-$7.30 per square foot for sanding, staining, and sealing.

Staining

Staining can be part of the refinishing process, but it’s not required. Staining takes place after the floor has been sanded and should only be used when you desire a change in color from the original wood color. The stain needs to dry completely before the finish can be applied, which usually takes about a day. Sanding, staining, and finishing a floor will cost $4.80-$7.30 per square foot.

Stairs

Refinishing stairs is an entirely separate issue with its own set of complications. Refinishing professionals have to use hand tools to treat stairs individually, as their regular equipment is too large. Spindles 3 also create additional concerns. Expect to pay $25-$35 per step. The average two-story home has about 15 steps, so refinishing an average flight of stairs would be $375-$525.

Removing old carpet

Sometimes floor refinishing is needed after finding hardwood underneath a carpet. While you could possibly remove the carpet yourself, it’s much easier to get a pro to do it who can also handle disposal. Carpet removal will cost $0.40-$0.90 per square yard for removal and disposal.

Hand sanding

Hand sanding is required in certain situations where the floor sander can’t reach. If you have a radiator, for example, the area underneath and around the feet of the radiator will need to be hand sanded. Anticipate an extra $100 for floor sanding in these areas.

Additional considerations and costs

  • First things first, make sure you get quotes and references from multiple contractors, and don’t go with someone just because they are the cheapest. Your contactor should have a contractor’s license, preferably with some sort of flooring specialty, and insurance, which will protect your home in case of any damage.
  • Make sure you get the best contractor for your particular project. Just because a contractor has done flooring doesn’t mean they have experience with certain materials. Make sure they experience refinishing your type of floor. The contractor should be able to provide you with relevant references.
  • Refinishing the floor is a lengthy process, and the process is messy and smelly. For example, the sanding process creates an enormous amount of dust, and the finish can be quite noxious. During some parts of the process, you actually can’t step on the floor for 24 hours, such as while the finish is curing. Overall, this process can take 3-5 days and you may want to consider staying someplace else for a few days while the crew does the work, especially if you have children or pets.
  • In an average or dry climate, the time it takes the finish to cure may only take a day or so. However, if you live in a more humid climate, it can take significantly longer to cure, sometimes 2-4 days. The moisture in the air works against the finish and makes it take longer to dry out. The better ventilated the area, the easier it will be to dry.
  • Some homeowners are pleasantly surprised when they look under their carpets. If you’re careful, you can use pliers to pull up a corner of the carpet to see if there are hardwood floors underneath. Sometimes, you can actually refinish these floors, but it depends on the damage the carpet may have done to the floor. If there is heavy nail damage, or layers upon layers of thick glue, it just may not be cost effective to have the floor refinished.
  • Sometimes when you hire a flooring contractor, that contractor may actually subcontract to someone else. Be sure to find out if your contractor will be handling the work directly or if you will be working with a separate crew. If the contractor subcontracts, that won’t change what you pay, but it does mean that someone else will be on site, and it’s important to know who is going to be working in your house for a few days.
  • Refinishing your own hardwood floors isn’t recommended, but there are a few things you can do without having to pay extra. Primarily, you can move everything out of the room yourself. Not only does the floor need to be free of furniture, but you also need to remove everything from the walls. Refinishing is extremely messy, particularly sanding, and the dust can get everywhere.
  • If you are unable to move the furniture yourself or if you have specialty pieces like a piano, you may want to call a moving company. Moving furniture in and out of a room usually doesn’t take more than than a couple hours total, and you can expect to pay a moving crew about $200-$300 per hour for a total of $400-$600 for moving your furniture and putting it back.
  • Some older floors have a heavy wax finish, which can add to your costs of refinishing. Expect to pay an extra $100 for wax removal.
  • When you work with a contractor, never pay the whole amount up front. The industry standard is to pay 30% of the cost before the project starts. The next payment you make will also be a partial payment of 30% when your refinishing materials are delivered to the house or business. You don’t complete the payment until you are satisfied with the process and the refinishing process is complete. Take photos of the floor and room before, during, and after the process so you have documentation for your records.
  • Sometimes a floor only needs a new coat of finish, but that’s going to depend on the quality of the finish currently on the floor. If the current finish is low quality, water may already be seeping into the floor, which means the floor may require sanding. Your flooring pros will be able to better assess whether the project will need more than just a fresh coat of finish.

FAQ

  • How much does it cost to install 1000 square feet of hardwood floors?

Hardwood flooring costs $12-$20 per square foot, including installation. A 1,000 square foot floor would cost $12,000-$20,000 for installation.

  • How much does it cost for 1,500 sq.ft. of hardwood floors?

Hardwood flooring costs $12-$20 per square foot, including installation. A 1,500 square foot floor would cost $18,0000-$30,000 to replace the floor entirely, including installation. To refinish the floor with sanding and staining, it would cost $4.80-$7.30 per square foot, or $7,200-$10,950.

  • What is the cost of refinishing wood floors?

Refinishing a wood floor involves sanding, possibly staining the floor, and applying a finishing coat. The cost of refinishing a 200 square foot floor, including sanding, staining, and finishing, costs $850-$1,260.

  • Is it cheaper to refinish or replace hardwood floors?

It is cheaper to refinish a hardwood floor than replace it. Refinishing a 200 square foot room would cost $850-$1,260 to sand, stain, and finish with polyurethane. Replacing a hardwood floor of the same size would cost $2,000-$4,000 for solid or engineered wood.

  • How much does it cost to sand and refinish hardwood floors?

The cost may vary depending on if any boards need to be replaced or if furniture needs to be moved, but if you’re simply sanding and refinishing the floor without staining, it will cost $4.25-$6.30 per square foot.

  • What is hardwood refinishing?

Hardwood refinishing is the process of repairing the top surface of a hardwood floor and giving it new life. This process usually involves sanding, staining, and applying a finish.

  • What does refinishing hardwood floors mean?

Refinishing is different from replacing, in that the wood is kept. Some boards may be replaced if there is significant damage, but in general, the top layer of finish, be it wax or otherwise, is removed, the exposed boards are stained (optional), and the floor is then finished with a topcoat that will protect it from scratches and moisture damage.

  • Can my hardwood floors be refinished?

That depends on the current condition of your floor. If you have an engineered or prefinished floor that is too thin on the top layer, it cannot be refinished. If the majority of your floor has significant water damage or is soft or bouncy, it would need to be replaced rather than refinished.

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Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
1 Sanding: Process of removing the top surface of a material, such as wood, using sandpaper and/or a specialized sanding machine (for large surface areas)
2 Plywood: An engineered construction material manufactured from thin slices of wood glued together in alternating grain patterns for strength
3 Spindles: One of a series of identical vertical supports, typically decorative, used between railing posts on decks and stairs

Cost cost to refinish hardwood floor varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Labor cost by city and zip code

Compared to national average
Arlington, MA
+41%
Athens, GA
-9%
Atlanta, GA
+24%
Austin, TX
+13%
Baton Rouge, LA
+19%
Benton, AR
-26%
Blacklick, OH
+5%
Brooklyn, NY
+16%
Burke, VA
+24%
Canton, OH
-8%
Charlotte, NC
+6%
Cincinnati, OH
+6%
Clairton, PA
+7%
Congers, NY
+22%
Daly City, CA
+51%
Del Valle, TX
+10%
Denver, CO
+1%
Detroit, MI
+16%
Florence, SC
-14%
Fullerton, CA
+22%
Gatesville, TX
-31%
Grayslake, IL
+36%
Holmen, WI
+3%
Indianapolis, IN
+6%
Kenosha, WI
+9%
Las Vegas, NV
+7%
Los Angeles, CA
+11%
Manhasset, NY
+51%
Michigan City, IN
-4%
Milwaukee, WI
+12%
Monroe, GA
-17%
Montgomery, TX
+27%
New Castle, DE
+9%
New York, NY
+77%
Oakland, CA
+36%
Orangeburg, SC
-32%
Overland Park, KS
+15%
Philadelphia, PA
+40%
Pittsburgh, PA
+9%
Point Pleasant Beach, NJ
+3%
Princeton, NJ
+43%
Raleigh, NC
-3%
Saint Louis, MO
+16%
Saint Paul, MN
+20%
Smyrna, GA
+10%
Southbury, CT
+21%
Suffern, NY
+22%
Suffolk, VA
-3%
Tulsa, OK
-14%
Union City, NJ
+23%

Labor cost in your zip code

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