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Refinishing Hardwood Floors: A Cost Guide for This ‘Solid as Oak’ Investment

At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.

Daily traffic, scratches and marks, and discoloration from the sun can cause your hardwood floors to look a little beat up as the years go on. Because flooring sets the tone for your whole home and hardwood remains a top wish list item among buyers year after year, this is not a beloved home feature you should let fall into disrepair.

Thankfully, hardwood is like a cat with multiple lives to live. Industry hardwood floor leader Bona estimates you can refinish your hardwood floors four to six times before you need to fully replace them. Since it’s recommended that you refinish every seven to 10 years, you can probably squeeze, at a minimum, 28 years out of your existing hardwood.

Refinishing, however, isn’t as simple as taking a bucket of top coat and sloshing it around with a mop. It involves a multi-step process to sand, stain, and finish the floors with a polyurethane coating for shine and protection. And it requires technical training for the best results.

As you set out to restore your flooring to its full beauty (and resale value!) we’ve put together this budgeting guide on the cost to refinish hardwood floors, including insights from a professional floor refinisher on how he typically puts together quotes for the job.

A spreadsheet used to decide the cost to refinish hardwood floors.
Source: (Julia Kicova / Unsplash)

Floor refinishing cost overview

Variables like how damaged and old your flooring is will alter the scope and cost of your individual refinishing project. However, for planning purposes, it can help to have a ballpark range in mind so you can budget accordingly. We collected estimates from the web’s most trusted remodeling cost sites, which aggregate project quotes from actual homeowners across the U.S.:

Source: HomeAdvisor
Average cost to refinish floors professionally: $1,750
Average cost refinish hardwood floors DIY: $500-$1,000
Average cost per square foot: $3-$8
Low and high-end refinishing range: $600-$4,000
Methodology: Over 16,000 self-reporting users collected HomeAdvisor’s cost data for refinishing hardwood floors.

Source: Thumbtack
Average cost to refinish floors professionally: $1,500
Average cost per square foot: $3
Low and high-end refinishing range: $450-$4,939
Methodology: Thumbtack tracks and collects professional quotes for projects and used 200,000 professional quotes for refinishing projects in the past year.

Source: HomeGuide
Average cost to refinish floors professionally: $1,550
Average cost refinish hardwood floors DIY: $900
Average cost per square foot: $3-$5
Low and high-end refinishing range: $540-$3,118
Methodology: HomeGuide tracks millions of user-submitted project estimates and correlates them with local professional estimates to deliver an accurate national average.

Cost breakdown by component

Each floor refinishing project will look a little different cost-wide, but here are the main items you’ll end up paying for:

  • Labor: Professionally refinishing wood floors is a labor-intensive process, and you can expect labor costs to account for 80% of your professional estimate.
  • Prep work: The amount of prep work required will vary based on your floors’ condition and can include deep cleanings and replacing damaged flooring. Replacing damaged flooring can cost anywhere between $1.75-$9 or more per square foot based on the installation’s complexity and the type of wood flooring.
  • Sanding: You’ll need several rounds of sanding for any refinishing project. If you want a lighter stain, you’ll need even more rounds of sanding to remove the dark stain. You can expect to pay around $0.78 per square foot for each round of sanding.
  • Stain: After sanding down the floors, they’ll need to be stained with the desired finish, either water or oil-based. Staining can require a few rounds of application and costs between $1-$3 per square foot based on the stain’s quality.

Floor refinishing project: A real-life cost example

We reached out to Dan Praz, CEO of Mr. Sandless and veteran of the floor refinishing business with over 35 years in the industry, to get a firsthand take on the cost to refinish hardwood floors.

Praz’s client wanted to refinish the floors of their 150-square foot kitchen, and here’s a breakdown of the costs:

Refinish Hardwood Floor Labor Materials  Cost
Refinish 150 sq ft $859 $859
Board Repair (optional) $10-$12 per linear foot $100
Quarter Round $4 per foot $40
Move and replace furniture $99 $99
Total $1,098

Cost Estimate Courtesy of Dan Praz, CEO of Mr. Sandless

Mr. Sandless refinishes floors using a wet-solution and a high-speed machine to lift stains and imperfections off the floor before fine detailing the wood and applying a sealer and topcoat.

“Our service takes just hours to complete and starts at $459-$559 a room,” says Praz.

Praz provided a rough estimate for this project upfront. He determined the board repair and quarter round replacements only after the team could get in and see where there was potential damage. Most of the project consists of labor costs. The team brings their equipment and refurbishes what’s already there.

A grinder refinishing hardwood floors.
Source: (vm2002 / Shutterstock)

FAQs: Top questions about hardwood refinishing

No two refinishing projects are the same, but as you price out your project, you may be wondering the following:

Refinish or replace: Which is better?

Replacing your floors entirely costs 2 to 3 times more than refinishing them, typically between $6-$12 per square foot. Replacing should only be considered in the event of severe water damage or wear and tear over high-traffic areas.

Lance Kenmore, a Kennewick, Oregon-based real estate agent and flipper with over two decades of experience, swears by a simple hack when he’s considering replacing damaged hardwood floors in his projects:

“If the damaged flooring is only a few feet, sometimes we’ll cut the hardwood out of the closets and use that to make repairs in high traffic areas,” Kenmore says. “We’ll look for ‘rescue wood’ in another area of the home to make the repairs.” This simple trick has saved Kenmore thousands of dollars on his floor refinishing projects over the years.

What are the risks of doing this project yourself?

Renting a floor sander from Home Depot costs just $64 a day, and for some homeowners, refinishing floors themselves feel like an easy weekend project.

But just because a store offers floor sander rentals doesn’t mean anyone should be able to use it, says Praz. “It takes a solid year of apprenticeship to be able to run that machine properly,” he explains.

Plus, with DIY-ing, you run the risk of irreversibly damaging your floors.

“You can easily ruin them so they can never be fixed,” says Praz. A novice could quickly leave a scratch pattern on the floor with the sander, over sand the floor, or improperly fill cracks in the wood.

Kenmore has seen homeowners try and fail to refinish floors in their homes as well: “One of the mistakes I see people make is they don’t prep and clean their walls. They end up getting texture mixed in with their stain and finish. The labor to clean up after that ends up being the largest expense,” he explains.

How much value will refinished hardwood floors add to your home?

“In my mind, refinishing floors is a top three item after decluttering and painting,” Kenmore says. And according to the National Association of Realtors 2019 Remodeling Impact Survey, 27% of Realtors suggest sellers complete the project before putting a home on the market.

What’s more, sellers can recoup 100% of the refinishing project’s cost at resale, reports NAR, and well-maintained hardwood floors can also help in the appraisal.

“if your hardwood flooring is in good shape, sellers will get an adjustment and an increase in the price of an appraisal,” says Kenmore. “Hardwood floors are considered a superior item over carpet or luxury vinyl planking.”

Sounds like the answer is clear: Refinishing your hardwood floors is worth the time and money, but you don’t want to risk a DIY mess-up. Hire a pro, write the check, and enjoy the long-lasting beauty of the most coveted flooring type an American home can have.

Header Image Source: (Artazum / Shutterstock)