Hardwood Floor Resurfacing vs Refinishing: What’s Right for You?

If your hardwood floors have become worn, dull or scratched, come learn whether you should resurface or refinish them!

A few years ago, we decided to refinish our existing hardwood floors and boy oh BOY did I learn some things.

Hardwood Floor Refinishing Guide

By the end of it, I felt like I could have started a hardwood floor refinishing business, ha! But instead, I just wrote a super comprehensive guide to refinishing hardwood floors and left the rest to the pros.

I get questions all the time about whether we got new floors, resurfaced them or just refinished them so I figured I would talk a little bit more about the ins and outs, pros and cons of everything hardwood floor resurfacing vs. refinishing!

Understanding Hardwood Floor Refinishing and Resurfacing

Refinishing your hardwood floors involves sanding down the surface to remove any imperfections, deep scratches, and old finish before applying a fresh coat of stain or varnish. This process breathes new life into your existing wood floors, giving them a brand-new look and feel.

On the other hand, resurfacing hardwood floors is a more-intensive process that involves applying a new layer of material on top of your replaced subflooring. This method can be necessary if your floors have been through some tough times or even in a case where you may purchase a home that’s been sitting empty for years.

When considering whether to refinish or resurface your hardwood floors, it’s essential to assess the current condition and appearance of your floors. Take some time to evaluate the wear and tear they’ve endured and determine which method would be most suitable for restoring their charm.

What is hardwood floor refinishing?

Hardwood floor refinishing is a process that can rejuvenate your home’s aged and worn hardwood floors by creating a warm, welcoming look.

refinished hardwood floors in primary bedroom with large french doors

It involves sanding down the existing finish on your hardwood floors to remove any blemishes, stains, and scratches.

Once the floors have been sanded, you can apply a new coat of stain or polyurethane to give your floors a fresh appearance.

What is hardwood floor resurfacing?

Hardwood floor resurfacing is quite a more intrusive option for restoring your hardwood floors and is used when your current hardwoods seem a bit beyond just an easy repair.

Think either a catastrophic event like flooding or just extensive damage and scratching, etc.

When you resurface floors, you’ll most likely need to remove the existing floors to replace the subfloor that may be uneven or rotting in some places.

Once subfloors have been replaced, you can then replace the flooring using any option like real hardwood, engineered hardwoods or even LVP for a less expensive, more durable option.

Comparing Costs

Cost of Refinishing

This cost will definitely depend on your location in the country and the company you choose.

However, generally the cost of a professional floor refinishing project is around $1,800, although the price will vary based on factors like square footage and the difficulty of the job.

refinished hardwood floors in kitchen with wood dining table and jute rug

The cost of refinishing can also be impacted by:

  • The type of finish used (i.e., water-based is typically more expensive than oil-based)
  • The amount of labor required
  • The condition of your floors before refinishing

It’s important to remember that while refinishing can improve the appearance of your hardwood floors, it likely can’t address underlying issues such as structural damage or warped boards.

Cost of Resurfacing

Resurfacing hardwood floors is a more in-depth process that does address both the appearance and structural integrity of your floors.

Resurfacing will be a more expensive option compared to refinishing, but it’s often necessary if your floors have more significant damage or underlying issues.

Factors that can impact the cost of resurfacing include:

  • The extent of the damage
  • The type of wood
  • The amount of labor required

Since the cost and time involved in resurfacing can vary greatly depending on the specific condition of your floors, it’s essential to consult with a professional who can assess your needs and provide an accurate estimate.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Refinishing vs. Resurfacing Hardwood Floors

Refinishing Benefits

refinished hardwood floors with rattan rolling bar cart with coastal decor
  • Beauty: Refinishing restores the original beauty of your floor to perfectly marry modern and vintage looks.
  • Maintenance: Refinished floors are easier to clean and maintain, with fewer scratches and dents that can collect dirt and debris.
  • Cost-effective: Refinishing is generally cheaper than resurfacing, at around $1 per square foot.

Refinishing Drawbacks

  • Durability: Depending on the extent of the damage, refinishing may not be a long-term solution. In cases with deep scratches or stains, the improvement may be temporary, and the floor may require further treatment down the road.

Resurfacing Benefits

  • Durability: Resurfacing replaces your entire subfloor which gives a great foundation for whatever flooring you choose to replace on top of the subfloor.
  • Value: Resurfacing adds value to your home and can be a great selling point for potential buyers if you’re in the market to sell.

Resurfacing Drawbacks

  • Cost: Resurfacing is more expensive than refinishing.
  • Time-consuming: This process takes longer than refinishing, as it involves removing and replacing subfloor prior to adding floors back in.

DIY vs Professional Hardwood Floor Refinishing and Resurfacing

When Should I DIY?

Choosing to DIY to refinish or resurface your hardwood floors can be a cost-effective option if your floors are in relatively good condition and only require a light touch-up.

Refinishing projects can typically be done by renting a floor sander machine from a local hardware store, and using refinishing kits that include essential tools and instructions.

You should consider the DIY approach when:

  • Your floors are in good condition
  • Only light sanding or polishing is required
  • You have access to the necessary equipment
  • You have the time and patience to learn a new skill
  • You are prepared to learn and operate a floor sander machine

When Should I Hire a Professional?

Opting for a professional service is highly recommended when your hardwood floors have significant damage, unevenness, or deep scratches. It’s also a good idea to do this if you just don’t trust yourself or your partner to be able to successfully complete the project.

The pros can handle intricate or challenging areas (stairs, corners, etc) which may be more difficult for a DIY approach.

Some good rules of thumb when it comes to calling the pros:

  • Your floors have considerable damage or unevenness
  • Deep scratches or stains are present
  • Difficult areas require specialized attention
  • You lack the time, expertise, or equipment needed for a DIY project

Restoring Different Types of Hardwood Floors

Restoring Oak and Maple

refinished hardwood floors and rattan arm chair with white pillow

The floors in our house are oak, and oak and maple floors are some of the most popular hardwood flooring options out there because of their durability and longevity.

For either oak and maple floors, you can opt for any of the following finishes:

  • Oil-based polyurethane (which is what we chose)
  • Water-based polyurethane (typically a bit more pricey)
  • Wax finishes
  • Penetrating oils

Restoring Cherry

Cherry hardwood floors are known for their rich color and beautiful grain patterns.

They are used less often because they’re way more likely to dent and scratch and if you’re looking for durable floors that are kid and pet friendly, cherry may not be the best bet.

You can absolutely refinish or resurface your cherry floors, but the process might remove some of its natural, reddish hue so if that’s important to you, keep that in mind.

To maintain the cherry wood’s color, you might need to use a stain specific to cherry wood when applying a new finish.


This is a big decision and ultimately up to you, your particular project and your budget.

We were so thankful that we were able to find an affordable professional in our area that did a great job and he performed the work so much faster than we would have!


Hardwood Floor Resurfacing vs Refinishing: What\'s Right for You?

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