Whether you want to maximize the value of your home or simply the daily satisfaction of living in it, a hardwood floor is arguably the best way to accomplish both.

The rich color, true texture, and rugged nature of real hardwood are impossible to imitate and hard to beat. But as much as our hardwood floors can take a beating, they’re not invincible. As our children and pets grow, the minor scratches, dings, and general wear from age start to take their toll.

At a certain point, you’ll need to make a decision: Do you invest in hardwood floor refinishing to breathe new life into your current layout? Or do you start from square one with a brand new installation?

The practical choice depends on the time and cost of both options. We’ll make the decision easier with this look into the cost to refinish hardwood floors.

What Is the Hardwood Floor Refinishing Process?

One of the distinct advantages of hardwood flooring vs. laminate is the ability to refinish it. The color and grain of laminate and some engineered wood are only skin deep. When that layer is scratched or otherwise compromised, there’s nothing underneath to replace it.

By contrast, hardwood flooring’s cosmetic qualities penetrate each layer. If you do get a scratch, you can work on the board without losing color or texture. You can refinish your floor several times before replacing it, adding up to 20 years of extra life with every refinishing project.

Depending on what kind of condition your floor is in, you’ll likely progress through some or all of the following steps to get your hardwood looking like new.

Floor Preparation

Flooring is one major remodeling project that deserves professional management. Still, the initial preparation stages are a chance for homeowners to save on the cost to refinish hardwood floors. You need to remove furniture and clean the floor before you can start refinishing.

You’ll also need to remove baseboards, which may be best left to the pros for quality and peace of mind. You don’t want to risk damage during removal if you want to reuse the baseboard. For a 16×20 foot room, professional baseboard removal costs about $70-$100.

Removing furniture can cost $10-$20 per piece, or between roughly $50-$100 a room. On the low end, cleaning a floor runs around $.05 per square foot. For a 200 square foot room, you could save an extra $100 or more by doing the prep work yourself.

Floors need to be swept and mopped with non-abrasive cleaners and cloths. Cleaning with hard bristle brushes or harsh chemicals can worsen scratches and fading.

Sanding and Repairs

Are there any deep scratches, chips, holes, or major stains on your floor? Before you can refinish your hardwood floors, your contractor will need to fix any problems.

It’s critical to fully assess whether problems can be fixed before you start sanding. Depending on what he can repair, you’ll need to decide when to save the floor and when to replace it. In general, if you go the fix-it route, you can expect to pay $25-$100 per issue that needs fixing.

If you have wax on your floor, your contractor will have to remove it prior to sanding, which can tack on an extra couple hundred bucks to the preparation cost.

When sanding, your contractor will use an upright drum sander or buffer for the main floor sections and a palm or belt sander for finesse work and edges. Sanding costs vary widely, between $.50-$3 per square foot, because the floor’s condition may require more passes to refresh all of the problem spots.

Be wary of sanding engineered hardwood flooring, as these can often only handle 2-3 sandings before you hit the core. Sanding real hardwood is less of an issue because the top layers are much thicker. Your contractor will be able to tell you what kind of sanding will be appropriate.


Stains come in many shades, shines, and levels of quality, so the cost to stain your floor can vary significantly. If you have a light floor and want to darken it, you’ll need to apply several stain coats, adding to the time and cost of refinishing. On the other hand, if you want to lighten a dark floor, your contractor will likely need to do more sanding, which can also make it more expensive.

How you stain your floor will depend on the type of hardwood you have. The wood species you have may not even require a stain before you apply the finish. If you decide to stain your floor after sanding, expect about $1-$3 per square foot.


Last but not least, the finish is applied to the sanded and stained wood to protect it from wear. Professionals use a polyurethane sealant that fills gaps and covers boards to prevent moisture penetration and add a layer of protection from impact. It’s also a chance to add the right level of shine to your refreshed flooring.

Similar to stain, you can expect to spend about $1 per square foot for each layer of finish. To save costs, if your floor is free of deep imperfections, you may be able to skip the sanding and jump right to this step after preparation.

When all is said and done, the total time for a basic refinishing job is about two days. You can estimate the labor by allotting 24 hours for each stain and finishing coat to dry.

Which Is Worth It: Refinishing or Buying New?

It’s a great time to invest in hardwood flooring, but floor refinishing is still a much less expensive option to get a like-new look. Labor costs are similar between the two, costing roughly $3-$6 per square foot.

The difference is that the $3-$6 per square foot for refinishing includes materials and labor, everything you can expect to pay for. When it comes to a brand new installation, on top of the $3-$6 for installation labor, you also need to pay for the new hardwood flooring. Right now the costs of lumber in general have risen due to supply being contrained and demand being high. A quality 2 1/4 unfinished oak flooring is about $5.25 per square foot.

For a standard 16×20 living room, your refinishing cost will range between $1,000-$2,000. To install new hardwood in the same room, the bill can range between $2,500-$4,500.

Compare the average costs of $1,250 for refinishing and $4,000 for new installation. If your floor or subfloor doesn’t have extensive damage, refinishing is almost always the best option.

Ready to Build Value with Hardwood Refinishing?

Hardwood floors are the perfect marriage of beauty and performance, making them one of the best investments to boost your home’s market value. If you’re ready for all of the benefits that hardwood floor refinishing can provide, our team Ulta Home Improvements is ready to help.

Since 2014, our experienced flooring specialists have been transforming homes and changing the lives of our customers in Ashland, MA. We are committed to making your dream a reality, working hard to meet your budget and vision for your home. For information on our hardwood floor refinishing and installation services, contact us today.