Refinishing hardwood floors increases the floor’s lifespan, improving the health of the wood and overall look of the floors. After prepping the room, refinishing professionals use special equipment to sand down the top layer of wood, removing damage and scratches, eliminating dullness and smoothing out patchy color. After a series of sanding steps, contractors finish the floors with a clear polyurethane coat or wood stain to complete the project. Most professionals will refinish rooms regardless of size, shape, number of stairs or special features such as radiant heating systems. Several factors affect the cost of refinishing hardwood floors.
Most hardwood floor refinishers charge by the square foot. After assessing the job, they typically quote a price based on special features, number of stairs and any repair work needed. In general, the larger the project size, the lower the price per square foot. Here are two examples of price per square foot from Floorchain Inc. in North Hollywood, California:
500 square feet of oak, cherry or walnut flooring: $3 per square foot
- Maple is often priced higher per square foot because the wood grain is tighter, and pros use different sandpaper to work with it.
- 2,500 square feet of oak, cherry or walnut: $2.70 per square foot
Application of stain
The application of a clear coat of polyurethane is standard for a refinishing job. Application of stain costs more. Stain changes the color of the wood—for example, from the natural tone of an oak floor to a mahogany or ebony tone. Prices for stain vary depending on the brand, flooring company, square footage of the project and more. Floorchain Inc. charges $2–$2.50 per square foot for stain application, including labor and product.
Prefinished hardwood floors receive their topcoat in the factory, not after the raw wood is installed in a home. The price for refinishing won’t necessarily differ from traditional hardwood, but this material requires a professional with the know-how to work with it. According to Floorchain Inc., using the wrong grade of sander can take the veneer off of prefinished flooring and just leave the plywood underneath. It will cost more in the long run to have the problem fixed.
The three most common types of stairs are box steps, where the staircase has a wall on either side; steps with one side open; and steps with two sides open. Pricing for refinishing hardwood stairs varies, but much of the work and sanding has to be done by hand, requiring twice as much labor as flat surfaces. Floorchain Inc charges $80–$140 per step, depending on whether railings need to be removed and hand finished, whether steps are being stained, and the number of total steps being refinished.
If a refinisher needs to make repairs to a hardwood floor during a refinish job, costs will increase. Some contractors charge a minimum fee for services when doing small repairs to cover travel expenses as well as the effort of bringing and unloading all the tools, setting up and then cleaning up. It’s more cost-efficient to consolidate repairs with refinishing work if possible. Floorchain Inc. has a minimum service fee of $80. Repairs to a 5-square-foot area cost approximately $450.
Equipment and Licensing
Professional companies usually charge more than handymen or others who provide the same service, but a lower upfront cost may be a warning sign. Make sure the contractor has the proper equipment to do the job right. Refinishing floors without a professional dust control system will create a mess in the house. Using improper sanding equipment can actually damage floors. Confirm that the company is licensed and bonded and be sure it carries workers compensation to protect you and your home. "Flooring is an investment. It’s better to wait and put money aside to have it done right," say the experts at Floorchain Inc. If mistakes need to be remedied after a mishap, you’ll have to pay twice.
Meet the contractor in person, and confirm that the person you meet is the one who will do the work on your house—rather than just a salesperson.
- If the contractor is subcontracting the job out, make sure you meet subcontractors first and feel confident in their abilities.