Designer Insights

Worn Hardwoods: Repair or Replace?

hardwood flooringClassic hardwood floors are a highly sought after feature for many people buying or remodeling a home. Besides the aesthetic value, many homeowners prefer hardwood due to concerns about allergies or asthma. New home buyers appreciate that hardwood floors compliment a multitude of styles, from traditional to contemporary. Enthusiasts of older homes know that hardwood floors are often the first thing people notice when they enter, and well-cared for original floors can draw gasps of admiration from guests.

Ultimately, determining if you want to refinish or replace your hardwood floors comes down to your preference.

Whether your home is old or new, hardwood floors will show their age over time. At some point you may think about refinishing your hardwood floors, or possibly even installing new floors. Here are three questions to ask yourself if you are considering repairing or replacing your hardwood floors:

Is your floor really hardwood?

Newer homes often feature engineered wood floors. Engineered wood is a layered product, with a thin piece of actual hardwood glued to a base of plywood. Today’s high quality engineered floors can offer a look that is nearly indistinguishable from traditional hardwood. Some engineered wood floors can be lightly sanded and refinished, but only a few times over their lifetime.

True hardwood floors are solid 3/4 inch thick planks of wood. The most common materials include red or white oak, maple, hickory, or pine. These types of plank floors can be sanded and refinished multiple times in their lifetime, and with proper care and maintenance, will last for decades.

Is your hardwood salvageable?

Scratches, a worn finish, or water or pet damage is usually what drives people to start considering refinishing their floors. Determining if your hardwood floors can be repaired is often a matter of investigating the structure itself, and not just surface damage. Floors in older homes may have already been sanded multiple times. Ask a professional to examine your floors to determine if there is enough surface remaining to withstand another round of sanding as sometimes the integrity of the floor is weakened by too much sanding.

Similarly, refinishing a floor that is supported by a weak or damaged subfloor is a waste of time and money. It’s important to have a professional evaluate your subfloor to determine if it can still support the existing floor, or if there are repairs that require removing the hardwood. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, a hardwood floor can be repaired ninety-five percent of the time according to Jamie Lupresto of Diamond Flooring in Elizabethtown, Ky.

What are your expectations?

Ultimately, determining if you want to refinish or replace your hardwood floors comes down to your preference. The fact is, older hardwood will never look like new hardwood. For some homeowners, the gently worn look of older floors is an important part of the character of their home, and putting in the time and effort to repair an existing floor is the right choice. For those ready for a completely different look, installing a new floor means you can choose the finish, pattern, width, and more. Either way, a hardwood floor is a classic choice for your home, and when properly maintained – whether old or new – your floor may even outlast you.