How often to refinish wood floors [ 8 Signs your Hardwood Floor need Refinishing]

An image showing a lioving room with a hardwood finish

We can all agree that hardwood flooring imparts a sense of class and warmth into one’s space. However, these wood floors start exhibiting signs of degradation as time goes by, including dullness, discoloration, and build-up of scuffs and scratches. When this happens, the initial appeal of your flooring tends to be dented.

Fortunately, there is a remedy to this. Refinishing is a sure means of rejuvenating your wood floors. You might then wonder how frequently you need to refresh your flooring. This ushers in the bigger question, how often to refinish wood floors.

To help you profoundly apprehend refinishing intervals, read on.

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How often to refinish wood floors

The time frame between wood floor refinishing routines tend to vary across many homes. This is because several factors can demand that you refinish sooner or later. Ideally, it is recommendable to refinish your wood floors about every 10 to15 years. However, you need to perform regular care routines like cleaning. Periodically refinishing your flooring is necessary to maintain its originality.

It is recommendable to execute periodic refinishing intervals generally after every 10 to 15 years. The daily abuse to your flooring will have it displaying signs of wear and tear after about ten years. If the sole reason for refinishing is due to aesthetic purposes, it is preferable to refinish the hardwood floor once every 7 to 10 years.

However, the answer to how often you should refinish your wood floors is relative. Some factors like the type of wood and traffic levels influence the refinishing decision. This means that you can even refinish your floor every 7 to 10 years. 

Considering that the average shelf life of wood floors ranges up to 150 years, problems like discoloration and scratch accumulation are inevitable. Such problems make refinishing a definite way of sprucing up your flooring, enabling it to maintain its appeal for significantly more extended periods.

Here is a pertinent consideration. While refinishing helps restore the glamour of your wood floor, it should not be a frequently executed practice. This is because refinishing involves sanding, re-staining, and sealing and therefore means that there will be the removal of a layer of wood due to sanding.

The coarseness of the sanding paper you use influences the amount of wood you remove. Flooring experts can sometimes remove up to 1/16-inch wood material using the coarsest paper. 

Frequent refinishing means that you will eventually reach a point where the beauty of your flooring will reduce, and it will be unattractive. How then do you determine how often to refinish wood floors?

Cross-section test for Refinish wood Floors 

You begin by first measuring the floorboard’s thickness before refinishing. You can employ a ruler to measure the total thickness. You ought to abort the refinishing exercise once you determine that the floorboards measure less than 9/16-inch in thickness. 

This should serve as an indicator for replacing the wood floors rather than refinishing them. Only refinish your flooring if the thickness of the floorboards is above 9/16-inch.

Refinishing can be an intensive routine, and therefore prolonging the period between these routines is desirable. One way of extending this time frame is by exercising proper wood maintenance.

Here are some of the few maintenance tips you can adopt;

  • Seek professional cleaning of hardwood floors at least once a year.
  • Eliminate dust particles by regularly sweeping with a dust mop or a bristle broom.
  • Position area rugs in heavy traffic areas as well as beneath heavy items such as furniture.
  • Opt for cleaners intended to be used explicitly for wood floors and finishes. 

Signs your hardwood floors need to be refinished

It is now apparent that refinishing your hardwood flooring is an economical way of reinstating its freshness. This shifts the topic of conversation to how to determine if your hardwood floors need refinishing. What are some of the indicators you can check out for? Explicated below are some signs showing that your hardwood floors need to be refinished and include;

Presence of surface irregularities

If you have been using your floors long enough, it is almost impossible to lack irregularities such as dents, scuff marks, and scratches on the floor’s surface. Accumulation of these markings is practically inevitable if you have pets or kids.

At times, these irregularities get so pronounced and end up penetrating the coating, reaching the wood planks. When this is the case, the implication is somewhat serious due to the risk of water damage as topped up by cosmetic issues.


Long-term exposure to sunlight affects your hardwood floors by resulting in discoloration. As much as lighting up your room through natural ways like sunlight feels incredible, it affects your floors, leading them to fade. You will probably notice the uneven color of the floor near glass windows and doors. If you observe this, take it as a sign to refinish your floors to restore a uniform tone.

Presence of splinters

Having long and sharp wooden fragments (splinters) projecting from your hardwood floors is another solid sign showing that your floors need refinishing. Splinters compromise your safety since they can cause injury, especially when walking barefoot. They also are unattractive.

The presence of splinters indicates a worn-out sealant hence exposing the wood underneath, resulting in damage. Sanding, a step involved in refinishing, helps you retain uniformity to the wood beneath, after which application of a new sealant follows. This way, your safety is restored.

Water damage

You can employ a simple water test to examine if your flooring needs refinishing due to water damage. The principle of this test is to determine the integrity of your floor’s sealant.

Start by pouring about a tablespoon of water on the floor surface. The absorption of water by the floor indicates a problem with the floor’s sealant. Refinishing the hardwood floor will be necessary to avoid extensive damage from water spills and leaks.

You don’t have to worry if the tablespoon of water pools into a puddle since the sealant is still strong. Other manifestations arising from water damage include;

Stained floorboards

Stained floorboards are yet another sign that shows you need to refinish your floor. Water stains arise from cases like neglected spills or plumbing leaks. Refinishing can get rid of water stains.


Water damage can have the floorboards bending down from their edges concavely, a problem known as cupping. High humidity levels in your home could also cause cupping. Cupping is an unpleasant site that you can resolve by refinishing. Replacement of floorboards that are separating or sticking up is necessary.

Graying of the floorboards

Hardwood floors get an uneven color with time. If you observe your floorboards turning gray, it usually is a sign of water damage. Refinishing such floors will eliminate the gray hue and reinstate a fresh look. The discoloration can sometimes be so worse that even the floorboards turn black. Replacing such floorboards is the ideal remedy as opposed to refinishing them. 

The video below describes when to finish hardwood floors

Hardwood Floor Refinishing vs. Resurfacing

The cosmetic aspect of your hardwood floors is a matter of central importance. When your flooring starts showing its age, its natural splendor tends to diminish. Refinishing and resurfacing are two of the most sought remedies for refreshing floors. However, deciding between the two remedies puts many people in a quandary. What then is the difference?

Resurfacing the floor is more of a professional-oriented job that may require the elimination of old floorboards, re-strengthening the wood planks with new nails, and grinding down ununiform floorboards. A fresh layer of polish is added to the top to seal this project. 

Resurfacing is a thorough project requiring special equipment, including a power saw, wood-grinding tool, a nail gun, and lumber. You can tell from the magnitude of this job that it is not only costly but also time-consuming.

Refinishing, on the other hand, is not as exhaustive as resurfacing. It simply involves sanding the top layer off, then applying a fresh coat on top of the existing wood. 

Refinishing projects are executable by DIY enthusiasts as opposed to resurfacing jobs that need professionals. With a basic drum sander to sand the floor, lacquer to impart a glossy look and appropriate stain, you can successfully execute a refinishing job on your own.

When it comes to choosing between refinishing or resurfacing your hardwood floors, base your decision on the condition of the floor. Below are some indications for refinishing and include;

  • Discoloration
  • Superficial scuffing and scratches.
  • Wood planks that are in a fairly good condition (uniform and smooth)

Indications for resurfacing include;

  • Presence of holes in wood.
  • Bent or warped floorboards.
  • Cracked or missing parts of planks.
  • Unpleasant color of some planks even after sanding.
  • Rotting or water-damaged planks.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you refinish a hardwood floor?

Here is a concise process of how you carry out the refinishing job.

  • Start by clearing the room scheduled for refinishing by removing all furniture.
  • Get rid of debris and dirt by vacuuming. Clean the floor with a hardwood floor cleaner.
  • Prepare the perimeter through hand-sanding to degrade the finish.
  • Proceed to sand off the top layer using a buffer in the direction of the grain.
  • Remember to arm yourself with a dust mask when sanding. Get rid of the dust by sweeping and vacuuming.
  • Brush the finish beside the baseboards to cut in along the edges.
  • Proceed to rigorously apply a layer of finish (polyurethane finish) over the field and along the edges. You can then opt to recoat the surface after three hours.

How do you screen and recoat a hardwood floor?

Whether it’s time for the periodic recoating routine or you simply wish to change the color theme of your flooring, the screen and recoat method is commonly used in recoating. This method involves subjecting the floor to a light abrasive, a step called screening, and then applying another finish coat (recoating). 

Buffing, a synonym for screening, involves scuffing up the floor, identical to abrading the floor. You use a buffer to screen the floor that slightly smoothens the floor and encourages adhering of the finish to the surface due to the abrasive effect.

Is it hard to sand and refinish hardwood floors?

The right answer to this is dependent on the sanding method you are using. It will definitely be hard to sand and refinish hardwood floors by hand. Being a labor-intensive project, hand-sanding will demand you to be on your hands and knees and will therefore consume a lot of time and make you weary.

Using proper sanding machines such as a belt or an orbital sander, sanding and refinishing will be a relatively simple task for you.

How long do refinished hardwood floors last?

Despite hardwood floors having a high rating in durability, they still age and lose their natural beauty. Refinished floors also start showing their age after about ten years, even after ensuring optimum care. Generally, refinished floors will last between 7 to 12 years based on the lifestyle in your home. However, other reasons like wear and tear may shorten the span between refinishing visits. 

Do baseboards need to be removed to refinish hardwood floors?

It is recommended not to uninstall the base and shoe when refinishing hardwood floors, especially if painted. Some baseboards are prepared so that uninstalling them could possibly do more damage. 

Only uninstall the shoe molding when refinishing hardwood floors. Employ a drum sander on the greater portion of the floor and an orbital sander along the edges. The orbital tool can access tight areas that are inaccessible by the drum sander.


As deduced from this piece, refinishing is an unerring way of re-establishing elegance to your dull, discolored, or worn-out wood floors. How often to refinish your wood floors then becomes the next obvious and inescapable question.

The answer to this is relative. It has been indicated that the general duration between refinishing visits ranges between 10 to 15 years. However, this duration is not fixed since the visit can happen sooner.

It all depends on the lifestyle within your home, whereby an active home with high traffic has a higher possibility of the floor requiring to be refinished sooner. Of importance to take into account is to remember not to refinish your wood floors too regularly since you could end up with unattractive floors.

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