Hardwood refinishing cost guide

Hardwood is the most frequent flooring material for American homes. Natural wood provides exceptional aesthetical beauty to any interior design. Besides the beauty, the material is extremely durable and ecological which is a great asset to any family home. However, hardwood floors require special maintenance, such as refinishing or recoating, every now and then.

Here you will learn about:

Hardwood refinishing is the process of floor maintenance that is required to protect wood from bare exposure and decay. On average, floors refinishing service is required every 7-10 years. The cost of refinishing varies between $1,000 and $2,400 per project, yet most homeowners pay about $1,600. The final estimate of any project depends on a variety of factors including floor size and layout, furniture moving, repairs (if required), or removal of the top flooring material (such as carpet or laminate).

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Cost-related questions

What influences the cost of hardwood refinishing service?

Floor size

Smaller rooms tend to be more expensive for refinishing due to the higher number of hard-to-reach corners and spaces. Rooms like laundry or tiny bathroom might not even be eligible for refinishing because the size of equipment might not fit the room itself. On average, the cost of refinishing is $1.50-$5.00/square foot and varies depending on the complexity of the project.


If you live outside of a metropolitan area, where most hardwood refinishing companies are located, be ready to pay an extra fee for travel expenses. It’s usually about 7-10% of the total services cost.

Furniture moving

This service is generally not included in the estimate of floor refinishing companies. Should you plan to ask for it, the additional cost will be about $40-$75.


Refinishing is a messy process that requires much cleaning afterward. The cleanup services are very rarely included in the price, so check our cost guide for cleaning services to include the expense into the total estimate.


Should there be any repairs needed for the floor before it can be refinished, most companies will offer this service. You can expect to pay about $430-$1,200 for moisture, scratching, gapping, and mold damage issues.

Removal of the top flooring

Vinyl tile, carpet, and cork are frequently applied on top of original hardwood floors in old houses. Removal of these materials prior to refinishing the hardwood will generally cost you between $120 and $260 per about 130 square feet floor.

What factors may increase the cost of hardwood refinishing?

Apart from the standard factors mentioned above, hardwood refinishing companies may apply additional fees should you have any of the following issues:

Increased square footage

It’s been said that refinishing projects for larger spaces cost less than smaller rooms. However, if you have a space over 500 square feet, the cost may be multiplied by some coefficient. This means that the average price for 225 square feet room which is $340-$900 may become $440-$1,170.

Quality of previous finish

High-quality finishes in most cases require only recoating which costs less. If your floors have a bad quality finish, then a complete refinishing with repairs is likely to be essential.

Stairs and narrow spaces

Refinish of stairs and narrow spaces costs extra. While narrow spaces fee is calculated by every company individually, the average extra for stairs is $25-$45/step.

What is the difference between refinishing and recoating?

The simplest difference is that recoating costs much less than refinishing. Recoating of hardwood flooring involves only the application of the additional protective layer on top of the existing floor finish. Floor refinishing is a more complex process that includes removal of the current floor finish (sanding) and the addition of a new protective layer.

Do I have to sand the floor?

Sanding is required every 7-10 years as well as complete floors refinishing (basically, as a part of it). This means removal of the top wax coating and clearing out of the polyurethane finish. You may perform the sanding yourself yet with the risks involved (missing of particular spots, inability to identify wood damages, etc.) it’s advised to hire an expert for about $15-$19/hour.

When is hardwood staining required?

Staining is the process of paint application on the sanded floors for the purpose of changing the original hardwood colors. Most often it’s performed to darken the floor or to make its color deep. Staining is required as a part of refinishing (at least one time) to cover the floor with the additional color layer. Generally, staining requires sanding in the middle (when the paint dries up), so the process of floor refinishing, in this case, may take several days longer. There is no particular cost for this service because it always comes within a package with sanding where the total costs about $20/square foot.

How to find a hardwood refinishing expert

Look for references

In the flooring industry references supported by images are the best guide and helper when you’re looking for a refinishing master. It’s highly advised to hire only those contractors who show images of their previous work.

Insurance and documents

Not all states require professional licensing for hardwood contractors, however, a license is always a guarantor of a quality work. So, in all cases look for licensed floor refinishing contractors. Besides that ensure that your service provider has liability insurance and coverage of their health (these two types of insurances guarantee that you won’t be responsible for the workers’ health and life in your home, and that should anything happen to your property, you will get reimbursed).

Questions to ask a contractor

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Could you provide references for the previous projects?
  • How many people will work on my project? And who are these people (workers or sub-contractors)?
  • How long will the job take?
  • Will you move the furniture or do I need to do it myself?v
  • Will you clean the place after the procedure?
  • What are the estimate of my project and the payment conditions?
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Most flooring contractors will charge you based on footage of the floor solely, however, some companies offer package deals and in this case, the estimate will look different. Make sure that when comparing the estimates, you don’t look at different estimation methods. Carefully read every offer and consider included services, overall cost, and the project length in each company.

Everything should be signed

Once you and your prospective floor refinishing expert are satisfied with the terms, write all information into a contract and sign it. Ensure that all your demands are met and all required services are included.

Split the payments

Never pay your flooring contractor the whole sum upfront. In this business, you need to make a 30% early payment of the total cost. The following 30% is paid when the materials are delivered to your home or location. And the final 40% is paid only when the project is completed and you are satisfied with the result.

Other frequently asked questions

Should I refinish or replace my hardwood flooring?

It’s a common consideration for homeowners whether to replace the old flooring completely or to go with hardwood refinishing. There are several factors that should be taken into account:

  • Age: The older the floor, the bigger is the necessity for replacement. It's obvious. Floors that have about 60-70 years old should be replaced; others can still be refinished.
  • Cost: Refinishing costs significantly less than replacement. Flooring replacement costs about $2,000-$4,000 more than refinishing.
  • Quality: For natural hardwood try to save it as long as possible. For prefabricated wood, the replacement will be a more common decision after the floor reaches about 40 years of age.

Apart from general considerations, here are guaranteed signs of hardwood replacement over the refinishing:

  • Severe water damage
  • Broken structural integrity
  • Thinness (if the floor has already lost 3/4 of its original thickness)

How much does DIY project cost?

Many homeowners think that DIY hardwood refinishing project will cost less than hiring a professional. However, the reality proves the opposite. DIY floor refinishing will not only cost less, it also gives no guarantees or warranties about the quality of a completed project. Here is a list of the basic expenses required for a DIY floor refinishing:

  • Drum floor sander rental - $60/day with 2-3 days rent required
  • Belt floor sander $60-$100/day (for hard-to-reach spots)
  • Sandpaper for sanders $45-$60
  • Hand scraper $35
  • Nails $10
  • Application materials for vanish $50 (paint roller, roller covers and extension pole)
  • Water-based polyurethane varnish $165-$360
  • Stain $27-$40/gallon
  • Safety equipment $40 (goggles, respirator)

The total sum for only one day is about $500/day while professional services cost about $1,000 for the whole project. If you’ve strongly decided to refinish your hardwood floors without extra help, read our how-to guide on our blog with step-by-step tips for the process.

Bottom line

Hardwood floor refinishing is a frequent home improvement project for homeowners. On average, it costs about $1,600 and includes all stages of refinishing (sanding, staining, and finishing). When you look for a contractor to perform the job, ensure that you hire a licensed expert with insurance coverage and lots of experience.

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