How Much Does It Cost To Refinish Hardwood Floors?
$990 – $2,110 ($3 to $5 Per SF)
Homeowners spend $1,550 on average, or between $990 to $2,110 to refinish their hardwood floors. Depending on the condition of the wood, you can expect to pay between $3 to $5 per square foot with 80% of your costs attributed to labor. Get free estimates from hardwood floor refinishers near you.
Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors
The average cost to refinish hardwood floors is $3.75 per square foot with most homeowners spending between $3 and $5 per square foot to have their wood floors sanded, stained, and finished. A 20x16 (320 square foot) living room floor will cost about $1,230 to refinish, while a 12x12 (144 SF) bedroom floor will cost about $540 to refinish.
|National Average Cost||$1,550|
|Average Range||$990 to $2,110|
Table Of Contents
Average Wood Floor Refinishing Costs
The average cost to refinish a 16x16 (256 square feet) room is $768 to $1,280, or from $3 to $5 per square foot. Most homeowners spend between $1,150 and $2,110 on wood floor refinishing depending on the size of the project and the current condition of the flooring. If your wood floor is in good condition with no dents or cracks, a refinish can make it almost look like new again.
Cost Per Square Foot To Refinish Hardwood Floors
Overall, you can expect to pay $3 to $5 per square foot to refinish a wood floor because of the large amount of prep work and labor that goes into the job. While contractors’ quotes will be given in square feet, there will be a minimum charge for a refinishing job because of the cost to hire the right equipment and materials.
|Room Size||Square Feet||Average Cost|
|5x8||40||$120 – $200|
|10x10||100||$300 – $500|
|12x12||144||$432 – $720|
|16x16||256||$768 – $1,280|
|20x20||400||$1,200 – $2,000|
|24x24||576||$1,728 – $2,880|
Labor & Materials Costs
When calculating the cost of refinishing your hardwood floors, labor will make up more than 80% of your final price. The average cost of labor to refinish your floors is $3.50 per square foot. Materials on the other end are cheap and may cost $200 or less for your entire project.
|80 SF Foyer||$260||$38||$298|
|309 SF Master Bedroom||$1,007||$148||$1,155|
|330 SF Living Room||$1,075||$158||$1,233|
Refinish Or Replace Hardwood Floors?
The cost of refinishing hardwood floors vs. new floors is about half as much. The average cost to install hardwood flooring is between $4 and $10 per square foot whereas refinishing your floors costs about $3.75 per square foot. Most homeowners spend between $2,200 and $8,100 to install new wood flooring vs. an average of $1,550 to refinish.
It’s almost always best to refinish rather than replace hardwood because it can be sanded right down and the deepest gashes can be filled. Refinishing costs a lot less too, and if the solid wood flooring was installed in the last few years, it makes sense to extend its life and the value of the installation for as long as possible.
However, if the wood was damaged by water or you can see bubbling or cracking, it will need to be replaced. Also, if the floorboards are widening, it will be too difficult trying to pull them together to make a refinishing job worthwhile. If you’re set on saving the floor, you’ll have to pull it up completely and reinstall them with matching old flooring.
Questions To Ask A Hardwood Floor Refinisher
In addition to getting quotes from multiple hardwood flooring refinishers, here are the essential questions to ask before selecting a company and starting your project.
Questions For Prep Work & Refinishing
- Which parts of the floor are too damaged to sand out?
- How many repairs are necessary?
- Which stain is best, and how much more would it cost to change the stain I currently have?
- Which type of finish makes the most sense for my home use?
Questions For Work & Business Practices
- How long will the project take from beginning to end?
- Is a warranty provided?
- Is the contractor bonded and insured?
- What are your methods for dust containment?
- How much of an upfront deposit is required?
- Will you add the old flooring removal cost and cleanup into the quote?
- Is heavy furniture removal included or not in the quote?
Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors Calculator
Price wise, refinishing is a much more efficient method of updating your floor compared to installing new flooring, as a new floor starts at $8 per square foot whereas the average cost to refinish hardwood floors is about half that at $4 per square foot.
|Hardwood Refinishing Service||Average Cost|
|Remove Existing Flooring||$0.50–$4/SF|
|Wax Scraping||$0.75-$4 /SF|
|Old Paint or Varnish Stripping||$1.75–$4/SF|
|Wood Floor Stain||$0.34/SF|
|Baseboard Removal and Reinstallation||$150|
|Stairs||$45–$125 per tread|
- Quality of Floor Finish - If the floor seems to be in good enough shape for your restoration project, you’ll need to strip off all the old paint or varnish, which can cost $1.75–$4/sq. ft. If the previous finish was poorly done, it takes extra time and care to restore the wood before refinishing it.
- Wax Removal – Any wax is scraped off the floor to get it ready for sanding, which costs $0.75–$4 /sq. ft depending on how much wax is present.
- Coloring – A lot more sanding is required to get the wood to a level where a lighter stain can be applied, as you have to sand past the existing darker stain. Each round of sanding will cost about $0.78/SF.
Wood Floor Refinishing Cost Factors
- Repairs – Deep scratches need to be filled, sanded, and colored before a new coat is applied for $25–$100/each.
- Move Furniture – This may or may not be included in your quote and can cost an additional $30–$50/room—both before and after the refinishing is done.
- Wood Floor Stain – Each layer of stain takes at least 24 hours to dry, with darker stains taking longer. Staining costs about $0.34/SF per coat.
- Baseboard Removal and Reinstallation – If you remove the baseboards before work begins, you’ll end up with a cleaner overall sanding and staining job. Expect to pay about $75 for taking them off and a total of $150 to include putting them back on again.
- Stairs – Refinishing hardwood stairs will cost an additional $45–$125 per tread because each one must be sanded and finished by hand.
- Cleanup – This can take a while, and it becomes an even more arduous task if the area was not set up properly before work began.
- Square Feet – More square footage to refinish can increase the price because of the additional time and/or workers needed. That said, small rooms can also cost more than a larger room because of a contractor’s full-day or half-day minimum service charge, and also because it’s much harder to maneuver sanding equipment in a small room.
- Exotic Woods – Exotic wood usually costs more to refinish because it may require special treatment or a high-end stain or sealer. Some woods are softer than others and can only handle a small number of sandings before they can’t be refinished anymore. Extra care is taken with these.
- Humidity – A humid climate will affect the drying times of the finishes and sealers, possibly stretching the project time and labor costs into higher cost brackets.
Removing Existing Flooring
You may need refinishing when you find hardwood underneath your old flooring. Some contractors focus exclusively on removing old flooring quickly and with as little mess as possible, even if they don’t do refinishing.
- Carpet or Linoleum - Carpet removal and disposal will cost about $0.50–$1/sq. ft. You can try to remove it all yourself, but keep in mind there might be old adhesives used to hold down carpet or linoleum that will need to be scraped off.
- Tile - Taking up tile can cost $1.50–$4/sq. ft. We highly recommend you have this done by a professional, as pros have the equipment needed to splice and scrape off the tile at the concrete level rather than jackhammer the tile and damage the concrete underneath.
- Wood - Taking up most kinds of wood flooring will cost about $1–4/sq. ft., depending on how it’s glued down. Floating floors are the easiest to remove.
Extra Enhancements To Consider
- Stencils – Stencil a faux rug on an area of flooring that is too severely dented to simply refinish. Prime and paint in the stencil with 2–3 coats of a porch and floor paint ($25–$38/gallon) followed by a coating. Stencils should be about 20’ x 20’ to make the job easy. Avoid stencils with fine lines—it’s easier to cover up mistakes with decorative patterns.
- Trim – Replace molding and trim to match the new stain for $5.50–$9 /linear foot
Steps To Refinish Hardwood Floors
Refinishing a hardwood floor generally consists of three stages which are sanding, staining, and finishing or coating.
Cost To Sand Hardwood Floors
The depth of sanding required will depend on the floor’s current condition. If the floor is in great shape already and it’s just the refinish that needs to be renewed, sanding might not be necessary.
- Light Sanding or Screening – Sand or abrade (roughen up) just a little for $0.78/SF.
- Hard Sanding – Contractors will sand down to the bare floor for $2.34/sq. ft. The difference in cost is because it takes about three passes to sand the floor down.
Cleaning the Wood
Once sanded, your wood flooring must be cleaned down to every last bit of dust, or it can catch in the finish. For about $0.89/SF, you can have your wood floors cleaned aggressively with two rounds of cylindrical scrubbing and a hand scrub and edging, with the hopes that it will do a good enough job preparing your floor for its refinish instead of sanding. This floor cleaning extracts dirt, grease, hair, dust, built-up residue, and other contaminants from hardwood floors. While it removes pretty much all the dirt ground into your floor, it won’t remove deep scratches, odors, paint, or stains.
Dustless Sanding or Refinishing
While not completely dust free, this is a method of sanding that’s hooked up to a vacuum to catch most of the dust generated by sanding. It’s a highly preferred method to regular sanding if any members of the house have breathing problems and allergies to dust, and it also makes cleanup much easier and quicker. Dustless buffing is also an option. These types of machines vary massively in price—from $300–$6,200. Ask your contractor if they offer this additional service.
Staining the Hardwood
Softer woods like pine and cedar need second or third coats of stain or conditioner, while harder or grainier woods like Verawood and Wamara can take longer to dry. You may or may not need to stain the existing wood unless one area is significantly worn down and has lost its color. At this stage, you can also opt to stain all the flooring a new color for $0.34/SF per coat, but keep in mind that you might also need to change your baseboards to match.
Finishing or Coating
Staining is then followed up with one or two coats of refinisher. The most common type of finish is polyurethane which comes in two varieties: an oil-based finish and a water-based finish.
Types Of Wood Floor Finishes
On average, you can expect to spend between $40 and $60 per gallon for wood finisher depending on the type selected. Oil-based finish is the cheapest at $24 to $36 per gallon, while water-based and acid-cured start at $50 per gallon.
|Wood Floor Finish||Cost Per Gallon|
|Acid-Cured or Swedish Finish||$56–$67|
|Hardwax Oil Finish||$163–$208/one-third of a gallon|
Oil-Based Wood Finish
Oil-based polyurethane, a polyurethane-modified oil, is popular because it gives a more traditional look that gets richer over time. It also lasts longer and costs less at $30/gallon. Scratches on this finish don't seem to stand out as much as they do with water-based finishes, especially when the sheen used is satin or matte.
Polyurethane finishes are more resistant to stains and damage, and most suitable in homes with small children and pets; but when significant damage occurs, it is usual for a whole board to be replaced, followed by buffing and recoating the entire floor.
Water-Based Wood Finish
Water-based finishes dry faster, so much so that the refinished floor can handle light foot traffic within two days, but they have the same curing time as oil-based finishes—about 7–10 days, depending on humidity. They cost about $51/gallon.
Water-based finishes will not get richer with age in the way an oil-based finish will, which is essential to know when used on light-colored woods. Scratches usually appear white on water-based urethane, making them more noticeable if using this finish, especially on darker-colored floors. Each water-based finishing coat takes 2–4 days to dry, and furniture can be moved back in after 24 hours.
Both oil- and water-based finishes also come with low or no VOC (volatile organic compounds), and some are smell sensitive.
Acid-Cured, Conversion, or Swedish Finish
Also known as a Swedish finish, the acid-cured finish comes in either a one- or two-component finish with an acid catalyst and alcohol solvent. It dries in 2–4 hours and you can recoat after 24–48 hours. Costing $62/gallon, it’s a very durable finish and its molecules bond in the wood cells. However, it’s very flammable and has such a strong odor, full-face respirators must be used during the refinishing work.
Popular when doing historical renovations, paste or liquid wax is buffed into or spread on the floor, and after it hardens it’s buffed again. Costing approx. $40/gallon, wax finishes look more natural than other finishes, and more wax can be buffed in on high-trafficked areas at any time.
Natural Oil Finish
A category of finishes with no or low VOCs which include: 
- Penetrating oils – absorbed by the wood
- Hardwax oils – contain some wax
- Hybrid oils – combined with urethanes
These oils are flexible in humid climates but are usually expensive at $80–$139/quart and don’t hide imperfections in the wood.
DIY Cost To Refinish Hardwood Floors
You’ll need to buy the stain and finish and pay for the equipment rental ($120/day). You’ll also spend a lot of time sanding and cleaning up the dust, pulling up old flooring, edging, and scraping. Overall, it’ll cost about $900 to buy everything you need.
- Equipment rental ($120 per day)
- Stain and Finish ($40 to $60 per gallon)
- Belt sander and sandpaper
- Rags, mops, shop vac, and cleanup supplies
- Wood filler for repairs
- Safety goggles and breathing mask
Hiring a contractor who specializes in refinishing wood floors is one of your best options because they will have perfected their sanding, staining, and refinishing processes down to a fine art. Sometimes the floor is so old that nothing can save it, and all the time and energy is wasted, whereas a flooring professional will know almost immediately what’s worth saving. One of the things a contractor can save you a lot of frustration with is old flooring removal—you can avoid the dust, glue scraping, disposal, and time required for the work.
Many homeowners have regretted trying to refinish their floors themselves due to the costs of equipment, the time taken, cleaning, and the high risk of sanding the floor unevenly in places to where it must be replaced. The equipment can gouge the floor in areas and not sand enough in others, leaving it looking very much like a home-done job. Also, you may not know how to fill cracks correctly, or your staining will be haphazard rather than evenly distributed. Some DIYers even have their oily rags spontaneously combust when they don’t seal them during oxidation/drying.
Hardwood Floor Maintenance
If treated well, a solid wood floor can last from 20 to 160 years without a refinish, depending on its thickness and quality, but high traffic often shortens that time considerably. To maintain you wood floors:
- Only use a professional wood floor cleaning product so as not to damage the floor’s finish.
- Wipe up spills immediately and never let damp items lie on the floor.
- Use a soft brush attachment on the vacuum cleaner to prevent scratches from appearing.
- Close window coverings where sunlight falls on the wood floors to avoid fading.
- Place protector pads on furniture legs.
Refinishing your hardwood floors can make them almost look like new again at a fraction of the cost of replacing them, and you can even stain them to a new color for a visual change. Hiring a pro for this work is highly preferable to doing the job yourself, as there are too many things that could go wrong, ending up with you having to pay twice as much to fix those mistakes.
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