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Refinishing Your Hardwood Floor - When Should You Do It?

Hardwood Floor
Hardwood Floor

Refinishing a hardwood floor isn’t an expensive job, and can extend the life of the surface up to another ten years. But when should you call in your local flooring expert to get the job done? Below we discuss different types of hardwood floors, and give you an insider method to check whether your surface needs refinishing.

Solid or Engineered Hardwood Flooring?

A solid wood floor is one where the individual panels or boards are made from a single piece of wood. These floors can be refinished multiples times to regain that ‘new’ appeal.

Engineered wood floors, on the other hand, constitute a top veneer and several layers of wood below it. The lower layers may consist of different wood types. Sanding during the refinishing process and continual foot traffic may wear away the top layer over time, requiring boards to be replaced, should that top layer become too thin. A general rule of thumb used to determine the thickness of a engineered hardwood surface is to measure their thickness:

Locate two boards that have some space between them. Wedge a thin piece of cardboard (such as a business card) as deep as possible (without bending) into the groove between the boards, and mark where it meets the top layer of the floor. Measure from the bottom of the cardboard (the side that went into the groove) to the mark. Anything less than ¾ of an inch will either require an expert touch for refinishing, or replacement.

The Refinishing Test

Visible faded patches, stains, and other visual irregularities aren’t necessarily an indication that the protective finish has worn off. Different types of wood display different grains and knots. Poor quality finishes may also have left their mark on an otherwise healthy hardwood floor.

Expert opinion generally states that hardwood floors can retain their finishes from eight to twelve years. Some hardwood floor finishes may even last up to 20 years. It all depends on the amount of traffic the surface is exposed to on a daily basis.
The following method is recommended to determine how much of the finish is left:

Step 1: Determine the areas that are most exposed to foot traffic. In most cases this will be along the middle of corridors, around cooking appliances in the kitchen, and areas where furniture (such as chairs) are often moved around.

Step 2: Carefully pour a tablespoon of water onto the floor at each of the heavy-traffic locations.

If the water rests on the surface without seeping into the wood, the finish is in good condition. Slow penetration into the surface indicates that the finish is wearing thin. Quick penetration is usually an indication that the finish has worn completely. In both the former and latter instances, experts recommend a refinishing of your hardwood floor.

Refinishing Hardwood Floors - Do It Yourself?

Solid wood floors, and engineered wood floors that are up for a first refinishing, can generally be done yourself. There should be enough top layer left to correct any sanding mistakes. However if you lack the tools or DIY expertise, or if your engineered floor’s top layer has worn too thin, an expert soft touch is needed for the refinishing of your hardwood floor. Mistakes can be costly, since entire boards may need to be replaced.

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