Hardwood floors bring warmth and charm to almost any home. They can work with almost any decor, and buyers almost always prefer hardwood floors to carpet.
Entire libraries have been written on the subject, but here’s a very basic primer.
Refinish or Replace Hardwood Floors
Most hardwood floors can last for decades with regular upkeep.
If the issues appear mostly cosmetic, there’s no need to ditch a whole floor’s worth of wood. A lot can be done to rehab a floor’s look: filling in holes, sanding down cracks and repainting or refinishing to hide stains.
If you suspect any problems below the surface—if you’re coping with squeaking floors, for example—the problem might extend beyond the floorboards to the subfloor. Fixing that is more than just a quick refinish.
Of course, if you moved into a new place and don’t like the look of the old floors, that’s a different story as not all wood flooring is the same.
Types of Hardwood Floors
The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) breaks the types of floors down nicely for homeowners.
Unfinished wood flooring: As natural as it comes, a contractor can fit and add finishing to your home.
Factory-finished flooring: Just like it sounds, the factory applies the finishes before the wood leaves the warehouse, removing some of the steps that would otherwise occur in your home.
Engineered wood: There’s solid wood traditional flooring, and then there’s wood flooring with different veneers. While this type of flooring can be sanded and finished, it cannot be done as many times as solid wood flooring, according to the NWFA.
Floating engineered wood floors: Okay, so this isn’t entirely a separate floor type defined by the NWFA, but it is a way to think about wood floors beyond just nailing down boards.
Floating floors offer a wood option for those who don’t want to invest the time and price of sourcing solid wood flooring. These boards sit above your current floor and fit together like puzzle pieces, with minimal shaping (except for along the edges).
Such flooring can lie over concrete, ceramic tile, and other surfaces that may otherwise rule out traditional wood floors—or necessitate costly removal to make wood possible.
Installing New Hardwood Floors
Cost, noise and time can play as much of a part in this decision as the environment or looks. Sure, you could refinish the floor, but do you have the time to do so?
Renting tools so you can DIY the new floor could bring the project cost close to that of a good contractor, not to mention the time involved for someone who doesn’t do this for a living.
If you’re fairly handy and the floors appear in good shape, buffering, stain and some finish—one weekend, or even one day, of elbow grease depending on the room size—could handle the issue. A local, well-stocked hardware store could help you here.
But if you aren’t sure how to install hardwood floors or how to refinish wood floors yourself, your living room boards may thank you for hiring an expert.