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Resurfacing vs Refinishing Hardwood Floors: A Complete Guide

Resurfacing vs Refinishing Hardwood Floors: A Complete Guide

The difference between resurfacing vs refinishing a hardwood floor is subtle but can make a big difference depending on what outcome you want to achieve.

Generally, refinishing simply involves sanding and applying a new stain and lacquer whereas resurfacing is a more involved process. Resurfacing can involve replacing old floorboards, adding nails to others for reinforcement and grinding down uneven floorboards to level them off.

Whilst often used interchangeable, there are clearly differences between the two terms. Let’s jump into the pros and cons of each method to determine which is right for you and your hardwood floor.


Let’s start with resurfacing, a more thorough option that is better suited for floors that exhibit multiple signs of wear and tear or damage.


Tackles Uneven Floorboards

If your floor is uneven then resurfacing can tackle this problem easily.

A hardwood floor can become uneven for a lot of different reasons, but it is mainly due to moisture content within the wood that causes the wood to change shape.

Small changes in shape are normal and can be addressed either by changing the humidity or through light sanding as part of a refinishing process, but drastic changes in shape can only be dealt with properly through resurfacing.

Can Replace Water Damaged Floorboards

If your floorboards have become water damaged then the only option is to replace the floorboards and deal with any moisture damage underneath. This is for the more extreme cases such as a water pipe leak where excess water has sat for long periods of time.

Replace Nails

Another benefit of resurfacing is that any nails that have come loose or popped out can be put back into place or replaced with new ones. This ensures that the floorboards will remain in place to keep your floor looking like it has just been fitted.


Requires A Professional

Resurfacing is a much larger job that requires expert knowledge of replacing, levelling and re-fitting floorboards.

For this reason, it must be done by a professional. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can be hard to find a reputable company who have the availability to deal

Much More Expensive

Resurfacing, for obvious reasons, costs more than refinishing.

Not only can you attempt refinishing on your own without the need to contact a professional, but it also avoids replacing floorboards, nails and the use of a grinder. The additional labor costs as well as more specialist tools and even replacement floorboards all add up and mean resurfacing can be drastically more expensive.

Read this guide to get an idea of the costs associated with resurfacing.


Refinishing is a simpler process that you can actually do by yourself if you know what you’re doing. Let’s take a look at the specific pros and cons to see if this could be the better option for you.



If you’re savvy with a sanding machine and applying stain and lacquer to a hardwood floor then you can easily refinish on your own, saving labor costs.

You won’t get the finish of a professional, of course, but you’ll definitely save time and if you take your time you might surprise yourself with the outcome.

Less Expensive

Even if you do hire a professional to refinish your hardwood floor, it will still cost less than resurfacing as fewer tools are needed and no floorboards are replaced during the process.

If you do it yourself you will save even more money, as the only costs are the sanding machine and stain/lacquer.

Takes Less Time

Due to being a simple process refinishing will generally take less time.

Most of the time spent will be waiting for the lacquer and stain to be absorbed fully.


Surface Level Treatment

Refinishing is a great way to treat discolored or scuffed hardwood floors, but it doesn’t address structural issues beneath that.

For example, if your floor contains any cracks, holes, or structural changes due to water damage then these cannot be fixed with a simple refinishing process. Other problems like mold or missing pieces such as nails will also not be addressed during refinishing.

How To Choose The Right Option For You

So, how do you choose the right option between resurfacing vs refinishing?

Generally speaking, if you have any structural damage then resurfacing is the only option that makes sense. Although it will be more expensive, you will have any damaged floorboards replaced and fixed – leaving your floor not only looking new but also being structurally sound.

If you want to simply give your floor a refresh and it only contains surface-level damage like discolored floorboards or scuffs and scratches then a refinish will be the best option.

You also need to consider the amount of money you are willing to spend, as a lot of the time resurfacing will be out of the budget completely.