Floor Refinishing vs. Floor Restoration

There is a big difference between refinishing a floor and restoring one. Let me explain.

Refinishing a Hardwood Floor

When you refinish a floor you are either sanding or screening a floor to remove the scratched and dull finish. Then you re-coat the floor with new layers of finish to renew the floor’s luster so it looks new.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

When you restore a floor, you are repairing a damaged floor. The damage may be from pet stains, water stains, or renovations from electrical, heating, or plumbing changes, or even fire damage.

So, what’s the difference? Floor restoration requires someone who understands the floor and knows how to repair it. Refinishing is more about using the right tools and executing the work correctly. Only a small percentage of people can restore a damaged floor - while a larger number of people with the right aptitude can refinish a floor.

Choosing when to restore vs. refinish your hardwood floor

Depends on the period of the floor:

Let’s say you purchased a home that was built in the 1940’s, about the time of WWII. Most houses in the Northeast (where I am from), have red oak floors because it was readily available at the time. Oak is also one of the best woods for floors (and good for a parlor trick, but that’s another Floor Fact). Getting back on track, this kind of floor would just need a simple refinishing.

Now let’s talk about when it’s best to restore a floor:

Take a house from the Victorian era, my personal favorite. The houses from this era had wood floors made from mixed species and rare species like walnut, mahogany, maple, and quarter sawn oak.  The craftsmen would even go the extra step to create custom borders with inlay medallions. In fact, in the 1920’s you could order one of these floors. All you had to do was measure, choose the species of wood and a kit would be sent to you.

Because these different species were so rare, they would often only be ⅜” thick as a opposed to today’s  thickness of ¾”. These little details need to be kept in mind when the restoration process begins.

The reason people fall in love with the potential beauty and complexities of these old floors is obvious. Don't be disappointed. Be sure you hire someone with the acquired experience and knowledge that will bring your floors back to life.

Hardwood Floor Experience

When I was younger and just starting out, I started my business in Newburgh, New York. This town had every style of Victorian architecture. I would go into these homes and find VCT tile, then tar paper, then a pattern floor under all that. I never knew what I would find.

Some of the hardwood floors were so bad they couldn’t be saved . Most could and are still there today. It’s funny, I’ve been doing this for over 40 years and I’ve had the good fortune to restore some amazing floors. Most of the time, if you tell me how old your home is and where it’s built, I can tell you what’s under the carpet.