Original Hardwood Floors – To Restore or Not to Restore

You bought a new house knowing it had original hardwood throughout or maybe you discovered it when you ripped up old carpet. The house has charm but the floors have seen better days. Now that it’s your home you have some decisions to make. Is it worth saving the old hardwood or is it better to start over with new but more expensive and less charming new floors?

There are a few things to consider when making this important choice. Antique floors are often unique and have a certain wow-factor. I love walking into a home with refinished wood floors and the thought of ripping up unrestored ones would be very difficult for me but there are times when it is the better option. Many of the homes in Springfarm Yorkhill, Ontario have hardwood floors. Sol Kahane has been selling real estate there for 25 years.  This is what he says about what to keep in mind.

In most cases refinishing is preferable to replacing. Almost all hardwood floors can be salvaged by a skilled contractor or some serious grunt work on the part of the home owner. There are times when restoring is the obvious way to go but when this is not the case, walk through your home with these thoughts in mind.

  • Is there a tremendous amount of movement between the boards? This is not an ideal situation as the movement will affect the sanding and the finish making it difficult to create a nice professional end-product.
  • Has there been too much sanding in the past? Sometimes the hardwood has been refinished too many times and there is not enough integrity left in the flooring. Check for cracking or breakage on the perimeter of individual planks and look for exposed nail-heads.
  • Does the subfloor need fixing? Structural problems in the subfloor may mean the hardwood needs to be torn up anyways in order for yourself or a contractor to fix a major problem.
  • Can you see a lot of significant water damage or extreme staining in the wood? This might be a case of no matter how much you sand your floor you are stuck with a dark patch in the middle of it all.
  • Is it possible to patch stained or over-worn spots on the floor? Even if your original flooring is showing signs of the above symptoms that does not necessarily mean you have to throw in the towel. Stained, warped and termite ingested planks can be replaced, squeaks can be quieted and gaps can be filled. It might just depend on how much your heart is set on refinishing.

With the above questions in mind you find that your hardwood floors can in fact be refinished. With some physical labour on your part or the hiring of a professional they can be brought back to their original splendour. So what next?

Renewing your antique hardwood might actually be easier than you think. Often when we first look at an un-refinished floor we imagine ourselves with sander in hand working for hours on end for days. However sometimes this is not the case. If you are lucky you can get off with a couple of easy steps because your floors are not damaged they are only in need of some TLC.

  • Give it a good deep cleaning. When dirt is tracked onto your hardwood floors over time it dulls giving it a dingy look. You may even find the high traffic areas greyer and in need of more attention. This does not mean your floors are damaged or that they need to be sanded. Professional cleaners may be ableto help you here and you may find once this is done and a good oil is regularly added your boards are now a source of pride and joy.
  • There are products created specifically for restoring wood floors without sanding or staining. They have a thick consistency so they will fill in shallow scratches as well as hide small dings and restore your existing polyurethane finish without changing the colour. Available in a satin or glossy finish, check these out before reaching for the sander.

If deep cleaning or restoration products are not able to fix your dull and dinged floors and you are still intent on keeping the original hardwood be ready for a lengthy and labour-intensive process. Once you are finished and you are surveying the final product you will be happy you decided to go with refinishing instead of replacing. You have saved yourself a lot of money and you now have bragging rights when a visitor tells you how much they love your floors.

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