How to Know Whether to Buff and Recoat, Refinish, or Replace a Hardwood Floor

It can be kind of tricky to figure out whether your should buff and recoat, refinish, or replace a hardwood floor altogether.

Most of the time, you can simply buff and recoat the floor. This is great news because a screen and recoat is often one of the most profitable jobs a contractor can take on.

Buff and recoat/screen the floors in question if:

It’s been a few years and the finish is looking dull or worn. A simple recoat can do a lot to make the floor look shinier. Just make sure to use a similar product.

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Your customer would like to change the sheen level of the floors. For example, if your client would like to go from satin to semi, this can often be achieved with a simple buff and recoat. Make sure the product that the floor was previously coated with and the one you are using now are compatible.

There are minor scuffs and or minor surface damage. Anything deeper than surface-level damage — AKA anything that goes beneath the current finish — will need to be sanded down and refinished. 

Make sure that your new product will adhere to the old before starting the project.

Sanding and refinishing

Sometimes a buff and recoat just won’t cut it, and you need to do some more serious work to get the floors looking great again. You’ll probably have to sand and refinish the floor if:

You need to repair shallow scratches. A simple screen and recoat will not remove these scratches. If they are shallow enough, a refinishing job should take care of them. However, if they are too deep, the only way to solve them is to replace the boards in question, or even the entire floor if they are present in several boards. 

Water stains are present. These require a bit more effort to get out of wood than just buffing and recoating, but they’re usually not so intense as to require a complete replacement.

When to replace a hardwood floor

Ripping up and replacing the floors is usually your last resort. It’s more labor intensive and more expensive than buffing and recoating or refinishing. But sometimes you just have to do it. You’ll probably have to replace the floors if….

  • They are old and have been refinished many times.
  • Pet stains are present. Trying to buff these out will often just make it worse.
  • There is significant damage across the entire floor, e.g. scratches or dents. If the damage is limited to certain areas, you can simply replace the affected floorboards rather than the entire floor.  

Keys to success

A lot of clients don’t understand the differences between these types of jobs So it’s extremely important to mitigate your chances of creating disappointed customers and inviting callbacks. Here are some tips:

  • Manage customer expectations. The floor may not necessarily be shiny after a recoat (especially if it was originally finished with a satin finish, for example, and you’re recoating with another satin finish.)
  • Test adhesion and product compatibility before starting the project. This will help you avoid any problems.
  • If your customers are hoping that a recoat will take care of scratches or other intense damage, explain to them that this is not the case.

9 thoughts on “How to Know Whether to Buff and Recoat, Refinish, or Replace a Hardwood Floor

  1. Derek

    This blog is quite informative regarding importance of maintenance of hardwood floors and its refinishing.. Thank you !!

  2. stella

    This blog is really enlightening of the fact that it has helped me a lot to figure out the required service to be given to the hardwood flooring in my office building at the most appropriate time…Thank you for providing this information !!

  3. Deb Pearl

    I’m glad you mentioned that a simple screen and recoat will not remove shallow scratches on your hardwood floors. I have noticed that my floors don’t look as great as they used to and I have been wondering if I should just recoat or refinish my floors. I’m glad that a refinishing job should take care of the scratches!

  4. Ashley Turns

    My husband and I are wondering if we should hire a service to buff and recoat our floors or just replace them. So thanks for letting us know that a recoat can make a dull floor that is only a few years old look new. Since we just installed our hardwood a few years ago, we will be sure to hire a buffing service to help us.

  5. Amy Winters

    Thanks for pointing out that refinishing your hardwood floors can get out water stains. My home’s hardwood floors are water stained in a few places, so I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to fix the problem. I’m glad to hear it should be solved by having the floor refinished!

  6. Angela Waterford

    One of my cousins has been complaining to me that his new home’s hardwood flooring looks dull because of pet claw marks. Thanks for saying that he should have his floor refinished as long as they are shallow enough. However, I think I should tell him that he should hire a professional to do the job since he doesn’t have the tools to do it himself.

  7. Angela Waterford

    I’ve noticed that my hardwood floor doesn’t look as good as new as it was three years ago since it really looks discolored on some parts and has scratches on its other parts. Thanks for saying that it should be fixed with refinishing as long as the scratches are shallow. If I were to choose, I’ll hire someone to do it if they offer a dustless option.


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