Many comments have asked me about the costs associated with refinishing hardwood floors, both here and on my YouTube channel. I should have written this post sooner, but it is finally here.
If you want a quick-and-dirty breakdown of hardwood floor refinishing costs, then here it is:
As a general rule, professional hardwood floor sanding and refinishing can cost between $2 and $6 per square foot. Refinishing your hardwood floors yourself will cost roughly $300-500 per room. Your location, the type of finish you want, and the size and condition of your floor will affect the total cost.
As I mentioned, there are two aspects to the question of refinishing costs; professional refinishing and DIY refinishing. Obviously, paying someone else to do it costs quite a lot more!
It is important to remember when comparing prices that there is a difference in the final result between DIY and professional floor sanding. You aren’t getting the same result. It isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison. It’s two different prices for two different results.
Here are some quick links to help you find what you need!
- Costs of refinishing hardwood floors yourself
- Costs of refinishing hardwood floors professionally
- Polishing hardwood floor costs
- What’s cheaper, refinishing or installing new?
- Hardwood floor refinishing cost CALCULATOR
How much does it cost to refinish hardwood floors yourself?
As a general rule, it will cost between $400 and $1500 if you use the recommended machines and methods. The main factor in DIY refinishing costs is the size and condition of your floor. The longer you need to rent the machines, the more it is going to cost.
Good quality lacquer is expensive at about $150 per gallon or more. There are cheaper brands, but personally, that’s the amount I would be looking to spend.
Generally, 1 gallon will cover 400 square feet for one coat, which means if you have 400 square feet of flooring, you’ll need two cans for your top coats, plus a can of primer to go underneath, and that’s around $80 – $100.
Here is the lacquer I recommend (this is an amazon affiliate link; I will earn a small (read: tiny) commission if you buy, but it’s a genuine recommendation, this has been my favorite for years!)
In the UK, the same finishes are slightly cheaper for the same brand and amount of lacquer.
Oil-based finishes are cheaper, but the price and the coverage rate, which means the amount of flooring one gallon will cover per coat, will vary greatly.
No matter what finish you’re using, make sure you check what the coverage rate is and be sure to buy more than enough for what you need.
You don’t want to run out of finish halfway across the floor.
Floor Sander Rental
I was shocked to learn how much it costs to rent good floor sanding machines in America. Home Depot and Lowes are both very expensive.
However, they do seem to have some very good machines that are generally unavailable in the UK, outside of big cities.
Where these higher quality machines are available in the UK, it is much cheaper than across the pond!
Floor sanding machines can be rented for under a hundred dollars per day. Each subsequent day will be cheaper, with hiring for the entire week being the cheapest.
Most rental places have package deals for all of the equipment for a week, roughly $200 – $300; again, it’s very difficult to give exact figures because it depends on where you are and the types of equipment you can hire.
If you have a fairly large area to do, say 600 square feet or more, get the kit for the week.
It’s going to take you longer than you think, and often, people end up driving back and forth to the hire places and rehiring.
Abrasives and Consumables
When it comes to the abrasives needed to sand your floors, ask if they have a policy of buying back what you don’t use. They should do, and if they do, buy… a lot.
Again, this is a point where many folk’ end up making the project take longer and cost more by not buying enough abrasives.
How many abrasives you need is very difficult to say.
I’ve done several rooms with one belt and one disk per grit, and I’ve also sanded floors in a single room that have just eaten belts and disks, like ten belts and twenty disks. You also have variations in the quality of abrasives you can get.
Talk to the hire shop and ask what they recommend. For a 400-square-foot floor, let’s say $50.
You’ll also need a respirator, applicators like rollers and brushes, or maybe rags for staining. Maybe another $50 – $100? Let’s call it 50 dollars.
DIY Floor Sanding and Refinishing Cost Breakdown
Let’s add this up quickly for a 400-square-foot floor:
- $80 for primer.
- 2x $150 for some good quality polyurethane lacquer.
- $240 for floor sanding machine rental.
- $40 for a handheld orbital.
- $50 for abrasives.
- $50 for consumables like applicators and a respirator, knee pads, and ear muffs.
That’s $760. Now I’ve worked it out; it’s quite a lot!
So here’s a lesson for you…
If a contractor quotes $2 per square foot ($800 for a 400sqf floor), something is not right there. If you hire a guy for $2 a foot, you’ll get a bad job done quickly.
Hardwood Floor Refinishing Costs
Prices between the UK and the US are fairly easy to convert at the time of writing. Square feet are used in the US, and square meters are used in the UK. The square feet to square meters conversion rate is 10.8 square feet to the square meter. Currently, the currency conversion rate is 1.24 dollars to the pound.
So… kinda close.
$1 per square foot is roughly £10 per square meter.
You will usually get prices for sanding *and finishing* with oil or polyurethane or whatever. Most companies don’t quote just for sanding. If that’s what you want, make it clear to the contractor you’re talking to. It will probably save you about 25% cheaper without finishing.
In my opinion, please don’t do that, pay the extra cost, it will save you a lot of hassle!
How much does it cost to refinish hardwood floors professionally?
As a general rule, professional hardwood floor sanding and refinishing can cost between $2 and $6 per square foot. The total cost can be significantly affected by your location, the size, and condition of your floor, the type of finish you want, and the company you choose.
I know a few guys that regularly charge more than that, and even one guy that has charged as much as $14 a foot just for sanding and refinishing, but they are exceptions that have great businesses, great reputations, and live in affluent areas.
In the UK, it’s roughly the same multiplied by ten, so £20 to £60 per meter. It’s quite rare for it to go over £60 a meter in the UK, but it can happen in places like London where the working logistics are a nightmare and, again, there are a lot of wealthy clients.
There’s an element of “you get what you pay for.”
If you go for the cheapest quote. If you have three prices and go for the cheapest one, just don’t be too upset if it’s not perfect. It may be good, but it’s unlikely.
By the same token, just because you go for the most expensive quote doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the best guy for the job.
You can’t just decide who you will choose based on price alone.
For most professional refinishers outside of big cities, $3 – 4 a foot or £30 – 40 per square meter is a reasonable price for sanding and refinishing with a clear finish.
It will cost roughly an extra $1 per foot or £10 per square meter to change the color of your floor.
This doesn’t include repairs which will be extra. Everyone charges for repairs differently. Some will charge for the materials and a day rate on top, or some may charge per linear foot or meter.
Filling may or may not be included in the refinishing price. For years I never charged for filling, but these days I only fill parquet floors, and I charge more for parquet floors because of that fact.
Old floorboards that are face nailed into joists are never fun to sand and will likely cost more.
Floor sanding and refinishing is a service that benefits from economies of scale. Larger areas with fewer rooms may be cheaper.
It is because of this that, in the UK, the cost of sanding and refinishing school floors is quite a lot cheaper per square meter (and difficult to make a profit if you don’t get it done fast!
On the other hand, most contractors have a minimum charge, so if you hoping to get your 50-square-foot entrance hall sanded for $150, unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.
This minimum charge can vary wildly; it may be $400 or as much as $3000. If I had a decent size company in Manhattan, I can’t imagine wanting to take on work for less than that.
Costs of polishing (or recoating) hardwood floors.
This industry is fraught with different words being used for different things. I hadn’t considered how bad it was until I started this website. Honestly, I think I confuse myself these days. I don’t know how people can keep up.
I try to use the terms my viewers, visitors, and clients use. Sometimes it’s straight-up incorrect, so I have to explain to lay out what I mean.
Professional contractors don’t polish hardwood floors. That doesn’t mean to say that it can’t be done or that the products don’t exist.
Polishing hardwood floors is a temporary fix.
Once a floor is polished, it can look significantly better, but the polish will deteriorate very quickly. Once you have polished a floor, it makes it significantly more difficult to recoat the floor properly.
Normal cleaning doesn’t remove all of the polish, so specialized cleaning solutions must be used. Most contractors will be unwilling to do this, as it’s likely the new finish will have major issues.
Polishing hardwood floors costs under $50. All you need is a bottle of polish and an applicator like a paint pad.
Recoating hardwood floors will cost a lot more, depending on the size of your floor. The type of finish you are going to use and how many coats you are going to apply is also a factor.
To have your floors recoated professionally, you can expect to pay between $1 and $2 per square foot.
Recoating hardwood floors DIY will cost between $2 and $5 per foot.
Is it cheaper to refinish hardwood floors or install new?
Refinishing hardwood floors is significantly cheaper than installing new floors in most cases. The costs associated with hardwood floor refinishing are mostly labor. Installing new floors involves huge material costs, as well as labor for removing old floors, repairing the subfloor, and installing the new floors.
Not to mention the cost of replacing the baseboards (skirting boards for the UK folk), then redecorating the walls around those baseboards.
It’s quite a common question, and I can understand the thinking behind it.
You figure out the cost per foot for refinishing your floors, and you think, “well, snap! This wood flooring online here costs the same per square meter”
It may well do, but installing new flooring is an entirely different kettle of fish.
You’d be doing very well if you could only pay double the refinishing costs to get a new floor.
It usually costs three times as much.
Traditional wood flooring has to be fitted… and sanded. The sanding is much quicker than an old tatty floor, but it’s still added to the bill.
No matter how much quicker and cheaper the fitting or the sanding may be, fitting and finishing will never be cheaper than refinishing alone.
If it’s prefinished, you usually pay slightly more for the fitting. However, this portion of the labor may be cheaper than refinishing.
Once you add on the cost of the wood, you are already way over the refinishing costs.
Unfinished wood is cheaper, but you must pay extra for the sanding and finishing. Fitters usually charge slightly more for prefinished flooring.
In the end, prefinished is usually slightly cheaper than traditional flooring, but traditional fit and finish look better. It looks less… cookie-cutter.
Then you have glue which can add up quite quickly.
I must admit my knowledge of subfloors in the US is a little lacking. Over here, you rarely see a floor ready to take a new wood floor covering without any preparation.
There is the exception of “floating floors,” where the flooring is glued together on a padded underlayment. In this case, the homeowner usually tries to save money on the flooring and the subfloor prep.
Fixing the subfloor can often add a couple of thousand to the job.
Hardwood Floor Refinishing Costs Calculator
Interesting breakdown of pro vs DIY costs. On the whole, it looks like you really don’t save money on the DIY route.
The problem in the UK is that there’s so little regulation, so it’s difficult to know how good a professional is going to be without seeing their work or a personal recommendation, which is especially outside of cities. This is true of the building trades generally.
That’s the main reason I went DIY, plus my boards also needed extensive repair. Also, mine are face-nailed pine with plenty of bitumen. If I could be sure of getting someone of Ben’s calibre, I’d be happy to pay £60 per sq metre. I had sort of assumed the good pros charged a lot more than that.
Oops I meant to say ‘especially difficult outside of cities’
Thanks for commenting on my new post Paul 😁 I put a lot of effort into this one.
I havent written the disclaimer for the calculator yet. Renting sanding machines in the UK is *significantly* cheaper than in the states. I was shocked at the difference. Even if you live in a large city like london and rent the best machines, it’s still significantly cheaper. Renting HSS machines is stupid cheap.