Hardwood floors can add a lot of value to a home. Nothing compares to the elegance, beauty and warmth of rich natural wood. Unfortunately, even the most carefully protected hardwood floors will eventually suffer some wear and tear over time and that will inevitably lead to the need for refinishing.
Not all damage is equal, of course, and some can be taken care of easily, while more severe damage requires immediate attention. If your floors are beginning to show damage and you don’t take care of it quickly, it’s likely to become more serious and require repair and replacement.
The issue for homeowners is knowing exactly when it’s time to refinish your floors. Exactly how do you determine when your floors are in need of more than just regular cleaning and maintenance?
Following are some conditions you can look for that indicate it may be time to refinish your hardwood floor.
1. Water Damage – Water is the worst enemy of hardwood floors. Even the smallest amount of water can eventually lead to damage. If there is any kind of leak or other emergency that results in standing water, it’s vital that you dry out your hardwood as quickly as possible.
Severe cases of water damage may result in warping, cupping or buckling of the wood, in which case it will need to be replaced. In less severe cases you may only have staining, which can usually be fixed by sanding and refinishing. Again, the sooner you can address the problem, the better off you’ll be and the more money you can save yourself in the long run.
2. Scratches – Any time you have a wood floor, some scratching will occur. It’s a natural side effect of normal use, especially in heavy traffic areas. Light scratches in an isolated area are generally not a cause for concern. If the scratches are only in the stain, they may not require any repair.
Scratches that go deeper, into the wood itself, are a more serious matter and a sign that your floor requires refinishing. Any scratch that penetrates into the wood opens up a potential entryway for water, which can do more serious damage, so the scratch needs to be addressed.
It’s also important to remember that you can’t repair scratches by simply applying a new coat of stain as that will change the color of the wood, making the repair obvious. The only way to ensure proper repair is by sanding and refinishing the floor.
3. Gouges and Chipping – Unfortunately, wherever you have wood and traffic there is likely to be damage that goes beyond simple scratches. This is especially true in homes with children and pets, but can happen in any home over time. As with deep scratches, gouges and large chips can let water seep in and seriously damage the wood and splintering of wood can be hazardous for everyone in the family.
4. Graying of Wood – If you notice sections of your wood floor beginning to look gray this is not just a normal sign of aging. Graying or other discoloration of wood is a sign of water damage and likely means that the polyurethane finish has begun to wear off. The gray color is an indication that the wood is oxidizing and if it is not addressed it will continue to darken until it turns black.
The more discolored your floor gets, the more structural damage is occurring and this can become dangerous. If your floor has begun to look gray in spots, that is a good indicator that it is time to refinish in order to avoid more serious damage.
5. Excess Staining – As with scratching, staining is an unavoidable byproduct of life with hardwood floors. It may be impossible to prevent staining but if the staining becomes excessive then you should take this as an indicator that refinishing is necessary. You can try to remove stains with regular cleaning products but if that doesn’t work then you’ll need to sand and refinish.
6. Sun Damage – While having lots of natural light in your home is a plus, it can lead to damage and discoloration of hardwood floors. In areas that get a lot of direct sunlight you may notice your floor become faded or washed out. Reapplying stain can help but it won’t solve the problem; the only way to completely resolve the issue is by refinishing.
7. Worn Areas – Any time you have a lot of traffic on hardwood it will eventually start to look worn. If you notice areas where the stain looks like it’s wearing away then it’s time to consider refinishing. Once the stain begins to wear away if it is not addressed it can lead to splintering, which can be even more dangerous.
This kind of regular wear is most noticeable in places like doorways or hallways that see a lot of traffic but it can also occur in other areas of heavy usage, such as beneath chairs and tables that are regularly moved.
Remember, too, that once the stain begins to wear away it can allow water to seep in and warp the wood or lead to mold growth. That kind of damage, if not addressed promptly, can become very costly as it may require a replacement of the entire floor.
While these are the most common signs of damage that requires refinishing, there are other indicators as well. Whenever you have hardwood floors it’s always important to be aware of their condition so that you can spot any potential problems as quickly as possible. Not only will this keep your hardwood floors looking good, it will also help them to last for years.
Even if your floors seem to be in good condition, it’s always a good idea to regularly check and ensure that the seal coat is still intact and providing the proper barrier to prevent water damage. You can do this easily by pouring about a tablespoon of water on the floor, particularly in areas that look worn.
If the water beads up in small droplets or pools together and doesn’t seep into the wood then the seal is still intact and doing its job. If the water seeps into the wood itself, then you’ve got damage to the seal and should immediately consider sanding and refinishing.
Refinishing is important if there are signs of damage but you don’t have to wait for these indicators to refinish your floor. If you are dissatisfied with the design of your home and want to change the color of your hardwood floors, you can do this by refinishing. Floors that are in good shape can easily be changed up by sanding and refinishing with a new stain color.
Not only will this help to keep your home looking fresh, it can also improve resale value should you eventually decide to put your home on the market. There is almost no better way to add value to your home than with good quality hardwood floors, which most realtors will tell you is among the first things buyers look for in a home.
If you do make the decision to refinish your hardwood floors it’s important to do the job properly in order to maintain the overall condition of your floor. In most cases that means relying on a professional flooring contractor who will have the tools and experience necessary to do the job right.
Hardwood floors can be a great investment in any home, but they require a lot of care and attention. Be aware of the condition of your floor and watch for any signs that it may be time to refinish. The sooner you get your floors refinished, the better off they’ll be and the longer you’ll be able to enjoy them.