Hardwood flooring can last for decades but it’s not impervious to damage, especially in high-traffic areas. At some point during your homeownership, you may find that you need to explore hardwood flooring repair.
Solid hardwood flooring has a life expectancy of 50 years or more, and it can be sanded and refinished many times to replenish its visual appeal and significantly extend its lifespan. Certain types of hardwood – maple, for instance – also are naturally more durable and resilient than softwood species such as pine, fir, cedar spruce or hemlock.
If your hardwood lacks the luster it did when it was new, it could be time to repair, refinish or even replace your hardwood floors. It’s better to tackle the job before any scratches or wear marks get any deeper than they already are, since the damage will likely only worsen over time. Modernize created this guide to walk homeowners through the entire hardwood floor repair process. We discuss detailed steps to take to repair hardwood floors, and whether you need to replace or refinish. We can even connect you with a flooring contractor when you are ready to start the job.
Let’s start with an overview of common types of hardwood floor damage.
5 Types of Hardwood Floor Damage
Few flooring materials can match hardwood’s natural beauty. Although hardwood flooring is quite resilient, it can be damaged in a number of ways.
One of the most important considerations for hardwood flooring is its hardness. The flooring industry rates flooring’s ability to withstand damage from denting, scratching and wear-and-tear using the Janka test. This test determines the amount of force necessary to embed a .444-inch steel ball halfway into the wood. Hickory, maple, oak and ash rate well above the industry standard median for hardness, while birch, pine, black cherry and fir rate below it. Generally speaking, the harder a hardwood material is, the less likely it is to damage and require repair.
With that in mind, let’s look at five of the most common types of hardwood flooring damage, as well as what to look for while visually inspecting your hardwood flooring.
Some types of hardwood flooring are more prone to scratching than others. Certain types of birch, pine and fir have a hardness rating of 1260 or well be low, while hickory is rated at 1820.
Scratches can happen from pet claws, moving furniture, or dragging anything heavy over wood flooring that scores lower on the Janka scale. If you don’t know the species of your hardwood flooring, look at its grain pattern – tight grain patterns are common in hardwoods, which helps make it more resistant to scratching. It is important to know that scratches can lead to larger problems, as they often allow moisture to penetrate the wood. Luckily, scratched wood floor repair is often possible.
Wear and tear
No matter how cautious you are as a homeowner, your flooring will show signs of wear and tear over time. Common wear damage to hardwood flooring can be found in high-traffic areas or areas where you routinely move furniture across the flooring, such as in dining rooms and under barstools.
Finishes can fade over time as well, especially in areas that are constantly bathed in sunlight. Rugs placed in high-traffic areas can reduce these effects, as will fabric pads placed on the feet of furniture and chairs. Routine cleaning also can reduce the effects of wear and tear, since normal foot traffic won’t be grinding dirt and dust into the flooring.
Water damage is one of the fastest ways to hurt your hardwood floors and lower their lifespan. It occurs when water penetrates and saturates the wood. Boards typically will “cup” and raise at the edges and seams, resulting in an undesirable wavy appearance across the span of the floor. Homeowners should never allow water to pool or stand on hardwood flooring, since it could ruin the boards, lead to mold growth, and lead to costly repair or replacement.
Hardwood flooring often shows dents from heavy impacts. Unsightly dents often can be fixed using heat and moisture to expand the smashed wood grain. Very deep dents may need more specialized treatment, such as epoxy to fill the impact mark.
Squeaky hardwood floors can be even more annoying than the neighbor’s obnoxious barking dog. Squeaks are common, however – natural wood shrinks and contracts in different seasons. Planks can rub against each other, as well as on the screws or fasteners holding them in place. Loose, warped or uneven joists also create squeaks underneath hardwood flooring. There are a number of ways to address squeaks, including gluing, shimming or screwing the flooring down and filling the screw hole with wood filler.
Hardwood Floor Repair vs. Replacement
Now that we’ve covered some of the most common issues with hardwood flooring, and you’ve inspected your flooring with a critical eye, it’s time to formulate a plan to repair or replace your hardwood flooring.
When to Replace Hardwood Floors
That said, there are several scenarios that likely would merit a total flooring replacement. Here are a few:
- Major damage. Extensive water damage across a large surface area, or damage to the subfloor or joists, could mean it’s time to start fresh with a total flooring replacement. Also, if the flooring shows extensive cupping, warping, stains or damage from termites, you might need to install a completely new hardwood floor.
- Severe wear and tear. Natural hardwood flooring can be sanded and refinished many times. There is a limit, though, especially for engineered wood flooring that uses a real wood veneer atop a cheaper base material such as plywood. If your flooring has already been resurfaced many times and still shows a great deal of wear, you might need new planking.
- Upgrading to a new look. Your existing hardwood flooring may still have life left in it. But if it’s in a style that’s not complementary to your tastes, you might want to change it out for a different aesthetic.
Discuss your particular situation with a licensed flooring contractor to determine whether a hardwood floor repair or replacement is the best course of action.
Pros and Cons of Replacing
There are a few benefits of installing brand new hardwood flooring that are worth noting. When replacing, you can:
- Choose a different species that has a better hardness on the Janka scale.
- Change the orientation of the flooring. Running the flooring in certain directions, such as horizontally or vertically, can make a room seem larger.
- Add artistic finishes and patterns for a truly unique aesthetic.
- Modernize your flooring by choosing the extra-wide planks that are common in residential applications.
One potential drawback is hardwood flooring cost, which we will cover in greater detail below. Designer hardwoods such as Brazilian cherry will cost an exorbitant amount, but it also will likely outlast your homeownership – and boost your home’s resale value – since it’s near the top of the Janka scale for hardness. Lower-cost hardwood flooring includes pine and fir. However, these softwood species simply do not last as long and offer a lower return on investment.
How Much Does it Cost to Repair Hardwood Floors?
The only way to truly assess what it might cost to repair hardwood flooring is to have a licensed flooring contractor provide a detailed quote on the work to be performed. Each job will vary depending on a number of factors, including total square footage, extent of the damage to your existing flooring, desired outcome, and contractor labor rates in your area.
Hardwood Floor Repair
Instead of investing in a total flooring replacement, you can opt to repair or refinish your hardwood floors instead
Typically takes one to two weeks
Improves home value
Rejuvenates the room
Extends hardwood lifespan
We’ve broken down hardwood floor repair into a few categories to give you a baseline idea of the amount of work involved and potential costs to expect.
Basic hardwood flooring repairs could involve light-duty work such as replacing a damaged plank, fixing scratches and dents, or eliminating squeaks and gaps between planks. Expect to pay around $75 for each basic repair job, or the flooring contractor’s hourly rate.
More extensive hardwood repairs could include mold mitigation in small areas, removing and replacing several cupped, warped or water-damaged planks, or refinishing a small patch of extensive wear-and-tear in a high-traffic area. Costs for moderate hardwood flooring repair work could cost between $1 to $8 per square foot depending on the complexity of the job.
Homeowners who opt for major renovation of their hardwood flooring can expect to pay anywhere between $8 to $60 per square foot or more. Licensed flooring contractors may opt for a flat bid for the work, which could cost between $500 and $3,000. Major repair work could involve fixing uneven floors, replacing the subfloor underlayment and joists, or a whole-room mold remediation.
Refinishing hardwood floors
The cost to refinish hardwood floors is typically $3 to $8 per square foot, with most projects usually costing between $1,000 and $2,500. Keep in mind that hardwood refinishing costs can vary by the square footage of flooring, type of hardwood, and scope of the refinishing work.
Total hardwood floor replacement
Replacing an entire floor in one or more rooms is an expensive job. Expect to pay an average of around $4,500, but costs could vary between $2,500 and $7,300 depending on what species of wood you choose, as well as labor and installation costs. The average cost per square foot to replace hardwood is $6 to $12 as of 2022. Other factors that affect total cost can include plank style, width, thickness, color and pattern.
Labor and installation costs
Contractors may charge between $3 and $5 a square foot for installation and labor. Expect to pay more if your flooring contractor has to repair the underlayment and floor joists.
Refinishing Hardwood Floors
Natural hardwood floors can be resanded and refinished many times, which can significantly extend the flooring’s lifespan and also restore its natural beauty.
Refinishing hardwood flooring is a big job that is best left to a professional flooring contractor, unless you have ample experience with stains, sealants and sanders. Professional hardwood floor refinishing involves removing everything from a room and sanding the flooring down to its exposed grain using a large drum sander. Next comes staining and applying a protective finish.
As mentioned above, if you hire a contractor to refinish your flooring, expect to pay roughly $1,000 and $2,500 depending on the size of the job. Additional factors that could affect pricing include the type of wood being refinished, contractor labor costs, and difficulty of the job. However, refinishing your hardwood can save you money as well as improve your home’s resale value and natural aesthetic.
Hardwood Floor Maintenance
The single-most important thing you can do to protect your hardwood floors from damage – and extend their longevity – is to keep them clean.
Regular hardwood floor maintenance involves daily or routine dusting with a microfiber mop or vacuuming. Sweeping isn’t your best bet with hardwood because you’ll leave small particles of dust behind. You’ll also want to mop every so often to remove any built-up dirt and grime. Wring the mop head thoroughly before hitting the floor – you never want to let water pool on your hardwood floors. Hot water is usually sufficient, but you can add a tiny dab of floor cleaner if you want.
Hiring a Professional Flooring Contractor
The experts at Modernize provided these hardwood flooring repair and replacement guidelines to help homeowners make more informed decisions about their flooring projects. You likely still have a great many questions that need to be answered, however. We also can put you in touch with licensed and vetted flooring contractors in your area who can help you assess the scope of the job, narrow down your decisions, and get your flooring repair, refinish or replacement job done correctly.