Over time, normal wear and tear takes a toll on the appearance of your hardwood floors. Many homeowners mistakenly believe that the only way to restore wood floors to their former beauty is to refinish them. The good news is that in many cases, you can save a whole lot of money and get excellent results with a recoat.

So what’s the difference between a refinish and a recoat?

The Refinish

Refinishing a hardwood floor is an expensive and extensive restoration process. A large, heavy sanding machine is used to remove the existing finish from the floor, and the exposed wood is sanded down to even out the surface and remove dents, scratches, and most types of discoloration.

Following the sanding, great care is taken to remove every speck of dust from the surface of the floor, which is then stained. Once the stain is dry, three coats of finish are applied, with each allowed to dry before the next is added.

During a refinish, many homeowners arrange to leave the house for a few days to avoid the mess and odors associated with refinishing.

Why You Might Choose a Refinish

If you want to change the color of your wood floors or have them re-stained to match other wood in your home, a refinish is the only way to go. Additionally, if you have deep scratches, uneven coloring due to fading from sunlight exposure, or discoloration due to moisture or pet accidents, you’ll need to have the floors completely refinished.

The Recoat

Recoating a hardwood floor is a simple process in most cases, and it’s far less expensive than a refinish. A recoat involves roughing up the existing coating, either by lightly sanding—or “screening”—the existing finish or by chemically etching the strong-as-nails coating of a pre-finished floor. Once the floor is prepped and all specks of dust are removed, a new coat of finish is laid down over the existing roughed-up coat and allowed to dry for 24 hours.

It’s important to note that some floors can’t be recoated. If any of the existing finish has completely worn down to the wood, a refinish will be needed to prevent uneven coloring. If certain substances like wax or oil soap have been used to maintain the floors, there’s a good chance that a new finish won’t stick, even if steps are taken to try to remove the residue of the substance. Floors that have been pre-finished in the factory and coated with Teflon or Scotchguard for added durability also can’t be recoated, because it’s impossible to abrade these coatings.

Why You Might Choose a Recoat

If your floor is looking a little dull and tired due to scratches on the finish surface, a recoat will leave them looking glossy and smooth again, just like they did when they were originally installed. Although deeper damage can’t be undone with a recoat, the overall appearance of your floor will be dramatically improved. Most experts, including The Floor Doctor, recommend recoating every three years or so for floors that get normal wear and tear. For floors that are heavily used, a recoat should be done when the floor starts looking worn.

A Quick Note About Finishes

Unlike the olden days of harsh oil-based finishes, most quality wood flooring contractors today use a water-based finish, which produces far fewer harmful fumes. While oil-based finishes are more forgiving and require only a low level of expertise, water-based finishes are durable, beautiful, and better for your health and the environment. When you’re choosing a contractor for a refinish or recoat, consider the type of finish he or she will be using. Ideally, you should opt for a water-based coating for the best—and safest—results.

The Floor Doctor Can Help

If you’re ready to restore your floors to their former glory without the expense and mess of a refinish, contact The Floor Doctor today. We offer a free in-home consultation to inspect and test your floors to determine whether they’re a candidate for a recoat. For both recoating and refinishing, we use a water-based finish and state-of-the art tools and technologies, including UV curing that allows you to walk on your “new” floor the same day it’s refinished or recoated.

Trevor Hayden is The Floor Doctor, specializing in restoring existing hardwood floors to their former lustrous appearance. Whether your floors need a little spruce-up with a recoat or they’re heavily damaged and need more extensive repairs or refinishing, Trevor has nearly 30 years’ worth of experience and the extensive knowledge and expertise necessary for getting your project done beautifully right the first time.