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.

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.