Asked on Aug 11, 2015

Hardwood flooring - refinish? Replace? Handicap friendly?

by Meghan
We ripped up our carpet and found some VERY ugly hardwood - dull, scratched, discolored, and possibly damaged from spills/pet accidents. Since we scrubbed and spot-bleached the floors they're not as bad as in the photos, but the multiple staple marks remain. Do you think those will buff out after sanding, or do you suspect we'll need to fill them?
We were planning to refinish the floor ourselves but understand that both staining and sealing are multi-day processes. Our house is a standard Chicago bungalow with one hallway that connects EVERYTHING - bathroom, kitchen, etc. - so we'll need to move into a hotel when the stain and poly dry overnight. My mom (who lives with us) has a physical handicap and cannot be away from home for more than a couple days. Is it feasible to stain first, wait a month, then seal? If we use an oil-based stain/varnish could we knock out the whole project in 3 days?
Lastly, we might have the funds to install new flooring if the refinishing doesn't pan out for some reason. When it comes to the ease of DIYing it, as well as the ability to stand up to wheelchairs and walkers, is ceramic or laminate better? We REALLY want to keep the existing hardwood but I'm curious if there are options that are more resilient to hard wear and tear.
Thanks for reading!
q suggestions for updating hardwood flooring, flooring, hardwood floors, home maintenance repairs
q suggestions for updating hardwood flooring, flooring, hardwood floors, home maintenance repairs
q suggestions for updating hardwood flooring, flooring, hardwood floors, home maintenance repairs
  29 answers
  • Gail Gail on Aug 11, 2015
    Sanding it down yourself really isn't difficult. I've done it several times. Just rent the sander and recommended edge sander. If you stain it a darker color many of the stains will no longer be noticeable. Use a stain first, not a stain with polyurethane in it if you want it to last. I recommend going over the stain with Osmo hard wax or Osmo Polyx Oil. I'm in my second house that I've used this product on. When it dries it has a low luster or you can put additional coats on to buff to a higher luster. It doesn't scratch like polyurethane, holds up under heavy traffic (big dogs for example). Scratches are easy to fix--just cover them with a bit of the leftover oil. I've also fixed them with shoe polish, a wax crayon, a little Johnsons paste wax will also work for scratches.

    • See 2 previous
    • Judith Wines Judith Wines on Aug 13, 2015
      Thank you, Gail. We raise service dogs and my wood floors look terrible. We had them refinished once already, but the polymer finish wore off within 3 years. I kept searching for something to use after refinishing that would stand up to to big dogs and there was your solution. Thanks.

  • Mickey Baron Mickey Baron on Aug 12, 2015
    OMG It's BEAUTIFUL! REFINISH!!! The colors you'd bring out!

  • Danielle Danielle on Aug 12, 2015
    Touch up or refi ish. In my experience, wood filler only amplifies the staple holes. They will fill in a lot of you sand or stain.

  • Jonnie Hammon Jonnie Hammon on Aug 12, 2015
    Hardwood flooring can be restored, or painted, either would look good. Wheelchairs are hard on carpet, linoleum, and tiles. Wood floors hold up the best to wheelchair traffic, so save your money, and stick with wood. I have a wheelchair, and know others that use them as well. Wood floors are preferred by them and their caregivers.

  • Jane W Jane W on Aug 12, 2015
    Use Mr. Sandless... just redone my floor... PROUD of them now... or at least look into it...

  • Susan 11590 Susan 11590 on Aug 12, 2015
    Hardwood floors are a great feature and always add value to a home. There are many options for you to consider. You can have it sanded and refinished. You can get it stained darker - if it has many nail holes this might be best plan to hide them. Whatever you decide,speak to a professional first, they have the expertise to guide you.

  • Barbara Bates Barbara Bates on Aug 12, 2015
    REFINISH for a lot less than covering it. It is absolutely gorgeous!!!

  • Sherry Sweet Sherry Sweet on Aug 12, 2015
    my husband is in a wheelchair and we had the same situation as you with damaged hardwood floors. We put wood look laminate flooring over the hardwood for now and it has held up fabulously and is very easy to wheel on. It's fairly easy to DIY install and much quicker than the refinishing sounds. Just my humble opinion.

  • Mama Rose Mama Rose on Aug 12, 2015
    You might want to check into industrial laminate. It has grained grooves similar to real wood and can withstand heavy traffice (IE: wheelchairs(. They use this type of laminate in department stores, furniture store, etc., that deals with all sorts of traffic.

  • Darla Darla on Aug 12, 2015
    You can get "luxury vinyl planks" that install very easily, and the snap-together kind is a floating floor, so no holes in the wood underneath. We did our powder room with med-dark wood grain, and it actually looks very good, and it's durable.

  • Tracy Norr Tracy Norr on Aug 12, 2015
    I bet you could refinish those floors and they would be beautiful. It would be a shame to cover them again.

  • White Oak Studio Designs White Oak Studio Designs on Aug 12, 2015
    If this was my home I would sand and refinish them. I would like stain them a darker color (mid toned) I had beautiful oak hardwood floors in my old home and I miss them terribly. They were so durable!! I now have a custom Amtigo linoleum floor that looks just like wood and after 13 years it is showing its wear. Nothing wears like hardwood.

  • J J on Aug 12, 2015
    refinish. while the vinyl planks look okay...there is nothing like the hard wood. there is a commercial grade hard wood flooring at Lowes that matches your flooring (and mine) perfectly in size and color if you need replacement pieces anywhere. the color is honey oak. I will be using it to make the flooring in the kitchen match what is already in the rest of the house.

  • Johnchip Johnchip on Aug 12, 2015
    I have DYI-ed and had pro refinished wood floors. My DYI included many 'creative' solutions to problem areas.(various stain color patterns, patches made to look like rugs, ) BTW, staple holes will always look like staple holes. The pro job was magnificent and not that costly, but I had to wait a couple months to schedule the right guy. If you want permanent nice wood floors, looking at your pics, I would have a pro install a new floor. Just do not install cheap, no matter how you go, you will regret it almost immediately.

  • John John on Aug 12, 2015
    When I cleaned out my parents house in Iowa after they post passed on, I found hardwood flooring under the carpeting. The house was built in the late 1880 and the flooring was thick hardwood. My sister and I decided to hire a professional floor re-finisher. One day to sand and patch nail holes and dings. One day to stain and coat with restaurant strength polyurethane. Actually it took longer as he did the upstairs, (three bedrooms and a large landing. Downstairs was a large country kitchen, dinning room and bedroom and large living room. Sanding and stain and protective coating made the house good fantastic. Try one room first or a small section in a corner. and go from there. We found it was a lot cheaper to have the floors done in the midwest than here in So. Cal. We have wooden floors here and twice a decade we sand and stain them. Keep the wood. Slight blemishes give a lot of character.

  • MaryJean14127 MaryJean14127 on Aug 12, 2015
    When we bought our home there were hardwood floors under the "shag" carpeting. Needless-to-say we removed the carpeting. We were not moved in yet so we had an empty space and time to sand and polyurethane. The floors have held up great after 40 some years. One high traffic area needs to be done again, but that's all. We rented a floor sander and did the dining and living rooms and master bedroom. We then applied about 3 or 4 coats of polyurethane. We had the same problem with pet stains and although we tried to sand them out, they didn't completely disappear. Years later we were told that the only solution would be to cut out the damaged wood and replace. Hope this helps. P.S. the small holes from stapling the carpet didn't even show once we were done.

  • Karen Karen on Aug 12, 2015
    I refinished my hardwood floor that were stained and marked when I moved into my home. Usually these old hardwood floors are quite thick and professional sanding will remove stains and marks. Sanding yourself can be very difficult as the sander is heavy and if not moved around the room properly, the sander can make grooves in your hardwood floors. To save money, you can have a professional sand your floors one day, and then stain them yourselves. You will have to put on at least 3 coats or urethane over the stain. Usually you have to wait 24 hours before the next coat of urethane. You will never find "new" hardwood floor that would be of comparable quality of your existing original hardwood floor. Try the sanding... you will be amazed at how beautiful they turn out. In my area, sanding the floors is a reasonable cost (cheaper than new floors)!

  • Duv310660 Duv310660 on Aug 12, 2015
    If you do hire someone, let them know about the possibility of urine in the wood. It can be a nasty surprise to be running a sander and come across a soaked spot. I hired a company to do mine back in '92. They did a great job - BUT I caution you about expecting any trade to keep to your deadline. They can look after all the details, but circumstances may require some extra work time.

  • Coastergrl Coastergrl on Aug 12, 2015
    Yes refinish your wood floor, a thousand times yes. A floor refinisher will be able to tell you if it can be done or the wood is too damaged. We just moved into a 1912 home and had the carpets pulled up. All the floors had nail marks from the wall to wall carpet. Only a few remain and give the floor character. One room had to have new wood - which is fine - but the old wood is so much nicer. We've sanded some ourselves but having them professionally done looks better. Shop around for a good quote.

  • Reba Phillips Reba Phillips on Aug 12, 2015

  • Ginger Ginger on Aug 12, 2015
    My husband is handicapped and uses a power wheelchair. When we moved in our home it had carpet. We had it removed. No hardwood floors, just the subfloor. We opted for wood-look vinyl planks instead of laminate. I love it. So easy to mop up ( you have to be so careful with the laminate.

  • Sheila Jones Sheila Jones on Aug 12, 2015
    I pulled up my carpet after a hail storm ruined the roof and 80 years of attic dirt poured onto my beautiful carpet. I cried for 3 days while the giant fans dried out the floors, ceilings and walls then pulled out my trusty palm sander and went to work. Doing it myself all alone with no way to get any kind of large industrial floor sander this far out where I live it took me 3 months of sand and dust everyday after work and on the weekends. I put one coat of the high gloss polyurethane on the sanded and super cleaned hardwood and the floor it is absolutely beautiful!!! EASY to keep clean even in this dust bowl I live in. just a dust mop every few days and if it just happens to start looking dull I use 2 cups of vinegar in a gallon of warm water and a rag under my foot to wipe the floors to bring the shine back to new, maybe once every 4 months. Keep in mind I did the entire house 3 bedrooms, living room dining room and kitchen oh and 1 & 1/2 baths in those 3 months. after it's finished it will be much easier for wheelchair and walker use. I would recommend and industrial sander if you have access to one it will sand our a lot faster. You can rent them in larger cities. The extra time it will take to refinish will pay off in the long run by far!

  • Linda Jowers Linda Jowers on Aug 12, 2015
    My daughter received possession of my parent's house after it had been lived in for 12 years under a "life least". This person had pulled up all of the carpet, leaving nail marks, & let her dogs & cats scratch & urinate in numerous locations. One bedroom & hallway even had random pieces of linoleum laid on top of the urine stained floors & the backs were black where urine had soaked through. Despite all this they look great now. After sanding & staining even the worst places looked like variations in the wood color. We had a professional local company that had many excellent & detailed reviews. Had them look at floors that had never been refinished before to get an idea of how much could actually be repaired. They did not overestimate what they would be able to do, but the final results were far better than we had hoped for. In my opinion these refinished floors are far better wood than replacing them at a huge cost comparatively. I have osteoarthritis with 2 bad knees and the finish used is not slick or slippery to me. Research the companies, get different estimates, check with your local Better Business Bureau, and check with previous customers. They were out of the house for a little over a week, but were not living there at that time. Unfortunately the whole house had to be reclaimed, including washing, Kilzing, & painting every wall, after the previous resident. Yes Refinish!!

  • Pam (nedlnut) Pam (nedlnut) on Aug 13, 2015
    Try Mr. Sandless - usually done in one day.

  • Jane W Jane W on Aug 14, 2015
    " Mr. Sandless... read the complaint broad...that Constance G. posted....Guess I'm one that is very Happy with my floors... To each his own as they say. Hate that others are not...

  • Wanda sinnema Wanda sinnema on Nov 26, 2015
    I had a 50+ yr old house . i uncovered the original hardwoods, they were beautiful but had same issues.. I used a local floor company to redo them.. Most will not touch them without sanding at least a bit.. fewer problems for them down the road.. You may be able to get it done in a couple of days.. there are new finishes that don't take that long, but I'm not sure how they last.. they will be done..If the issue of your mom creates a problem,, I used area rugs (low pile- from Costco) for several years.. until the timing was right.. I would suggest doing it in the summer.. when you can air out the house..

  • Darla Darla on Nov 27, 2015
    You will definitely need to get it sanded to get out the worst of the marks. You will have a beautiful floor when you're done, but if you decide to cover it up, go with the luxury vinyl planks (snap-together, not adhesive). Less hard and slippery than ceramic, but very durable and waterproof. And it's a floating floor, easy to install, and won't damage the wood underneath if you decide to take it up in the future. We have it in our powder room.

  • Debbie Gartner Debbie Gartner on Dec 09, 2016
    I would refinish the floors...but definitely hire a professional. If you don't do this on a regular basis, you will prob. do an inferior job and it will take MUCH longer.

    If time out of the house is the main consideration, I would just do this natural with 3 coats bona traffic. This will dry the fastest. It will cost more than oil based, but it will save you money in a hotel.

    And, no, you definitely should NOT do a stain and then wait until later for the poly. While you physically could do this, you definitely should not as there won't be any protection on the floors. And, if your mom has a physical handicap, it's even more likely that you will get lots of scratches. If you do it this way, I would expect that you will need to redo your floors a 2nd time.

    also, I think it would be a shame to cover up solid hardwood floors and add LVT or laminate or something on top and lower the value of your home.

    If you get this done professionally and use water based poly and do it natural, you could do this over a 2 day time period and then walk on it at the end of the 3rd day. (note: you need to wait longer for furniture to go down, so you may want to do in 2 phases.