Because they undergo decades of heavy use, wood floors seldom receive long-term loving care. If you're remodeling your home, or recently have acquired a home with a dingy or scratched wood floor, take heart: not all wood floors need to be replaced. Say you've pulled up an old carpet to find the original floor and it's not a total disaster. But refinishing wood floors requires skill and patience. If you lack either, you may want to call in a professional flooring contractor to handle the job. But the most important consideration is whether the wood floor can be restored in the first place.
The restoration or refinishing project will require repairs and sanding, so you'll need to inspect the entire surface to see whether the floor--and your budget--can withstand what can take several weeks of prying up and replacing damaged floor boards. And you won't be able to use the room during the process, so find a space for all your furniture.
Stapled or nailed floors are the best candidates for doing the job yourself. But you'll still need to strip the surface after repairs since it's unlikely that you'll match the color of the existing boards. If you're the owner of a floating floor, you'd be better off calling in an experienced carpenter to do the work since installing replacement boards requires special tools and precision fitting. If your floor is a pre-finished nailed floor, then it's simplest to install new boards. If your floor is bonded to the subfloor, you may pull up sections when removing the boards.
If your floor has been hidden (and safeguarded) under carpeting, you may have an easy job on your hands. Contractor Tom Silva warns that the most difficult part lies in removing the carpet adhesive from the wood. And if the nail holes have discolored the wood, you'll have some repair work to do before staining.
Of course, floating wood floors typically have the lowest costs to repair, while a glued-down wood floor will cost the most. Expect additional charges for sound control or moisture barriers, with work on parquet floors carrying a high premium. If you're lucky enough that the floor is undamaged by wear or rot, then you can refinish it yourself. You'll need a random-orbit sander, a block with fine sandpaper, mineral spirits, and top-quality varnish. When you're ready to move the furniture back inside, be sure to install fabric glides on all the legs of tables, chairs, couches, and lamps.About the author: Woodrow Aames has written articles and profiles for Yahoo, Microsoft Network, Microsoft Encarta, and other websites and print magazines around the world. He holds an MFA degree and has taught English abroad.