How to Decide if Your Old Wood Floors are Worth Repairing

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Hardwood flooring brings beauty and natural elements into your home. It’s also a durable solution that can hold up for more than a century when cared for properly. When you buy a home that already has hardwood flooring installed, you often face a tough choice. Should you repair or replace those old wood floors. On the one hand, old hardwood floors can boost your home’s value. On the other hand, repairs can prove a gamble. Say you start the repairs and discover more extensive damage than you expected. The price can go up and up before the project ends. How do you decide which path to choose? Keep reading and we’ll give you some key factors you should consider in making your choice.

Type of Damage

Hardwood flooring damage comes in lots of different flavors. Water damage is one of the worst kinds of hardwood floor damage. Even with a good finish on the floor, water can still wreak all kinds of havoc like:

  • Buckling
  • Cupping
  • Stains
  • Mold

When it comes to water damage, repair often proves impossible. The disfigurement of the wood often resists any traditional approaches to repair. Other types of catastrophic damage that can destroy a hardwood floor include insect damage, dry rot, and wet rot. Wood floors can also face various kinds of use damage. For example, dropping a heavy object on a weak spot can punch a hole through the flooring. Many lesser types of damage can afflict hardwood floors. Poor care can leave the floors dirty or the stain/finish badly worn. Hard use can also leave scratches or minor dents in the flooring. In most cases, this type of damage does well with basic repairs.

Extent of Damage

The extent of the damage can also influence your decision to repair or replace. If all of the damage is confined to a single room, for example, you might only replace the flooring in that room. You can repair the flooring rest of the house. By the same thinking, if the damage is only in one spot in the room, you might only replace the wood around the spot. This type of repair can prove difficult because color matching aged wood takes a lot of skill. Basic wear and tear damage that affects the look of the finish, but not the wood, is a good candidate for repairs.

Visual Preferences

A more pressing concern for some new homeowners is the look and feel of the hardwood. For example, many old hardwood floors have a dark stain. Some hardwoods come with very distinct or tight grain patterns. These visual elements can run counter to contemporary design that emphasizes open spaces and light. If you dislike the look and feel of the existing flooring but still want hardwood floors, replacement can often prove the only option. For a home with floors that prove too light, you can take less dramatic steps that fall more into the category of repair.

Repair Options

Partial replacement is the primary repair option of badly damaged wood in a confined area, such as a corner or single room. Sometimes, you can solve the color-matching problem by using reclaimed lumber. In the case of extinct or endangered wood species, reclaimed lumber offers the only possibility for repair. Partial replacement is a very complicated project. You can attempt it yourself, but you’ll get the best results from a professional. For most other kinds of minor damage, refinishing is the main repair option. Refinishing can take off a worn or dirty finish and replace it. It also provides an opportunity for restaining the wood to a color you like better. Depending on your comfort level with home repair, you can take one of two options for refinishing a floor.

You can hire a contractor or take the project on a DIY project. If you opt for the contractor option, you get some benefits. The job almost always happens faster. You also get some level of protection from slipshod work. The DIY approach also offers some benefits. It’s often cheaper and you get the personal satisfaction of doing the work. The basic refinishing process goes something like this. You use a large floor sanding machine to remove the old finish. You can rent these machines at most major home improvement stores. After you vacuum up all the dust, you apply either stain or finish. It usually takes several coats of each spaced out according to manufacturer instructions. This can range from several hours to overnight depending on local weather conditions and the brand. After the final coat of finish goes down, you typically want a curing period to let the finish surface harder. This is the ideal, but it’s not always practical.

Replacement Options

Replacement options come in two main categories: full-thickness hardwood or engineered hardwood flooring. New, full-thickness hardwood typically comes at around 3/4″ thick. You can get this kind of replacement in almost any species and color you want to match your decorating decisions. As a general rule, you want to leave this project to professionals. In most cases, they remove the old floor before putting down the new floor. It’s very work-intensive and usually time-consuming for non-professional. You can also opt for engineered hardwood flooring. Engineered hardwood flooring uses a layer of genuine hardwood over a base material. Depending on the type you choose, you can get engineered hardwood flooring that offers up to a half-inch of genuine hardwood.

Parting Thoughts on Deciding if You Should Repair Old Wood Floors

Deciding whether you should replace or repair old wood floors means weighing damage, the look, and your options. For extensive water, insect, or rot damage, replacement typically offers the best outcome. Repair is often the better option for minor or cosmetic damage. If your preference is for a lighter wood or different grain style than what’s installed, you’ll probably end up replacing the floor. If you simply want a darker floor, you can refinish the wood with a different stain. You can try the DIY approach for refinishing. On the whole, though, you’ll get the best results for repair and replacement from a professional. District Floor Depot offers hardwood flooring solutions to homeowners and contractors in the DC area. For product information or to schedule a consultation, contact District Floor Depot today.

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