Designed by: Robin Rigby Fisher Design
So, you've got dull, dinged up, uneven strips of woods trying to pass themselves as floorboards? We’ve all seen great houses with pretty great kitchens—but less than great hardwood floors. But even if your floors aren’t looking so hot, don’t write off hardwoods just yet. There are plenty of ways to make their surface look (and keep it looking) fresh.
THE “SAVE” FIX: Paint Existing Floors
The look: Country cottage or modern Mecca, depending on the color and pattern you choose. White floors reflect tons of light; black floors lend contemporary style; high-gloss finishes add glamour; and checkerboard patterns are classic.
When it makes sense: If your floorboards have enough dings, nicks, and scratches to merit repairs but do not need to be tossed (read: are not rotten) and you don’t want to spend as much as traditional refinishing
What’s involved: Choosing paint colors and a pattern, then hiring a great painter to sand off the existing finish, buff out scratches and paint the wood. Painted floors can be walked on in as few as three days, depending on how elaborate a pattern you choose. Each coat of paint needs to dry overnight, however.
The cost: The labor varies by region and the material cost depends on what paint you choose and how much you need. You usually can expect to pay about $2-4/square foot for the work plus paint. Bonus: you can also take on this project yourself since experienced handiwork is not required.
Things to consider: Use paint specially formulated for floors to protect them from moisture and heavy foot traffic. Painted floors will need to be touched up over time.
THE “SPLURGE” FIX: Refinish Existing Hardwoods or Install New Ones
The look: Earthy, rustic, or polished, depending on the wood type, stain, and finish. Cerused or whitewashed oak has a lightly distressed, organic feel; varnished heart pine casts a warm glow; ebonized wood has a slightly more formal look.
When it makes sense: If you prefer a natural wood color and have extra cash to spend, or if your floorboards are rotten, uneven, or in such bad shape that paint will not conceal the damage.
What’s involved: Finding a great floor refinisher or installer, then choosing a wood type, stain, and finish. Installing new wood floors and refinishing existing floorboards create a lot of dust so ask your contractor about sealing off furniture and other rooms. Both options require more time: newly installed floors must sit for several days before being finished and newly finished floors must sit for a few more days. To avoid the strong fumes and minimize the dust clean up, have this work completed before moving into a new home, if possible.
The cost: For installing new hardwood floors, the labor varies by region and the materials vary by wood type, but installation plus wood typically runs about an average of $8/square foot. Custom details like borders or wider planks will add to the bottom line. Refinishing alone will run about $2-$5/square foot, depending on where you live and other factors such as the condition of the floors.
Things to consider: When choosing a finish, you’ll want to test out various options on the actual floorboards as the age, color, and type of wood can affect the look of different stains. Once installed and stained, add a coat of polyurethane to protect the wood from moisture or expect to wax them around once a year.