Timber Flooring: To Replace or Refinish?

by Greg on August 28, 2019

timber flooring closeup

To replace, or to refinish.

That is not the easiest of decisions to make when concerning timber flooring. There are a lot of factors involved in deciding which option to go for and the answer is a situational one. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

Replacing the flooring means stripping the current floor paneling and installing completely new and different floorboards. Refinishing, on the other hand, is the process of maintenance and restoration; the current floorboards are sanded, trimmed, polished, and various other corrective techniques are applied to make them new again.

Some of the factors to consider when deciding between the two approaches are:

  • Cost

What your budget size is and how much you can allocate will make a difference on which option you ultimately go for.

If you have a considerable budget, then you can afford to be flexible and go all out in replacing your flooring. If, however, you are constrained, then going for a refinish is probably the wiser option.

A nice balance between wanting to try out new things and saving on costs is to go for recycled (reclaimed) oak timber floorboards.

  • Time

Opting for a refinish might be the cheaper option but it actually takes more time. There is thus a tradeoff of cost and time between the two options. Therefore, if you are pressed for time and have to complete updating the flooring by a certain date, then going for a replacement would be the faster approach.

A refinish comprises a lot of meticulous steps which must be carefully carried out to ensure the wood comes out looking as new and professional as possible. It has to be sanded down, trimmed, adjusted for gaps and cracks, and polished among many other things. During this time, you cannot go near or use that area. It has to be warded off and all furniture removed. The process can easily take weeks.

Replacement will meanwhile at most take a whole week. The most expensive option is thus the fastest one in this case.

  • Aesthetics

Your decision will also heavily depend on what aesthetical reason you have for changing the look of your flooring.

If you merely want to make it look new again and polished or to bring out its faded beauty, then a refinish will be the best option. This is because a refinish scrapes and sands away the old and stained wood to leave fresh and clean wood which can be made to look just as good as new with polishing.

If your aesthetic reason is more along the lines of changing the make or type of the wooden flooring or its direction, then a replacement will be needed. These are more involved procedures that require deep stripping the flooring. Even if you plan to use your current flooring in a different layout, it will still need to be stripped and taken out for the appropriate adjustments to be made.

  • Age and Condition

Whether you can actually refinish your wooden flooring is heavily contingent on the actual age and condition of the wooden flooring.

If your flooring has been refinished too many times then it might no longer have the structural integrity to support another refinish attempt and might actually pose a threat. Similarly, if the wood has been cracked, damaged, or warped beyond repair, then it might very well do you good to get rid of it.

The same goes for termite infestations, deep mold growth, rotten wood, or wood that has experienced water damage. These are all conditions which can affect wooden flooring in several ways and cause deep-rooted problems. A refinish will not solve these problems as it only deals with the surface of the wooden panels and does nothing to the inner core.

If your house is a family house which has remained standing for more 50 years or more, then it might very well be time to opt for a replacement over a refinish.

Advantages and Disadvantages

To provide a recap of the factors we have discussed above and how they translate into advantages and disadvantages for the two options, here is a handy comparison for you:




  • Cheap
  • Old beauty
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Can be done without much external help


  • Quick
  • Variety of options
  • Longer lasting


  • Time consuming
  • Hassle-some
  • Finite limit
  • Weakens structural integrity
  • Cant incorporate changes


  • Expensive
  • Burden on the environment
  • Cannot usually be tackled without external help


Those are the advantages and disadvantages laid out conveniently. The weight of these advantages and disadvantages will vary for people across age groups, income groups, and other measures of stratification.

Young entrants of the job market will obviously not opt for costly replacements but will be fine with refinishes. Married people in their 30s or 40s however might be able to better afford a replacement and also more willing to try out new home décor settings and the like.

Areas which have drier weather patterns and low levels of humidity might be fine with refinishes to remove the top surface of stained wood. Places which have higher humidity levels or are subject to risks of water damage might need more frequent replacing.

There is thus no decisive verdict on which option is strictly better and recommended. It is, however, a sign of the times we live in that as our incomes increase, people have become more fashionable and trendy.

Changing home décor on a frequent basis after every couple of years is a norm now and to that end you can find different ranges of floorboards in Melbourne. You will certainly be left spoiled for choices once you enter the market.

So, consider your options and factors carefully and choose what course of action best fits the needs and preferences of you and your family.


Simon Roth

Simon is an entrepreneur and self-proclaimed jack of all trades. Simon has experience in the building and home renovation industry and he knows what it takes to knock out a successful project whether it be commercial or residential. Currently, he works as a marketing consultant with Smarter Timber Flooring – a well-established name amongst parquetry flooring suppliers in Melbourne. Another niche for Simon is travel and outdoors leisure, including sporting equipment and bikes. A big kid at heart if it goes fast, bounces, slides or you can climb it Simon has put it to the test.

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