What is the difference between resurfacing and refinishing floors?

Floor maintenance is a critical aspect of home and building care, but it often needs clarification, particularly when understanding the difference between resurfacing and refinishing floors. Both processes are essential for preserving the quality and appearance of floors, yet they serve different purposes and involve distinct procedures. This article aims to demystify these terms, clarifying their differences, applications, and benefits.

Understanding Floor Resurfacing

Resurfacing a floor is akin to giving it a new life. This process involves removing the entire top layer of the floor, revealing a fresh layer underneath. It’s typically reserved for floors with significant damage, like deep scratches, dents, or warping. Hardwood and concrete floors are typical candidates for resurfacing.

The process begins with a thorough cleaning to remove dirt and debris. Then, professionals sand down the floor using specialized equipment to its bare essence. This step is crucial as it eliminates all the existing damage. After filing, the floor is smoothed, and a new finish is applied, restoring the floor’s original lustre. Resurfacing is beneficial for extensively damaged floors but can be more costly and time-consuming than refinishing.

Understanding Floor Refinishing

Refinishing, on the other hand, is less invasive. It’s ideal for dull, scratched floors or minor imperfections. This process involves sanding down the top finish of the floor, rather than the entire top layer, and then applying a new finish.

The process starts similarly, with cleaning to remove any surface dirt. Then, a sander is used to take off the old finish. It’s a delicate process that requires precision to avoid damaging the wood beneath. A new finish is applied once the old finish is removed and the surface is smooth. Refinishing can significantly improve the appearance of a floor and protect it from future damage, all at a lower cost and with less disruption than resurfacing.

Comparing Resurfacing and Refinishing

While both methods aim to enhance a floor’s appearance, their applications differ. Resurfacing is more extensive, addressing more profound damage and structural issues. It’s often considered a last resort when refinishing isn’t sufficient. Refinishing, however, is more about aesthetic improvement and is suitable for minor damages.

Regarding cost, resurfacing is more expensive due to the labour and materials involved. It’s also more time-consuming, often requiring the room to be out of use for longer. Refinishing is more budget-friendly and can be completed faster, making it a popular choice for regular maintenance.

Case Studies

Consider the case of a historic home with original hardwood floors suffering from deep scratches and slight warping. The owners opted for resurfacing, which restored the floors to their former glory and addressed the warping issue, ensuring the floors’ longevity.

In another scenario, a family with moderately worn floors chose refinishing. The process removed superficial scratches and wear, giving the floors a refreshed look without the higher cost and extensive resurfacing work.

Professional Insights

Experts in floor care often advise homeowners to assess the level of damage before deciding between these two options. Regular maintenance, like cleaning and avoiding harsh chemicals, can prolong a floor’s life. However, when the time comes for more extensive care, the choice between resurfacing and refinishing depends on the floor’s condition.

A common mistake is opting for refinishing when the floor requires resurfacing. This addresses the underlying issues and can lead to further damage.

Maintenance Tips Post-Resurfacing and Refinishing

After either process, proper maintenance is critical to preserving the floor’s condition. Regular cleaning with appropriate products, avoiding moisture and extreme temperatures, and protecting the floor from heavy furniture are all essential practices.

Relying on a topcoat every few years for refinished floors can extend the lifespan. For resurfaced floors, monitoring for any signs of damage and addressing them promptly is crucial.


Understanding the difference between resurfacing and refinishing floors is essential for proper floor care. Resurfacing is an extensive process suitable for floors with significant damage, while refinishing is ideal for floors needing an aesthetic boost. Each has benefits and applications, and the choice largely depends on the floor’s condition and the owner’s needs. With this knowledge, homeowners and building managers can make informed decisions, ensuring their floors remain beautiful and durable for years.

Published by
December 7, 2023 12:27 pm