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Forums » Rehabbing and House Flipping » Refinish hardwood floors vs install laminate

Refinish hardwood floors vs install laminate

23 posts by 22 users


Real Estate Investor · Washington, Washington D.C.

I want to know which is cheaper... to refinish old hardwood floors or to install laminate flooring. The hardwood floors in the property is in so so condition, no cracks, but it is uneven in some places though. Would it be cheaper to restore it or just install laminate floors?

SFR Investor · Wheat Ridge, Colorado

The cost to refinish the floors may depend on the condition and size. I've paid $2/ft, but the same guy charged another person only $1/ft. That was several years back. He said mine were in worse shape, so he had to charge me more.

If uneven means not level, then you may need more work than just refinishing. That would be needed even if you want to put laminate over it, but then the neatness would matter so much.

You can find pretty cheap laminate, especially if you catch it on sale. Cheap laminate and refinishing are likely to be comparable in price. It will just depend on what you can find in the way of laminate vs. the cost to do your specific job. I'm assuming you would do the laminate installation yourself. If you pay to have it installed, then I think the labor will make that job more expensive.

Personally, I think the hardwood looks much better than laminate. So, I would lean toward refinishing if you intend to sell. Especially on the main floor.


Jon Holdman, Flying Phoenix LLC

· York, PA

Hey halldandr,

There are some variables in there. You said the floors are 'uneven'? Is that wavy? If so have you checked for a subfloor issue? If you use a laminate / engineered floor are you going to lay it on top of the hardwood or are you going to pull the current floor up?

Typically laminates go down quicker and you may be able to DIY it for additional savings.

Refinished hardwood will look better if that is a primary concern. But it is time consuming and is typically not DIY.

Property Manager · Honolulu, HI

Unless you do it yourself, I have little doubt that laminate will be cheaper. You don't say if you are going to keep or flip, so value may be more important. A laminate floor is easily damaged, and will look much worse than a real wood floor with a similar injury. If this is a long term hold, your maintenance cost will be less for the real wood.

Personally, I'm just not a big fan of laminate floors. I have been on dozens and dozens of new installations, and have NEVER seen one that didn't have some poor joints, or made noise when you walk on them. And, the base trim always looks too bulky. Real wood floors can have the same issues, but a completely different feel to me...laminate just seems, well, cheap. Just my opinion.

Real Estate Investor · Washington, Washington D.C.

The hardwood is just old and doesn't need to be pulled up. The floor isn't wavy. It's just uneven in one spot. I was going to have it installed over the hardwood. Do you think it will be cheaper to do it that way or just have the floors refinished? I understand that hardwood floors will provide more value than laminate so I'm taking that into consideration as well.

SFR Investor · Wheat Ridge, Colorado

You really should call some local companies and see what they will charge. They will usually give you some idea of the $/sq.ft. over the phone. And, go to the store and look at the laminate. I'm sure you can find expensive laminate that will cost you more than refinishing and that you can probably find cheap stuff that will be cheaper. It could go either way, depending on your choices and local refinishing costs. Laminate can be really cheap, if that's what you want. And is easy and quick to install.

Still not sure what you mean by " uneven" . If there's a low or high spot, you'll have to fix that before you can put down laminate. But, if its low and solid, you can fill it in with a leveling compound. If its a high spot, you might be able to sand it down. But then you have to be concerned with the remaining thickness. Assuming its hardwood over a solid underfloor, you should OK.

If you mean the finish is uneven, then refinishing might be more complex and expensive, or even impossible.


Jon Holdman, Flying Phoenix LLC

You are considering laminate and you appear to want to just lay it over the present hardwood.

Two questions.

What are you going to do about the increased floor height? Will you need to trip doors or make other adjustments given the new floor height?

Second, what will the trim look like? Many hardwood floors have baseboards around the room and other fitted casings, etc. How do you expect to trim things if you put down laminate?

There are solutions that look OK and then there are some where it is very obvious that people cut corners.

John Corey

This post has been hidden.

Perspective can make a difference.

If the property is older and has a lot of original features plus the resulting charm slight problems in the level of the floor will not be noticed. It will seem more like a feature.

Major dips are likely a sign of a structural issue so check it out to see what you are dealing with.

John Corey

Real Estate Investor · Ohio

Go rent a floor sander for the day. Pull all your old trim off and sand it down. It will only take you a couple of hours to remove the old varnish. Unless you want a professional job, it isn't even necessary to finish sand it. Dump a couple of gallons of finish on and paint it on with a roller a few times. When you're done and it has cured, add some good wax and your floor will look like you have a new finish. I would not worry about the waves and imperfections in the wood. This character is what a lot of people look for in a real hard wood floor. I have refinished several floors and in the end, the old hardwood always looks better and has more character then the laments and new tongue and grove floors. Money wise you cannot go wrong.

Oh, make sure you go with the grain.

Real Estate Investor · North of Triangle, NC

Hi There,

Many of the houses that I rehab have hardwood under the old carpet. In my part of the country hardwoods are the trend and a real plus for adding value to the property. Whenever possible I try to save the old floors by having them refinished. My flooring sub will sand and finish for $1.50 sf, a low expense for a high end backside added value.

I do use laminate in some instances to replace carpet over subflooring or concrete. I do this mainly in buy and hold (rental) properties or lower end rehabs to give the home some extra pizazz. I have, although, seen some laminates that are not very moisture friendly and will swell at the seams over time just from damp mopping and they will scratch rather easily.

:lol: Happy Investing!

Real Estate Investor · Washington, Washington D.C.

The 'uneven' part of the floor was in the hallway. It was actually a dip in the floor caused by water damage. An inspector said we have to repair the floor joists in the hallway and the adjacent bathroom. The other rooms with the hardwood have even flooring. However, my contractor looked at the floor and said that the stains in the wood were too deep to be removed by sanding. Besides the stains the wood is in good condition. It looks like we are going to go with laminate. What do you guys think?

Architect · Saginaw, MI

The stains (if there aren’t too many) can create a rustic look or you can use a darker stain to make them less noticeable.

DIY floor finishing is very possible, I had a 20 year old niece that was not all that smart and she did her floors with just the help of her just as smart girl friend. they did a terrific job and did it in just a weekend.

Real Estate Investor · los angeles, California

haven't read the above posts, but I'm sure its been mentioned refinishing is better and cheaper. refinishing the same square footage should cost less than half that, as least on the prices I pay. I'm a GC, so I get a much better prices, but if I sub out the job, for 1000 square fee I can get the floors sanded, stained and and 2 coats of varnish(with the sandings in between) for about $700 and new 8 mil. laminte would cost anywhere from $1.75-2.00 psf, cheaper if I hire guys I know by the hour. So its a no brainer. Refinished hardwood is so much nicer too.

Real Estate Broker · Southington, Connecticut

I would never go with laminate over hardwood, and besides, a decent laminate costs me $2/foot before installation and refinishing hardwood costs me 1.75/foot. Never mind the value that true wood floors get me in a selling situation. And lets not forget if you're thinking about laying laminate over hardwood, it will be awkward and likely obvious. Fix the floor problem, refinish the hardwood, and likely it will still be cheaper and more valuable to the end buyer.

Rehabber · St. Louis, Missouri

I pay 1.90/sq ft (sounds kinda high from previous posts) for refinishing and I promise you it will look way better than laminate. I just had 4 rooms done this weekend - I planned on just doing polyurethane but 2 rooms had deep stains that wouldn't come out so we went with a dark walnut stain and it looks great.

Real Estate Investor · Lincoln, Nebraska

The price to re-finish will vary from place to the price we pay is kind of irrelevant...BUT...I would re-finish what I have looks so good once it's all re-finished !

Real Estate Investor · Washington, Washington D.C.

My not very smart brothers refinished hardwood floors in the duplex we bought.

They had absolutely no experience and the floors turned out great.

Contractor · hollister, California

walking into a property pulling the carpet finding hardwood bingo i just stuck gold original flooring in a property thats 40 50 60 years old says aloat about a home i try to refinish as much as i can, some times you'll run into areas you cant refinish but if you have a full home of hardwood depending on what you need you can sacrafice a closet remove wood to patch other areas or sacrafice a bedroom if need be. lets say i have a 1960's original muscle car original paint what does that say for my car although you dont know that i replaced the front door and fender from the same type of car with the same color has the car ever been repainted no

Contractor · Jefferson City, Missouri

An experienced hardwood finisher can replace the "damaged or stained portion only" with ease. You may have to ask him if he did't think of it on his own.

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