Is your old flooring looking like it needs refinishing? Hardwood not laminate flooring, that is. If you’re looking to refinish wood floors, you’re probably wondering how much this project is going to cost per square foot? Hardwood floor refinishing is the sort of home improvement project that will refresh a space like none other. Just think: Years or decades of scratches, scuff marks, gouges, and random blood stains (hey, no judgments!) can be sanded away from hardwood flooring during a refinish so your floor essentially looks as good as new.

In fact, experts estimate that you should refinish hardwood floors once every 10 years—or every two to five if they get major traffic from kids or pets. But this flooring refinish face-lift is not cheap per square foot, which leaves homeowners wondering: Just how much does it cost to refinish hardwood flooring, whether you hire flooring pros or tackle the refinish job yourself? Also should you use a sealant such as polyurethane or stain them?(Ah, the joys of home improvement.) Here’s everything you need to know about hardwood floor refinishing costs.

How much does it cost to refinish hardwood with a pro?

Like everything else in the home remodeling world, hardwood refinishing costs depend on your location, your type of floor, its current condition, and (of course) its square footage. But here are some ball park estimates if you hire a pro to refinish flooring:

  • To completely refinish a hardwood floor—including sanding down the top layer to bare wood, then applying several coats of new finish like polyurethane—expect to pay flooring professionals $1.50 to $4 per square foot, or $340 to $900 for a 15-by-15-foot room.
  • If your floor is slightly worn but otherwise in good condition, you could get by on just recoating the flooring without sanding. This will typically cost $1 per square foot, or $225.
  • For a custom refinish job involving sanding the hardwood flooring, and applying stains, water-based or oil-based finishes, and other finishes like those that are acid-cured, expect to pay $3.75 to $5 per square foot, or $850 to $1,125.

The cost of labor for sanding and staining is the major variable when figuring the average cost of wood floor refinishing, because the price of skilled labor varies throughout by ZIP code. For instance, HomeWyse says hardwood floor refinishing in a 15-by-15-foot room costs $611.92 to $789.42in ritzy Scarsdale, NY, but $473.45 to $608.02 in Mobile, AL. Contact local flooring contractors for a free estimate.

How much does it cost to refinish wood flooring yourself?

If you want to refinish flooring yourself as a DIY project, you’ll have to rent a commercial drum sander for about $60 a day. To treat sanded hardwood flooring, you will also have to buy stains and sealants to refinish, which will typically cost between $125 and $225, according to CostHelper. The total cost depends on how many square feet of hardwood flooring you’re tackling.

While the DIY version sounds tempting, know that refinishing hardwood floors is not as easy as it might look. (And let’s get real: Does sanding a hardwood floor with all of those hard-to-reach corners and baseboards even look all that easy?) Refinishing hardwood floors can be a dusty, time-consuming job, even with machines that capture most of the mess. (You’ll go through a lot of sandpaper.)

Also keep in mind that before you start refinishing wood flooring, you must remove everything on the floor—furniture, rugs, piano, wall units—which can be difficult, backbreaking work. Then, you must cover everything in your house during a refinish to prevent it from getting layered in sawdust during the sanding phase, which will happen even if you screen off the refinishing area.

What to look for in a professional

Like anything else, you get what you pay for when hiring a hardwood refinishing professional. Whereas anyone who can rev up a sander can remove the top coats of a floor, only an experienced refinisher can control the sanding process to create a smooth, even surface. And applying stain without drips and lines between brushstrokes takes skill.

The Hardwood Manufacturers Association advises homeowners to hire a certified wood refinisher to make sure the floor refinish face-lift is done appropriately, says Linda Jovanovich, executive vice president of the association. These professionals are tested and certified by the National Wood Flooring Association.

When hiring a pro and evaluating the cost to refinish hardwood floors, ask the following questions while obtaining a free quote:

  • How many years of experience do you have, and can you supply at least three references?
  • Does the quoted price for the refinish include moving heavy furniture and appliances, or will I have to pay extra to hire movers?
  • Who is responsible for cleanup after the refinish? If the refinisher also cleans, what will the cleanup entail?
  • What warranty does the refinisher offer? Are free recoats available?
  • How much deposit does the refinish require, and what are the conditions of further payments?

How to prepare for refinishing hardwood floors

Hardwood floors refinishing is a hurry-up-and-wait process. Between each coat of stain or sealant, you must wait several hours before you can walk on the floors, maybe 24 hours if you live in high-humidity areas. That lag time could put your kitchen or bedroom out of commission for days during are finish.

And even though stains and sealants don’t emit all the VOCs they once did—you can buy low- or no-VOC floor products for your refinish. And if you’re particularly nose-sensitive to, say, polyurethane, the smell could send you running to the nearest Motel 6. So you may want to add that to the cost of refinishing hardwood floors.