Finding the right person to refinish our hardwood floors was not an easy process, that’s for sure. I spent a lot of hours scouring the internet searching for the perfect company. I read countless reviews, scrolled through hundreds of pictures, read dozens of blog articles about how to affordably refinish our hardwood floors. So I wanted to share some tips from our experience or knowledge I learned throughout the process to help others that are looking to have a similar project performed on their house without breaking the bank.
scope of the project
I love the house we purchased. There were two things that were plentiful in our new house that we wanted to fix prior to moving in: wallpaper and carpet. I’ve already complained on this website about outsourcing the removal of wallpaper since I was traveling for work a lot at the time and the additional expense I incurred as a result, so I won’t spend anymore time on this topic.
When we were walking through our house prior to putting in an offer, we were told by the owner that the original hardwood floors underneath the carpet were in pretty good shape. We were even able to validate this statement since the homeowners had left the hardwood exposed in one room because for some reason they decided not to cover the office with the beautiful pink carpet in the master bedroom or the green carpet in the second bedroom or even the ugly beige carpet that covered our entire first floor. Luckily we had this insight from the sneak preview (see picture below from listing). However we still couldn’t be certain that the hardwood was in great shape until the carpet was removed. We took the gamble when we bought the house and validated that the hardwood was in great shape once the carpet was pulled up…success!
The scope of our project was pretty straight-forward. Remove the carpet and refinish the hardwood floors underneath. This included our staircase, which has thirteen stairs. After several measurements, we had ~1200 sq. ft. of area to be service. So this project was not a small feat. Next, we began the process of researching and calling various contractors. I quickly learned that this was not going to be cheap. The work was labor intensive and required a lot of different tools, machines, and stains.
5 ways to Control the cost of refinishing hardwood floors
But guess what. Just because the project was going to cost money doesn’t mean that it has to break the bank or empty your savings account. Knowing that, I began doing everything I could to find ways to keep the cost of the project as affordable as possible. Before I share the cost of the project and some before/after pictures, I wanted to share some tips I learned and a few I was able to use to control the cost of refinishing our hardwood floors. Due to time constraints and the scope of the project, we were not able to use all of the suggested tips. However, some of them are important and could result in cost savings for the right person, right project, and the right time. They were just too important to leave out because I was not able to use them!
Tip #1 – Receive As Many Quotes As Possible – I cannot emphasize this point enough. I contacted over 10 companies and ended up receiving 5 quotes. The first quote we received was $10,000. We knew the quote was high and quickly learned that our gut feeling was correct because the remaining four quotes were significantly lower. One was $8,000 and two were between $6,500. The final estimate we received…..$4,590. Price was not our final deciding factor (See next tip) but it definitely was a major factor. Imagine if we wouldn’t have shopped this service around? We would have paid over double the price for the EXACT same service. I cannot emphasis this point enough.
Tip #2 – Research, Research, Research – The amount of knowledge on the internet is just incredible. Since I am in my late 20s, I have a hard time imagining what it was like for my parents to make a decision without being able to pour over reviews on Google, Thumbtack, HomeAdvisor, or Yelp. But reviews were instrumental in helping me identify which companies were the low-cost providers with low quality work, which companies were over-priced like the first quote we received, and all scenarios in between. I ended up selecting the vendor that was the cheapest but had several reviews that read as follows: “We were shocked at the price offered and thought it was too good to be true. Then we saw the quality of his work and could not be happier with our decision.”
Performing research also allowed me to gauge the prices that we were offered. There are a TON of websites that will help provide you with guidance about the cost per sq. ft. and other details about the project. We were comfortable with the $3.75/sq. ft for refinishing based on this research. The one thing I would caution about basing the decision solely off of the $/sq. ft. metrics online is understanding that each vendor and each project is different. The website may have told us that we should expect to pay between $2 – $3 per sq. ft. to refinish our hardwood floors based on average prices for all home renovation projects recorded in the area. Each house and each project is different. For example, the average price per sq. ft. figure on these websites included the price reported for small projects (one 500 q. ft. room) and large projects (full houses, 3,000 sq. ft). Understanding this point allowed us to be comfortable in exceeding the average price on these websites. You may think you are over-paying based on this metric alone, but just remember there are a lot of factors that impact the price. That’s what helped us clear this hurdle!
Tip #3 – Offer to Role Up Your Sleeves and Tear Up the Carpet- This is one of the tips that were not able to partake in since we were so focused on painting walls and finishing other projects. Luckily though, this paid off for us based on the company we selected. I had read on many other websites that hardwood companies will offer a lower quote if you are willing to take out the carpet, staples, and tack board. So we asked each hardwood company to provide us with two quotes: One quote where we performed the services and one quote where they performed the services. The prices to remove carpet ranged from $300 to $1,200 for four of the five companies. Luckily, the vendor we selected included this service FOR FREE and included in their $4,590 quote. We obviously weren’t going to turn down free. Hopefully you can see how performing this on your own can save you hundreds or even a thousand dollars!
Tip #4 – Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate – Prior to finding the company that offered us the $4,590 cost and free carpet removal, we were asking each of the other service providers about matching other providers and seeing what they were willing to do to lower their cost. The bottom line is that you don’t just have to accept the price they offer you. Negotiate and be bold. Ask for that discount. What’s the worst that happens, they will say no? The downside is limited but the upside is huge and can save you A LOT of dollars potentially.
Tip #5 – Don’t Forget About the Shoe Molding – I learned this lesson the hard way, so please make sure you discuss shoe molding with your hardwood contractor ahead of time. In fact, this ended up costing us extra time and money after the fact. Since the floor was carpeted, we were not able to get a look at the condition of the shoe molding. This is something that can easily be removed by the hardwood contractor prior to finishing the floors. It turns out that our shoe molding was in pretty bad shape and we would have been better off removing it and starting over. We were not told this and the contractor proceeded with finishing our floors with this old and nasty shoe molding.
After the project was finished, we decided to remove the molding. Underneath the old shoe molding was strip of crud (pictured below) that was not removed and sanded down with the rest of the floor. Luckily my mom’s boyfriend is experienced with crafting shoe molding, so we took a trip to Home Depot and spent $250 on molding. After two days of measuring, cutting, re-measuring, and re-cutting, we were able to cover to strip on the ground and the shoe molding looks like new. In hindsight, I wish I would have discussed this with our contractor. But I believe this DIY aspect of the project saved us A LOT of money in the long run. Here are some before and after pictures of the shoe molding project!
Refinishing hardwood floors cost and pictures
All in, my wife and I probably spent about $5,000 to re-finish our hardwood floors and replace the shoe molding. It could have been a lot worse and I’m happy I was able to use as many tips as I could. I cannot emphasize this enough. Just like selecting the right stock, I could not have kept the cost as low as I could if I did not spend the time researching and educating myself about the process before we began the project. I was prepared and it allowed me to save as much money as I possibly could and complete this project affordably. The one thing I did not mention here is that if you are that bold, you can rent the equipment and perform this project yourself. Since we did not even consider that and I did not research the price, I did not discuss this in the article. Now, the moment you have all been waiting for, the photo gallery!
What do you think about my tips? Did I leave any out? Have you tried re-finishing your hardwood floors on your own? If so, can you please shares any tips or information about the potential cost in the comments section.