Should You Replace or Refinish Your Wood Floors?

Renovating is better for the environment, and comes with a much smaller carbon footprint. 

  • According to a recent study, home renovation produces around one tenth the amount of carbon emissions as a new build.
  • Refinishing hardwoods in the home can save as many as 22 mature trees.
  • A significant amount of solid waste entering landfills is comprised of woods — 6.2 percent, according to the EPA. Refinishing hardwoods during a remodel helps reduce this amount.
  • Using a refinishing service can significantly save on renovation budgets, as well. Refinishing kitchen cabinets can cost as little as one-third the investment of newly-installed fixtures.

So you’ve decided to renovate your home. Congratulations. According to McGillivray, it’s important to always “make informed renovation decisions.” What does that mean? The first step is to do your research and know what similar houses in your neighborhood are selling for and what upgrades have been done in those homes.

Once you have a sense of your market value, you’ll know whether to invest in high-end finishes or not. For instance, million-dollar homes won’t have laminate counters or vinyl flooring. Similarly, steam showers and wine cellars won’t sell in up-and-coming neighborhoods offering lower-priced homes.

Planning for success

Once you’ve decided on the types of renovations you’ll be working on, planning your renovation is the next and most important, step. Your plan should include how long your renovation will take and the project budget (exactly how much everything will cost). It’s crucial to understand what your parameters are before you start so you don’t over-spend yourself (on both time and money).

Know that if you change your mind mid-way through a project, this might affect your budget as well as how long it will take to complete. And always, always, have a line item for contingencies. “Renovation surprises can and will happen so I always recommend having a 25 percent contingency,” he says. Anyone who’s watched a reno show on HGTV knows things like mold, load-bearing walls, upgrading electricity or plumbing will most certainly kill your budget.

Putting in the work

Speaking of budgets, McGillivray’s best tip for saving money is to shop around for materials. As he puts it, “Big box stores can be great but they’re not the only option.” Find tile and counter outlets that offer end-of-line products and use pieces of stone cutoffs for kitchen islands that will run you cheaper than custom orders.

And of course, anything you can do (safely) yourself, like demolition or painting or cabinet assembly, is a great way to save a few bucks. But homeowners beware, says McGillivray. “Saving money by doing some of the work yourself can be great, but if you tackle projects that are beyond your capabilities and make mistakes it can end up costing you a lot more than hiring a professional would have.”

What else should homeowners not do? “Anything having to do with changes to electrical or plumbing systems. These are not DIY projects and should only be attempted by licensed professionals. Not only is it illegal in many cases, but it’s also very dangerous to both you and your home.”

Picking the right projects

So what are some of the projects you should consider? According to McGillivray, “hardwood floors throughout” is the number one term used in North American real estate listings. Whether you’re restoring your existing hardwood floors or replacing laminate, tiles or carpet with new hardwood, it’s definitely a wise investment. But avoid hardwood in bathrooms. The water and humidity will inevitably cause them to warp or buckle, which will require more work and money down the road. The exception? When the home is vintage and the existing bathroom floors are wood.

What about current home improvement trends? McGillivray is into decorative moldings. As he puts it, “They really elevate the look of a house and add a sense of luxury.” His new home features molding even on the dining room ceiling. The over-arching theme (pun intended) in his house is curves, so he incorporated it in his molding choices, tying the room together nicely.