Refinish Hardwood Floors or Replace with Laminate: What’s Cheaper?

By Samuel N •  Updated: 07/12/23 • 

After years of serving you, hardwood floors dull, fade, and break down over the years. Dents, scratches, and normal wear and tear will leave your hardwood floors in bad condition. The good thing is hardwood floors can be refinished several times or even resurfaced to bring them back to mint condition.

However, at times, refinishing or resurfacing hardwood flooring might not be the best option. In this case, you can replace your hardwood floors with laminate flooring. This guide looks at refinishing or replacing a hardwood floor with laminate. We’ll also give a breakdown of which is cheaper.

Hardwood vs. Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is cheaper and comes in a wide range of color options and styles. There are even laminate flooring planks that look like real wood. The major advantage of laminate flooring over solid hardwood flooring is its affordability, ease of installation, and variety of design options to match a home’s decor.

Brazilian Ipe/Brazilian Walnut Flooring

Brazilian Ipe/Brazilian Walnut Flooring

While laminate flooring is cheaper and easier to install, it cannot be refinished. Hardwood floors can be refinished several times in their lifetime, eliminating the need to replace or get new flooring. However, with laminate flooring, you’ll have to buy extra flooring for repairs in case of damage.

A core fiberboard layer and other wood byproducts are bonded to a design layer and a clear protective wear layer to make laminate flooring. The design layer is a print that resembles wood flooring or other materials such as stone, tile, or contemporary designs. The design of laminate flooring makes it highly water and stain resistant. However, like hardwood flooring, high moisture can still affect laminate.

Laminate Flooring That Looks Like Real Wood

Laminate Flooring That Looks Like Real Wood

The lifespan of laminate flooring is, on average, between 15 to 25 years. Hardwood flooring can last up to 100 years when properly cared for and refinished. Refinishing hardwood is done every seven to ten years, but this will depend on the floor condition.

Cost of Refinishing a Hardwood Floor

The cost of refinishing a hardwood floor varies depending on different factors. The floor’s size, hardwood type, type of finish used, local labor costs, and flooring condition are just some factors that influence refinishing a hardwood floor.

For a DIYer, you can potentially save when refinishing a hardwood floor. Although you’ll save on labor costs, you’ll pay to hire or buy floor refinishing equipment such as sanders. You can simply sand and refinish it yourself for smaller dents and scratches or a floor without extensive damage. However, with extensive floor damage, you’ll have to hire a professional flooring refinisher to work on it.

According to Angi, the cost of hiring a professional to refinish your hardwood floors will range between $3 to $8 per square foot. For most homes, the total price range to refinish hardwood floors is between $1000 on the low end and about $2600 on the high end.

When to Replace a Hardwood Floor

The condition of your hardwood floor is a significant factor determining whether it will be refinished, resurfaced, or replaced. Refinishing your hard floor is the best option for minor surface imperfections, like staining, sun fading, dents, and scratches.

Resurfacing includes replacing damaged hardwood planks, making the floor level, reinforcing the planks, and refinishing. It is costlier to resurface a hardwood floor compared to refinishing it. However, resurfacing helps save your hardwood floor, which would cost more if you were to replace it.

Replacing your hardwood floor is an option in case there is significant damage. Deep cracks, high wear and tear, and significant water damage, like rotting and warping, can all point toward replacing your hardwood floors. However, speak to an experienced floor installer to see if it can be repaired.

Installing Laminate Flooring Cost

There are different hardwood replacement options you can pick. Laminate is a budget-friendly option that is cheaper to install and comes in different varieties and textures that even look and feel like wood.

Buying and installing laminate flooring costs about $3 to $8 per square foot. However, this will depend on the quality of the laminate planks, the project’s complexity, and other subfloor repair tasks.

Installing Laminate Flooring

Installing Laminate Flooring

The cost of laminate flooring planks is $1 to $3 per square foot, though the use of better materials or unique designs will improve the costs. On average, it will cost $1400 on the low end and $4600 on the high end to install laminate flooring.

Replacing hardwood flooring using laminate is a popular option because laminate flooring can mimic the look and feel of hardwood flooring. However, they are cheaper, and there are not many maintenance costs associated with laminate flooring.

Which is a Cheaper Option?

Refinishing a hardwood floor is cheaper in the long run compared to replacing it. If your hardwood floors are in good condition, you can refinish them as a DIY project, saving on labor costs. Laminate flooring is cheaper to buy and easier to install when compared to installing new hardwood floors.

However, whether to install laminate flooring or refinish a hardwood floor, it is better and cheaper to refinish. Once refinished, a hardwood floor should last another decade or more before you can consider refinishing again. If the condition of the hardwood floor is beyond refinishing, you can choose to install laminate flooring.

The true value of a hardwood floor will also get you a better resale value or increase your home value. If you’re looking to flip, a hardwood floor will give you a better deal.

Samuel N

Samuel N is the founder of Improve Floor and has been in the flooring industry since 2005. Since then, his mission has been to make flooring easier for everyone. He helps countless people with flooring installation, finishing, maintenance, and repairs each year.