We are lucky to be able to work in many beautiful old homes such as in Lakewood, Shaker Heights or Ohio City. While we know what a difference a professional paint job can do in an older home, there is one project that may even make for a more dramatic transformation.... Refinishing old hardwood floors! In 2017 we worked on a few homes where the floors were being re-done at the same time by Alex Oster and his team at Natural Choice Hardwood Floors. I caught up with Alex to talk about his company as well as the process and price for getting hardwood floors refinished.
Alex began learning the trade at the age of 18 while working for Gerwitz who, like Natural Choice, is also based in Lakewood. After working their for a few years, Alex decided to leave to go out on his own. After running his own business for a few years he left the industry for some time and recently returned to his passion of renovating older wood floors and re-started his company about two years ago.
He currently has two people working with him and they not only refinish old hardwood floors but install new. Alex explained that it is typically a three step process to refinish wood floors.
The Natural Choice Process
Step 1: Prep Work and Sanding. In this first stage they will replace any damaged boards in a way to make sure they will blend in when complete. They will fill nail holes and put up plastic sheeting. Then they will sand the floors using large sanders that must be hooked up to the electrical box instead of a normal outlet. They also use smaller hand sanders to get in the corners and on stairs.
Step 2: Finish Sand and Stain. The stains that Natural Choice uses are linseed oil based and if they are not getting a stain the wood will sealed with a natural sealant.
Step 3: Finish Coat(s). Alex and his team apply three coats of polyurethane. He said that some companies may skimp here and only apply two coats, which won't last as long.
- About two years ago the trend was toward very dark colored stained. This is still pretty popular but starting to fade. Dark stains will show imperfections more and they need to be cleaned all of the time as crumbs, etc show up well.
- Today, the trend is back toward more natural sealants.
- Another that may be just starting is to stains that have gray and white tones.
Cost To Get Floors Refinished
According to Alex, they charge around $4.00 per square foot to refinish old wood floors. This can vary depending on wood needing to be replaced and on small, tigther areas like stairs that cost more. Stairs cost approximately $60 per tread. Alex said that their average project is between $800 and $2,000 although to completely refinish most homes in Lakewood, it would cost between $3,000 and $6,000.
Natural Choice does install new hardwood floors and homeowners should budget around $10-$12 per square foot.
Polyurethane needs to be redone about every 8-10 years. Alex said he likes to come check out the work after 5 years to see how it is holding up and to see the wear patterns. It makes sense that in the door ways where traffic is concentrated is where the polyurethane will tend to wear away quicker.
Home owners can make their wood floors look great for a long time by cleaning it often as the dirt and debris will wear out the polyurethane similar to what happens to carpets that aren't cleaned regularly. Alex warns against using a product like Murphy's Oil Soap or any wax cleaner as it leaves a hazy film. Instead, he recommended using vinegar and water or finding a cleaner made specifically for hardwood floors at a store like Home Depot. He also said to be sure to install felt pads under all of your furniture. For only a few dollars, the felt pads can make an incredible difference!
What To Look For
When hiring a professional to refinish your hardwood floors there are a few important things to look for. The equipment they use is really important, especially the sanders. Rental equipment or equipment that plugs in to a regular wall outlet will take forever and may end up leaving unsightly scratch marks. Instead, you want the company to use large sander for the majority of the floor. Less is more with sanding as someone who is not experienced can cause the wood grain to raise or close up.
The polyurethane is also extremely important. (Polyurethane is essentially a liquid plastic that dries to a hard protective coating.) Not using the best quality products or not applying enough coats will dramatically shorten the time between needing to refinish the floors. Natural Choice mostly uses the high quality products from DuraSeal for their stains and polyurethanes. Cheaper, water-based products that are often found at the big box home improvement stores will not last as long and often do not leave as smooth of a finish although they may look pretty good at first.
With all of his experience, Alex knows a good wood refinishing job when he sees it. Unfortunately, he often sees sub-par work such as the finish application not being applied evenly and consistenly. He can often judge the quality by the edges (if there are scratches from sanding or if that area is lighter because water was not applied to raise the wood grain before staining). Sometimes he will even see floors where the corners were not scraped out so they look pretty unsightly.
Getting your wood floors refinished may be a project you have been thinking about for awhile. I was encouraged that Alex was willing to share ballpark pricing and he let me know that most projects only take a few days. After they are done there is really no waiting time. It takes about a week until you can put rugs down but you can walk on the floor and start enjoying it almost immediately after they finish.
If you are looking for a true craftsman that lives in Lakewood, please contact Alex Oster at 440-665-1958 or find them on Facebook. We just recommended them to a client of ours in Lakewood and the results were superb!