As the old saying goes, a home is never totally finished. Every piece of a home requires some maintenance to keep its good looks — including hardwood floors. Though they’re durable and beautiful, they get a lot of use and will be damaged over time.
Refinishing is often the most recommended maintenance, but it can be fairly expensive and inconvenient. There’s a middle ground available: screening and recoating. Though it’s not possible in cases of serious or deep damage, many homeowners can save time, inconvenience and money by going with recoating instead of a full sanding and refinishing job.
A recoating job involves sanding down only the top polyurethane layer of the hardwood floor. A new polyurethane coat is then reapplied, giving floors back their smoothness and shine. The whole job can take less than a day, with much less disturbance to your home than a full refinishing job.
However, it’s important to get a professional opinion about whether a recoating job will work for your home.
Type of damage
First, it’s important to consider the type of damage left on your floors. If you’re seeing cupping from water damage, UV discoloration, worn areas, dents or deep scratches, a recoating job won’t be good enough to repair it. Only a sanding and refinishing job will be able to get down to the wood, remove the wood layer and return your floors to a like-new state.
However, if the main damage is only light scratches or dulled finish, then a recoating job will do very well and it comes with a number of different names— screening, buffing, or light sanding, but it all means the same process. It does not technically involve sanding, as it won’t be sanding the wood, but only abrading the top layer of the polyurethane coating to make the new coat adhere better.
Screening and recoating may not work on your floors if your floors have been waxed or cleaned with a product that contains wax, as the new polyurethane won’t adhere correctly. A professional can come out to your home and give you a good idea of what is possible for your floors and will give you the best result.
A major benefit to a screening and re-coating job as opposed to a full refinishing job is the cost. A recoating job on average is about 60 percent less expensive than refinishing, and can leave your floors with a shine like new.
Because a new polyurethane coat is going on top of the old one, you have the option to change the sheen on your finish if you want to. If your floors were high-gloss and you’d prefer a matte finish after a few years, that can be done as easily during a screening and recoating job as it can during a refinishing job.
It’s also far quicker than a sanding and refinishing job. Sanding can be a messy, extensive process that often requires a full dust-removal setup, removal of furniture, and multiple days of not using your floors. On the other hand, screening and recoating is a one-day process and involves minimal dust. There is some drying time as well, depending on whether the finish you choose is water or oil-based, but usually no more than a day.
How often should I recoat?
A maintenance coat of polyurethane is one of the most important aspects of long-term wood care, and done often enough, it can postpone having to fully sand and refinish floors.
It’s recommended that you screen and re-coat your hardwood floors every two to five years. Of course, that depends on the level of traffic and damage the floor receives. It’s best to do the whole floor at a time rather than just doing a section — even if you only think part of the floor is worn down, if it’s returned to brand-new shine, chances are you’ll see a sharp difference between that section and the rest of the floor.
Recoating will save you money, labor and time. Not only will a screen and recoat help refresh your floors, but it will also postpone the need for more expensive maintenance over the life of your floors.