what goes into caring for different types of flooring

What's the Difference Between Hardwood Floor Screening and Refinishing?

Hardwood floors offer rich color, natural beauty and durability, making them an ideal flooring finish in almost any type of home. While hardwood holds up well to years of heavy traffic and abuse, even the toughest floors can suffer dents, dings, scratches and discoloration over time. Even if your floor is spared these signs of damage, its protective finish coating may become dull, scratched, dirty or simply worn away over the years. Screening and refinishing serve as two of the most popular techniques for restoring old wood floors to their former glory. While both of these techniques can restore wood's lost luster, they are actually quite different in practice. Understanding the differences between the two processes can help you find just the right restoration method for your floor, allowing you to breathe new life into worn-out hardwood.

Screening Overview

Think of screening as a form of intense floor buffing, where contractors use a buffing machine with a special mesh screen pad to remove existing finishes from the floor. The process involves no sanding, and the buffer doesn't actually remove any of the wood itself -- just the wax, polyurethane or other finish coating. It also slightly scuffs the surface of the wood, which allows the floor to better absorb a new coat of stain, wax, polyurethane or some other coating. The process takes about a day, and some handy homeowners may even be able to rent tools and equipment to screen hardwood floors themselves.

Refinishing Overview

Unlike screening, refinishing is generally not a DIY process. It involves using a large sander to remove not only the floor finishes, but a thin layer of the hardwood itself. Contractors start with rough sanding pads, working their way down to finer and finer sanding grits to remove major scratches and damage and give the floor a smooth finish. All of that sanding dust is then cleaned up, and the floor is coated with a fresh coat of wax, polyurethane or sealer. Refinishing takes several days due to the cleanup involved.

When to Screen Your Floors

Screening is the perfect low-impact solution for floors that have simply lost their luster. This process will remove any scratches or damage in the floor coating, but no deeper scratches or dents that extend to the wood itself. Screening also won't work on deep stains from pets or UV-exposure. It works well on both solid hardwood and engineered floors, even those that are too thin or fragile to refinish. Plan to screen floors every three years to keep them looking their best.

When to Refinish Hardwood

If your floors suffer from deep scratches, dents, dings or stains, the only way to restore them to their original condition is to refinish them. Refinishing is also the only way to change the color of the floor, while screening only allows you to change finish -- such as going more matte or glossy if desired. Keep in mind that you need to have enough wood left in the floor to properly refinish them. This means a surface layer at least 1/32 of an inch thick. A typical 3/4 inch wood floor can be refinished six to eight times. You can also refinish an engineered wood floor if the wear layer is thick enough. A wear layer 2 mm thick can be refinished at least once, while 3 mm means two to three refinishing sessions over its lifespan. Plan to refinish wood or engineered floors about every ten years to keep floors in optimal condition.

If you have any questions about screening or refinishing your floor, contact a local specialist, such as Cooper Floors, to discuss your concerns.