Give your hardwood floors a facelift
When buying or selling a home, people always focus on big, splashy things: a deluxe kitchen, a bathroom upgrade. But you can add value (and beauty) to your house for a fraction of the cost of a major home renovation by taking a look at what’s under your feet.
“Hardwood floors are among the most attractive flooring options for almost any part of a Canadian home, and they boost the value big time,” says Sean Provencher, a sales representative with RE/MAX Hallmark Realty in Toronto.
If you have hardwood floors that have seen better days, the easiest way to boost their beauty (and the value of your home) is to refinish them. In order to make the decision whether to refinish or replace, you need to check how thick the existing floor is. You can do this by pulling up a heating grate or temporarily removing a threshold; if the wood is solid (as with strip flooring) or there’s more than 1/8” of wood above the tongue-and-groove, you’re in business. If not, you either have to accept your dinged floors or replace them, as there’s not enough wood left to safely refinish.
Should you refinish your hardwood floors?
Refinishing your floors can be a big undertaking. The process begins with sanding the floors to remove the old finish and prepare the surface for a new finish. You can then choose to stain the floor or leave it natural; this is followed by buffing and sealing the floor with either an oil- or water-based polyurethane. While refinishing can be done as a DIY project, it involves renting specialized equipment, a good bit of muscle and can get pretty messy (it’s recommended you seal off the room with plastic sheeting before you begin the sanding process). If you’re not comfortable with using big machines or don’t have the time to do the job right, call in a pro.
Explore the new hardwood flooring
If you have to replace your existing floor, advancements in hardwood flooring make it more attractive than ever. While many people associate hardwood floors with squeaking and slivers, the new generation of hardwood floors is more durable than ever. Tongue-and-groove flooring (also referred to as no-nail flooring) literally snaps together, while hardwood is now manufactured approximately ¼ inch thicker than older hardwood flooring, so it squeaks less and can be refinished more times over its lifetime. And with new types of hardwood, such as bamboo, appearing on the flooring market, it’s also possible to go green with your flooring, since bamboo is a renewable resource.
Hardwood is one of the most durable flooring materials you can choose for a home. With proper care and maintenance it can last a lifetime, well worth the initial investment. Sean says part of what makes hardwood floors so attractive is the fact you can refinish a hardwood floor, or even stain it a different colour. “Your investment renews itself at a fraction of the cost and can look brand new several times throughout its life,” he says.
The case against carpet
Many homeowners install carpet over hardwood; this is generally accepted to be a bad move if you plan on selling your house. "When viewing houses, buyers see carpet as a negative, even relatively new carpet," Sean says. If you must have carpeting, try a large area rug before investing in wall-to-wall; you get all the cosiness, and it will never need to be ripped out.
If your house came with carpet and you are considering ripping it up, beware: if you own an older home, it’s quite possible that walls were knocked down or moved before you got there, and the hardwood flooring might be missing where the walls used to stand. If you’re not sure what’s under there and unwilling to replace the whole floor if needed, it might be worth leaving the carpet as-is.
Where you don’t want hardwood
Water and wood are not friends; places like kitchens or bathrooms would be better off with ceramic or stone flooring. Water often leads to cupping, cracking and staining, so unless you want your investment to take a beating, leave hardwood for the dry areas of a house.
While not quite as easy as re-painting a room, refinishing your hardwood floors is a smart way to boost the appeal of your home without spending big bucks; as Sean says, "The best way to ensure top value is to upgrade your home in ways that appeal to the most people so you'll get the most excitement when you need to sell." By refinishing your floors, you’ll get a beautiful house that will pay dividends should you ever choose to move.