Is Your Antique Wood Floor Too Damaged For Restoration?

In an old house, the original wood floor can be the crowning glory of the home. However, older wood floors have often seen years of abuse. When you're tackling a restoration, you might despair that the floors are too damaged to be properly refinished. You might be surprised to learn that even floors that have seen extensive damage can still be refinished by an experiences professional. Here are some common damage scenarios and how you can know if you should sand it and stain it or tear it and trash it.

Sand And Stain

Pet Stains

Pet urine on hardwood can leave dark brown, greenish, or grey marks that are truly difficult to fully remove. However, some homeowners have success with removing the stains using bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or vinegar. Sometimes, stains that are several years old and completely embedded in the wood may be difficult to fully remove, even with chemical treatment. However, you can still sand your floors and stain them darker to minimize how noticeable the stains are. Darker stains are especially effective for modern restorations -- dark hardwoods are more trendy for contemporary designs.

Water Marks

Water damage is one of the most frequent causes of hardwood floor demise. However, you should not assume that all wood floors with watermarks cannot be saved. With sanding, aggressive drying, and clever staining methods, water marks can disappear or be effectively hidden. When water damage has led to mold or black marks, however, the cost of refinishing may not be worth the end result. For the health and safety of the household, removing moldy sections and replacing them with new wood is the best course of action. If other areas of the home remained moisture-free, a hardwood company can try to match your old wood type with new boards. 


Scratches and even paint and old varnish can all be removed with professional sanding equipment. These are but surface wounds to the integrity of the wood floor, and they require little effort to remove or fill (if the scratches are deep). The only time scratches and surface damage cannot be remediated is if the wood has already been refinished so many times that it no longer can be repaired. Typically, visible nails or the uncovering of the tongue-and-groove connections between boards indicate that the floor has reached the end of its refinishing potential. 

Tear And Trash

Termite Damage

Sometimes, termite damage is limited to just a few boards here and there. However, more extensive termite infestations that have damaged several square feet of floor necessitate starting from scratch with new boards. There simply will not be enough floor left to refinish once all the affected boards are out. 

Structural Issues

Sometimes, a hardwood floor appears to be just fine, but the subfloor and joists it rests on can be damaged beyond repair. Dry rot, termites, water damage, mold, or disintegration means having to tear out the old hardwood floor to repair its foundation. It can be very difficult to remove an old wooden floor without damaging it. With careful removal and a floor of exceptional quality, it can be possible to reinstall the old wood floor once the repairs are over. But most of the time, structural problems means scrapping it all and beginning again. 

Material Type

Some wood types are easier to restore than others. For example, maple floors have a very light and indistinctive grain. Stains and blemishes are more visible because there is not aggressive grain to hide it. Old pine floors, as are found in some farmhouses and frame homes, are much softer than other types of wood floors and therefore more affected by water damage. Oak, walnut, or hickory are harder and have greater grain variation, so these are easier to restore. 

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