“Refinishing” their hardwood floors is on the wish list of many homeowners. The term is often used by wood floor owners as a more technical one for “getting floors back in shape.” However, there is more than one way to get floors back in shape, and sanding and refinishing is just one of the solutions.
The difference between sanding and buffing as wood floor restoration techniques comes down to the level of damage they address. Sanding removes the damaged polyurethane sealer and part of the damaged wood. Because this upmost wood layer is the one that absorbs the stain, sanding the planks also removes the wood stain. Sanding is followed by restaining the planks and sealing them with a new coat of polyurethane.
By contrast, buffing addresses only the polyurethane sealer and does not touch the wood. Because damage may be contained by this protective layer, the wood underneath may be in good shape, even if the floors look worn. Wood floor buff and coat professionals use a circular machine to remove part of this layer while staying away from the wood, then apply a new coat of sealer, making the floors look like new.
Both buffing and sanding have their own advantages. Sanding takes care of deep imperfections and allows homeowners to change the color of their hardwood floors. Buffing is simpler, faster, less disruptive, costs less and extends the life of wood boards. However, the decisive criteria in choosing one or the other is the amount of damage that must be fixed and how far this got into the layers of the hardwood floor. If the wood is damaged, just buffing the sealer does not fix the problem and will just highlight the imperfections. If only the sealer is damaged, sanding is simply overkill. It shortens the life of wood boards that can only be sanded several times, and often costs double. This is why it is important to ask for the opinion of an experienced wood floor refinisher that will test the hardwood floor, assess the damage and find the appropriate solution for each particular situation. Experience and trust are essential, since some buffing professionals recommend their services regardless of the fact that this method may do nothing for deeply damaged floors.
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