Waxing vs Re-Coating Engineer Floors (Explained)

Traffic Frequency & Water Exposure

  • Light traffic – For weekend cabin retreats or lightly used guest room floors waxing works beautifully when foot traffic stays minimal. These areas rarely necessitate the extreme durability from expensive re-coating.
  • Heavy traffic – Main living areas like kitchens and hallways with near constant traffic require frequent wax reapplication, often monthly. At this frequency re-coating becomes the more cost-effective and easier to maintain option after just a year or two. Skip wax hassles and go straight to long-term polyurethane protection.
  • Water risks – Mudrooms, baths, laundry, and basements exposed to higher moisture warrant professional re-coating for necessary water resilience. Even with quick wipe-ups wax leaves hardwoods too vulnerable in damp zones whereas polyurethane tolerates more frequent spills.

Keep all the above waxing versus polyurethane re-coating factors in perspective when advising clients on the ideal regime for their specific floors. Needs can also change over time as family size, pets or entertaining patterns evolve. Maintain open dialogue while being fully transparent about limitations of wax alone for severe duty protection despite its visual merits.

Getting Hardwoods Ready for Waxing

Thorough preparation is crucial prior to wax application for floors to absorb maximum protection and shine potency. Here’s an overview of the process:

1. Evaluate current floor condition

Inspect for existing finish wear patterns, traffic areas losing gloss, plus any scratches or water marks needing extra attention. Note damages needing specialist repair before waxing.

2. Deep clean floor surface

Sweep then mop using a wood floor cleaner and microfiber pad to eliminate accumulated dirt and residues. For stripping old wax use a solvent-based cleaner but test on sample areas first to avoid reactions with any prior treatments or polyurethane sealer remnants.

3. Screen floors (optional)

Lightly sand high traffic zones with worn finish using 80 to 100 grit screens. Avoid exposing bare wood. Screening roughens the surface so new wax adheres and hardens better. Vacuum dust afterwards.

4. Tack mop again

Repeat damp mopping after screening to pick up fine debris a vacuum missed. Floors must be utterly clean before waxing for ideal adhesion and gloss.

Once prepped, floors are ready for applying and buffing new protective wax layers.

Tips for Waxing Hardwood Floors Yourself

For homeowners that want to tackle waxing hardwood floors themselves without hiring a professional, here are some tips and best practices:

Products to Use:

  • Liquid paste wax – Offering durability between applications plus easy buffing ability unlike spray waxes that evaporate too quickly. Brands like Minwax, Bruce, Varathane and Johnson’s make quality wood floor waxes.
  • Floor buffer – Rent an electric 17 inch rotary buffing machine fitted with terry cloth pad or lambswool bonnet to simplify spreading wax thinly while generating high sheen polishing afterwards.
  • Steel wool – Super fine 0000 grade steel wool in a flat pad aids manually working wax into detailed areas the buffer can’t easily reach. It also enables applying precise pressure when removing any wax build up in crevices or beveled edges.

Application Method:

  • Apply wax to small sections at a time for easiest control of thickness. Use a clean terry cloth or sponge type applicator, not standard paint brushes which leave obvious strokes.
  • Allow 45-60 minutes drying time as liquid paste wax solidifies to a haze then buff until gleaming using buffing machine. Re-spread wax and buff again wherever shine seems inadequate.
  • Hand massage wax into corners, crevices and baseboard edges with steel wool then manually buff for uniform sheen everywhere. Avoid rounded steel wool pads that gouge wood.
  • Add second wax layer only where deeper grain woods or repairs make the floor appear blotchy despite initial buffing. This helps even out wax absorption for consistent richness.

Maintenance Tips:

  • Avoid wax build up in beveled edges or crevices during reapplication. This jams future debris accumulation causing finish darkening over time.
  • Attach felt pads underneath all furniture legs to limit scratching as wax wears quicker than harder polyurethane. Lift rather than slide heavy furniture during moves to prevent gouging.
  • Test stain resistance of dried wax by dripping water in an inconspicuous area before wet cleaning. If white haze appears, allow extra curing time and check absorption again before mopping finishes.

Follow these application best practices to make self-waxing efficient while achieving excellent rejuvenating results. Avoid hurrying steps at the expense of finish durability or you’ll be rewaxing very soon again. Patience pays off for floors that maintain stellar shine and water resistance longest.

Hiring a Professional for Re-Coating

While determined do-it-yourselfers can tackle waxing their own hardwood floors with a little skill, re-coating existing floors requires heavy duty equipment and experienced technique best left to professionals. Their extensive training plus commercial grade tools enable rejuvenating floors properly for lasting durability homeowners can’t easily match on their own.

Here’s an overview of key service advantages that floor re-coating contractors offer:

Sanding Technology

Professionals utilize specialized three-head rotary sanding machines far more powerful than tiny handheld palm sanders. Their commercial edgers also sand floor perimeters nearly dust free. This precision removal of prior finish layers can’t be matched by regular homeowners lacks the same calibre machines.

Superior Dust Containment
Contractors containment systems ranging from negative air pressure and exhaust hoses to professional grade filtering minimize dust clouds permeating your whole home during sanding. They prevent fine particles settling everywhere by containing and continuously evacuating debris outside.

Precision Coating
Applying new polyurethane requires laying down precise mil thickness across the entire floor to ensure uniform shine, texture and protection everywhere. Contractors have specialized application tools plus experience gauging coverage rates for flawless quality control homeowners can struggle matching solo using basic brushes or a small roller.

Ideal Drying Conditions
Temperature and humidity significantly impact cure rate of water-based and oil modified polyurethanes. Professionals monitor conditions closely plus utilize commercial drying equipment to accelerate readiness for light foot traffic much faster than a DIY homeowner. This prevents costly finish blemishes or adhesion issues.

Efficient Staging
With expertise pre-finishing many homes, contractors have refined staging and scheduling strategies to make the process quicker and easier for families to endure. They know exactly how to transports equipment in and out efficiently while advising homeowners on best protecting belongings or where to store essential items needed during temporary relocation. This reduces frustration when you must vacate temporarily.

While calling in flooring professionals does cost more upfront, keep in mind that flawed DIY re-coating can fail quickly or require expensive re-dos if quality issues emerge. Paying qualified refinishers ensures your floors get beautifully protected using industry leading products for maximum durability year after year.

Step-By-Step Process for Professionally Re-Coating Floors

When homeowners do opt to hire flooring contractors to renew their hardwood floors, expect the full re-coating process to follow this general sequence:

1. Move out furnishings
Professionals will outline everything that you need relocated – like furniture, décor items, and rugs – before arriving to work each day. Be prepared to move items yourself or pay added handling fees. Disconnect and protect electronics plus cover any remaining belongings extensively.

2. Inspect and repair
Contractors will assess current floor condition, diagnosing problem areas needing patches or boards requiring replacement before sanding occurs. This ensures repairs blend seamlessly with surroundings when polyurethane finishes are applied later.

3. Sand flooring
Multi-step sanding uses coarse grit to level floors then finer screening prepares for staining if desired or applying fresh sealer. Expect plumes of fine dust requiring masks even outdoors. Powerful equipment makes fast work of removing countless old layers.

4. Vacuum and tack
Meticulous contractors will vacuum all remaining dust particles after sanding then damp tack mop again before sealing. This removes hidden debris that ruins adhesion or clouds clear coats if overlooked.

5. Apply first coat
Crews use special smoothing trowels to embed initial sealant application evenly across the entire floor. Back rolling fills in gaps but avoids excess bubbles. Oil-modified versions require 72 hours curing before additional layers.

6. Lightly sand then repeat
Once initial coating fully cures 24-48 hours later, a quick pass with fine (220+ grit) sandpaper or screens smooths raised grains and levels unevenness. This prepares for two to three more finish layers building further protection.

7. Cure and airflow
Crews allow 72+ hours between all subsequent coating layers for thorough curing to avoid pull back or bonding issues. Using high velocity fans, they accelerate outgassing VOC fumes while improving airflow across the coating surface. This optimizes clarity and hardness.

8. Inspect and buff
The final step is a close visual inspection of the finished floor checking for dust particles or texture flaws needing attention followed by quick rotary buffing which removes minor imperfections while enhancing sheen uniformity.

9 Clean-up and protect
Conscientious crews remove all equipment, tools, and protective masking before turning spaces back over to homeowners completely ready for moving furnishings back into place on the gorgeous updated floors!

Expect the entire residential re-coating process from start to finish to average 5-7 business days depending on square footage and specific site factors. While costly, with quality prep and application hardwoods should shine beautifully low maintenance for another 5-10 years at least.

Cost Comparison of Waxing vs. Professional Re-Coating

When deciding between DIY waxing and hiring an expert flooring contractor for re-coating, a key factor is cost. Here’s an overview of average pricing differences homeowners can expect:

Waxing Floors Yourself

  • Materials = less than $1 per square foot for liquid wax and applicator pads
  • Rental buffer and steel wool if needed = $50 day
  • Labor = 4 hours for 2 room application

Typical total cost for an average 2-room area of 400 square feet averages just $200 or around $0.50 per square foot.

However…wax requires frequent reapplication every 1-3 months with associated labor expenses and hassles.

Professional Re-Coating Service

  • Sand and finish application labor averages $3.00- $5.00 per square foot depending on region and site factors.
  • Stain, sealants and commercial grade polyurethane = $2.50+ per square foot

So a typical 2-room floor of 400 square feet would run $1,600 to $2,800 for one re-coat service.

Yet one professional re-coat with 3+ layers of high grade polyurethane should last beautifully 5 years or longer before needing renewal.

When comparing short-term cost savings against years more durability from professional coating, pitched properly most homeowners see great value investing a bit more upfront. Your longevity guidance helps clients make informed floor care budget decisions.

Extending Any Hardwood Floor Finish

No matter if you advise clients to go for cost-effective waxing or splurge on a commercial grade re-coat, a crucial factor for longevity is how homeowners treat their floors daily after. Recommend these tips for making finishes last by protecting against premature damage:

  • Attach felt pads on all furniture legs to prevent scratching when shifted. Lift rather than slide heavy objects.
  • Invest in extra large doormats and runners protecting high traffic zones from exterior grit.
  • Maintain indoor humidity ideally 40-60% year-round to minimize natural wood movement and separation at seams or edges causing finish cracks or lift. Consider whole home humidifiers if an issue.
  • Wipe spills immediately to limit water marking or penetration through any coating.
  • Avoid using vinegar, ammonias or harsh cleaners that degrade seals over time. Use only recommended wood floor care products.
  • For wax finishes, refresh high traffic walkways every 1-2 months to maintain protective integrity.
  • Consider removing shoes indoors to reduce abrasive debris crushing into any floor protection layers.
  • Similarly, keep pet nails trimmed to eliminate excess scratching during playtime etc.

Educating clients on easy daily floor protection steps extends durability for any coating or wax investment substantially. An ounce of prevention truly equals a pound of lifespan for gorgeous hardwoods!


Understanding when to recommend homeowner clients opt for cost-effective waxing to rejuvenate their hardwood floors or make the higher investment in full professional re-coating is an essential skill for flooring experts. Keep in mind how flooring age, current condition, anticipated traffic plus water exposure factors into advising the ideal long term care regime customized per client situation and budget.

Equipped with all the tips above explaining the waxing process from start to finish plus outlining commercial polyurethane re-coating service benefits, homeowners can make fully informed decisions on protecting their valuable hardwood flooring investment for maximum durability with the lifestyle and shine they desire day to day. This balance of practicality plus beauty retention keeps floors fabulous for decades to come.

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