Refinish or replace? One Capitol Hill couple's tough hardwood floor decision

Refinish or replace? One Capitol Hill couple's tough hardwood floor decision
Hardwood floors in D.C.'s Capitol Hill neighborhood

Hardwood floors in D.C.'s Capitol Hill neighborhood

Kevin Walsh loved the original hardwood floors in his Capitol Hill row house so much that he and his wife, Rebecca Richardson, had started wearing shoes all of the time to avoid splinters.

The D.C. Angie's List members knew something had to be done about the condition of the hardwood floors in their home. “We wanted to save our floors,” Walsh says.

What made their house so unique was that many of the original elements from 1902 could be saved as they remodeled and updated. Unfortunately, the original hardwood floors weren’t one of them.

Hard to find the right hardwood refinisher

It took some time to find the right Washington-area flooring company for the job.

“Some were nice, others not as much,” Walsh says. “One guy walked in, bounced on the floor and said, ‘Nope,’ then walked out.”

They ended up going with highly rated Universal Floors because of the company’s professionalism and the amount of care taken in guiding them through their options.

“We talked to the same guy each time, who came out three times to evaluate the floors,” Walsh says.

That guy was Tim Allen.

Restore-or-replace dilemma

Allen runs into the restore-or-replace dilemma a lot, especially in the Georgetown and Capitol Hill neighborhoods where hardwood floors can be 100 or more years old.

“These floors were once really nice stuff,” he says. “But, like anything, a floor has a life span, and sometimes they just need to be replaced.”

That said, an experienced hardwood expert can make a new hardwood floor look aged. “There are a lot of techniques we can use today on new wood floors that can artificially weather them,” Allen says.

Allen worked with the couple over the course of months assessing what flooring might be salvageable. “After careful thought and lots of questions we decided to replace the floors,” Walsh says.

RELATED: How to choose the right hardwood material for your home

With the decision made, the next step was to decide on the scope and cost of the project. Universal replaced the couple’s hardwood floors on the two main levels. They also removed the original floor and added a new subfloor. After that, they installed, sanded and sealed unfinished hardwood floors.

The total cost of the entire project was around $15,000, Walsh says.

“We had 10 days for them to be in and out, and they were done three days earlier,” says Walsh, who lived in the house’s basement apartment during the installation. Walsh says when such quality work is done on time, it makes the experience exceptional.

Universal, located in Northwest, is a family company that’s been around since 1953. Although its list of clients range from the federal government to architects to builders, the bulk of business comes from Washington homeowners, like Walsh.

“It’s always great when you work with people who show that kind of interest in the work you’re doing,” Allen says.


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