Softwood flooring, like fir and pine, has a number of benefits over hardwood. It absorbs sound easily, which reduces echos in the room it's installed in, and its soft texture feels great to walk on compared to tile or harder woods. Unfortunately, its reduced durability compared to hardwood means that it gouges easily, and it will dent and splinter if you drop a heavy object on it. 

Thankfully, you can restore most damaged softwood floors by having them refinished in order to eliminate dents and scratches. Refinishing a floor involves sanding off the existing finish along with the damaged top surface of the floor in order to reveal the unblemished wood underneath. To find out if you can have your old softwood floor refinished, read on.

Can You Refinish a Softwood Floor?

You can refinish your softwood floor as long as the planks are thick enough. Wood floor refinishing removes a small amount of the top layer, which eliminates scratches and shallow dents. Some softwood planks are made with tongue-and-groove edges that allow the boards to interlock together, which helps stop them from warping and curling up at the edges. You can't refinish past these edges, since the boards would no longer be able to lock together.

If your wood planks are affixed to the floor by nails, you'll also be limited in how much of the wood surface you can remove — you can't take off so much wood that it would expose the nail heads. If your softwood floor is thick enough, however, then it can be refinished in the same way that you refinish a hardwood floor.

How Do You Refinish a Softwood Floor?

In order to refinish a wood floor, you completely clean it and then use an orbital sander to remove a very thin layer of wood from the surface of the planks. Removing the surface layer will polish the wood floor, removing scratches and small dents. It also removes the existing finish on the wood. For softwood floors, it's sometimes best to use low-grit sandpaper in order to sand them instead of polishing them with a finer grit — this leaves much of the natural imperfections in the wood untouched, which gives the floors a rustic look.

Like with hardwood floors, you can stain softwood floors in order to darken them. With softwood floors, however, you'll need to apply a wood conditioner to the floor before you stain it. The wood conditioner helps open up the pores of the planks, allowing the stain to penetrate.

It's also important to test the stain on a small area of your floor before you commit to staining your entire floor. Unlike hardwood, the density of softwood can vary quite a bit across the length of a plank. Softer areas will tend to collect more stain than others, which can lead to a blotchy appearance, especially if you choose a dark stain. Testing your stain beforehand will make sure that it looks acceptable for the type of floor that you have.

After the optional staining process, you'll need to finish the floor. Oil-based polyurethane is one of the best choices for softwood floors since the oil helps the polyurethane penetrate deeply into any tiny gaps in the softwood planks. The polyurethane will harden and form a layer that protects the softwood from water and minor scratches.

If you have softwood floors in your home and are wondering if they can be refinished, call a wood floor refinishing service in your area and have them inspected. A floor refinishing service will test the thickness of your floors in order to find out if there's enough material to refinish them successfully. If your floors are fit for refinishing, a professional floor refinishing service is typically the most reliable option for making sure they look great afterward. Softwood is difficult to refinish for people who haven't done it before since it's prone to splintering apart when you sand it — a professional will ensure that the floor is entirely even and splinter-free when it's done.