Sand and Refinish vs Screen and Recoat

What’s the difference between a sand and refinish and a screen and re-coat?

The work involved is one of the main differences between a sand and refinishing vs screen and re-coat. A sand and refinish project is much more laborious. It is a multi step process that takes multiple days to complete. When a sand and refinish takes place on hardwood floors, sand paper is used from low/rough grit to progressively higher/finer grit. This aides in the process of removing the existing finish on the floor and exposing the raw hardwood. 

A screen and re-coat is far less laborious.  It is typically a 1 step process and not nearly as effective as a sand and refinish. During a screen and re-coat, screens(picture a window screen) are used thus the name “screen and re-coat”. A screen and re-coat will only remove the top layer of polyurethane. An orbital machine is used with a screen attached to it. It will abrade the surface for proper adhesion for the fresh coat of poly that is going to be applied. A screen is much less abrasive than sand paper- even if it is the same grit. A screen and re-coat does not sand down to the raw hardwood.

The ability to remove floor discrepancies

A screen and re-coat will only remove superficial and surface scratches on the top coat of the polyurethane. It will not go deeper. If you have deep scratches in your finish, a sand and refinish will be needed to remove them. A screen and re-coat will not remove any discolorations in your flooring from pet stains or water damage. 

A sand and refinish has the ability to sand out surface and other deeper scratches since it is being sanded down to the raw hardwood. While a sand and refinish will remove many scratches that has penetrated through the poly and left markings, there are instances where the floor has been gouged too deeply and those penetrations are too deep to sand out. However, repairs can be done since a sand and refinish will help blend the new and existing floor.

Machines Used

Sand and Refinish you’ll need a belt sanded, edger, hand sanding equipment, buffer. 

Screen and Recoat you’ll need a buffer to attached the screens to and MAYBE some hand held equipment for the corners of a room or steps.


If repairs/weaves in are needed, a full sanding and refinishing must be done. A screen and re-coat will not suffice in blending the new and existing floors. When new hardwood is installed as a repair/weave in, what will sometimes occur is a very small height difference as well as a color difference. Hardwood oxidizes and changes color over time. The severity of this change is completely dependent on the species of hardwood. And the new hardwood may be slightly thicker. None the less, when a floor is repaired, you will want to sand it down do it is all flat and at the same level and potentially apply a stain to help blend the area that has been repaired. A screen and re-coat can not achieve this. 

Prefinished Hardwood

Prefinished Hardwood comes with a factory finish that is chemically different than any other type of polyurethane or other finishes applied on site. Not only is it chemically different, it is also applied differently. Prefinished Hardwood floorings finishes are harder than a site finished floor. Therefore, it is not recommended to screen and recoat. You can sand and refinish if desired. You will loose the micro beveled ages that are associated with a prefinished floor but none the less- you are able to sand, stain, and apply a polyurethane or oil/wax finish if you would like.

The potential to change the stain color

With a sand and refinish you are starting completely fresh with your raw hardwood. This means that you’ll have the option of choosing a different stain color. Not only can you choose a different color, you can choose a different type of polyurethane such as waterborne or oil based , you can decide whether to do an oil/wax finish like Loba or Rubio. You have more options with a full sand and refinish.

With a screen and re-coat, the only option is to apply a new layer of polyurethane. It will typically be an oil based or waterborne polyurethane- depending on what was existing. If there is currently oil based polyurethane applied and you wanted to apply a waterborne finish during the screening process, it can be done ONLY if the existing oil based poly has been down for at least 6 months. You can not screen and re-coat with existing poly and switch to an oil finish like Loba or Rubio. The oil needs to penetrate into the hardwood and since a screen will not screen down to the raw hardwood- this is not an option. 

With both a sand and refinish and screen and re-coat, you can pick which sheen level you would like your finish to be( I.e. satin, glossy, or matte.)

Length of time it takes

Sanding and Refinishing takes substantially longer than screen and re-coat. While a sanding and refinishing project can take 5-7 days(depending on the size of the job and drying times between each coat of stain and finish); a screen and re-coat is typically finished in 1 day. However, when you screen and re-coat, depending not he finish you use, you must adhere to the drying times when using the floor and putting furniture back. Even though a screen and re-coat may day 1 day to complete, if using an oil based poly for example, you may have to wait 4 days before putting furniture on the floors. 


There is a significant price difference between a screen and re-coat vs a sand and refinish. While pricing varies from state to state and even contractor to contractor- it is hard to give a set price in this post. However, you can typically expect to pay at least a $1.00+ sq. ft. less for a screen and re-coat. 

Pros and Cons

The pros and cons of will depend on each clients situation. If you want to freshen up your polyurethane or change the sheen level- a screen and re-coat of perfect for this task. However, if you have floor damage and you needed a repair- a sand and refinish will be needed. Let’s recap what a sanding and refinishing is good for vs. what a screen and re-coat is good for.


Sand and Refinish

Screen and Recoat


Changing a stain








Remove Scratches

Yes- can remove deeper scratches that have penetrated the top finish.

Only Surface scratches.


Length of Time

at least 5-7 days

1-2 day process. But typically a 1 day process



More expensive due to labor entailed, material, and time.

Less expensive because it takes less labor, material, and time.



If your hardwood floors are very damaged with worn finish, scratches and discoloration, you should opt for a sand and refinish. You have the option to repair any damaged areas, stain and apply whichever finish you desire.

A screen and Re-coat will over freshen up the top layer a polyurethane. You will not have the option to change the stain color. If there are deep scratches and worn finish, a screen and re-coat will not suffice. A screen and re-coat is a good maintenance plan after you floors have been fully sanded and refinished. It’s a general rule to screen and re-coat hardwood floors every few years to keep the finish fresh without allowing it to wear.


Change Sheen Level of Finish



Change Type of finish applied- I.e. Oil based poly, waterborne poly, Oil/Wax such as Loba or Rubop


No. If your floors are currently an oil based polyurethane you can only change the finish if previous finish has been applied at least 6 Months prior. If you currently have an oil/wax finish you can not change to an oil based poly or waterborne poly. There will be adhesion issues.


Prefinished Hardwood




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