Putting hardwood floor on top of hardwood floor

So a guy from Empire came out to do an estimate on either carpeting or hardwooding our floor. He pulled up some of our existing carpet, saw that it's a hardwood floor underneath (it's in pretty crappy looking shape; before you suggest just finishing it, I do plan to try sanding, staining, and polyurethaning a 2' square section, but I have no hope of it looking like something we'd want to be our floor), and he said it's impossible to put a hardwood floor down because there's already one there. He said if we do a hardwood floor, we HAVE to tear up all the existing hardwood, and that in doing that we would probably destroy the joists.
I went to the basement and looked at the ceiling, and it doesn't appear that the hardwood floor upstairs is the same as the ceiling downstairs. Downstairs as the ceiling, there are wide (around 12") wooden planks that run diagonally, and the hardwood floor upstairs is thinner planks that run straight, so it seems that the hardwood floor is nailed either into subfloor or straight into those planks that comprise the ceiling of the basement. So why would we be destroying the joists if we tore it up?
Now, I realize that if we DID put down a hardwood floor, we'd need to put some kind of subflooring down first (maybe about 1/4"?), and that the room we do would then have a higher floor than surrounding rooms (assuming we didn't tear up the original floor first), but I don't see what this guy was saying about how you just can't put hardwood down if there's hardwood there already. I asked a couple handymen I know (they're not hardwood floor installers, but they seem pretty savvy about house stuff overall), and they said they can't imagine what the problem would be as long as there's subfloor between the old hardwood and the new hardwood.
Are we all missing something?
Thanks for any help, details, thoughts, etc.
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I think what you are missing is a little common sense here. You've talked to a mass market distributor, you've talked to a couple of handyman types, now you're asking a bunch of others that don't do floors every day, but you've NOT talked to a hardwood floor installer. Why not?
You may be absolutely amazed at what a pro can do with the existing floor. If he cannot, he can give you sound advice on how to proceed. And how to do the job the RIGHT way. It is your house so you can do as you please, but it is also the largest investment most people make so do the job the way is should be done.
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CompleteNewb wrote:

The current floor is laid over the subfloor and there's absolutely no reason why taking it up should destroy anything if even a modicum of care were taken in doing so.
As for the existing hardwood floor, unless you're insistent on changing the wood itself, I would expect a professional resanding and refinishing would leave you with a quite attractive floor. As bad as a water-stained or floor after years of carpet pad on top, it will be returned to a brand new surface by a sanding. Unless there are really large gouges or other real mechanical problems (which can also be repaired or small sections replaced), it would undoubtedly be the cheapest solution.
If you're adamant about new hardwood flooring of full 3/4" thickness, I would recommend removing the old, however, simply to not raise the floor that much. It creates a lot of other issues...
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mind companies like that make most of their money from the financing for the project. The 'home improvements' they sell are just the hook to get you into the tent. What you saw from basement was the subfloor, and wide diagnal planks is a very good sign. Only reason to use the now-standard 1/4" ply underlayment is if they wanted to put down what I call a faux floor, one of those floating engineered or fake hardwood floors. If height wasn't a problem, no reason another layer of hardwood couldn't go over what was there.
I'd call a pro floor refinishing company. I think DIY refinishing jobs seldom look worth a damn. 2 of the bedrooms in this place were DIY'd by previous owner, and while they don't look too horrible, they also don't look like a pro job. And a pro refinish will likely cost a lot less than a rip'n'replace.
(Still kicking myself for not having all the floors redone while house was empty, but the carpet over the hardwood in LR and hall was brand new, and I was feeling broke and under time pressure, having only a couple of weeks between closing and moving at the end of a lease.)
aem sends...
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CompleteNewb wrote:

Are you talking about a bona-fide hardwood floor or a laminate covering?
If the latter, since the laminate is not attached directly to whatever's under it, who cares whether it's crappy hardwood, concrete, bricks, steel, or whatever.
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I had new 3/4" hardwoods put over top of old 3/4" hardwoods without a problem. 3 different companies told me it was not a concern before I hired a guy. Not sure what your salesman was saying that for.

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Do you plan to run the new floor in the same direction as the existing floor boards? If you went perpendicular or even diagonal to the existing floor I dont see why a plywood layer would be necessary, provided of course the current floor is level and structurally sound.

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