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How To Refinish Hardwood Floors

DIY, Flooring & Tiles
By on Aug 10, 2016
How To Refinish Hardwood Floors

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Your hardwood floors are an important investment in your home. However, caring for them can be a challenge. After years of use, your hardwood flooring can become dull and scratched. But, you can make them look like new again without fully replacing them.

If you like to DIY and have time to patiently take care of your floors, this project could be right for you. Here’s how to refinish your hardwood floors.

Costs To Refinish

Costs to Refinish Hardwood Floors

Depending on the type of wood used, care and the installation method, hardwood flooring can last up to 25 years or more. Refinishing damaged hardwood floors will ensure that your floors last a lifetime. The average cost to refinish hardwood floors is $1,455. This cost depends on the area that is being refinished and the amount of wear and tear on the wood. Keep in mind, if you’re doing it yourself, you may need to factor the costs of renting a sander and other materials you may not already own.

Refinishing Considerations

Refinishing Considerations

When taking on this project, it should not be done hastily. There are many decisions to make that can impact the way your floors look and last. Here are a few questions to consider.

How Much Time is Needed? 

Refinishing hardwood floors is a time-intensive project. Many of the materials used will take hours to fully dry, making this project longer than a weekend DIY. If there is carpet or vinyl covering the wood, you’ll need to factor in removal time. Additionally, if you plan on changing the stain of your floor, more time should be factored into applying the new stain.

What Kind of Stain & Polyurethane Should Be Used?

Changing the stain color of your floor is possible, but will require a heavier sanding process. The stain you choose when you’re refinishing can drastically change the look of the room and appearance of the wood. Know what kind of wood your flooring is made of before moving forward. Some woods don’t take to stains as well as others. Oak has the most variation of stain options, while harder woods, like walnut and maple, tend to look best left natural.

Polyurethane comes in two varieties; water-based and oil-based. Water-based is quicker to dry and leaves a clear finish, likely best for a wood you want to naturally show off. Oil-based will give the wood an amber color and takes longer to dry. Remember that floor finish is specific to flooring. Furniture finish will not work here.

What’s the Condition of the Floor?

In some cases, wood flooring must be replaced rather than refinished. Refinishing hardwood floors can only be done a few times, so know how many times the floor has been finished before you sand the boards too thin. Any damaged boards should be repaired and floors with water damage should not be refinished.

Additionally, if you have engineered hardwood floors, leave this to the pros, as the layers of wood could be damaged if not done correctly. This DIY project should only be done if you have solid hardwood floors.

Prepare The Room

Materials Needed

  • Random Orbital Sander (Rental)
  • Handheld Sander
  • Detail Sander
  • Hammer
  • Dust Mask
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Plastic Sheets
  • Course Grit Sandpaper
  • Medium Grit Sandpaper
  • Fine Grit Sandpaper
  • Buffing Screens
  • Sealer
  • Polyurethane
  • Vacuum
  • Dry Mop
  • Paint Brush
  • Roller & Extension Pole
  • Optional: Stain

Step 1: Prepare the Room

Before starting the sander, you’ll need to clean and clear the room. Remove any furniture and repair any damages. Make sure the floor is clean before starting to sand, sweeping and vacuuming the room. When you begin sanding, debris is likely to travel. Cover any vents and openings with plastic sheets and painters tape so the dust does not leave the area. Cover any trim with painter’s tape as well, to ensure you don’t get any unwanted finish on them. Once the room is clear, you’re ready to begin sanding.

Sand The Floor

Step 2: Sand the Floor

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Before beginning this process, wear a dust mask and goggles to protect yourself from sawdust in the air. Using a handheld and detail sander, sand the perimeter of the room starting with a course grit sandpaper. Make sure to properly sand all of the corners and oddly shaped areas of the floor, so the finish is sure to stick.

When the perimeter is completed, begin with a course grit sandpaper on your random orbit sander. Be sure to begin moving once the stander starts, as standing still can cause permanent damage to the floor. You should begin to see the old finish leave the floor. Follow the same back and forth pattern running the width of the room. When you move to your next stroke, overlap a few inches on the sanded area, so you’re sure to cover the whole floor. Vacuum and dry mop the floor to pick up any excess sawdust.

This step must be repeated two more times. The second time with the medium grit sandpaper and the final time with a fine grit sandpaper. Complete this by using your buffing screens to buff the floor. When the process is finished, your floor should be smooth to the touch. Clean the whole room for any sawdust that may be on walls, window sills and fixtures.

FInish The Floor

Step 3: Finish the Floor

If you’ve decided to re-stain your floor in this process, follow the instructions on the stain of your choice and apply prior to sealing and finishing your floor. Make sure the stain is completely dry before moving on. Most brands typically recommend 24 hours.

If you’re not giving your floor a stain, apply the sealer working from the farthest corner of the door, using a paintbrush. Let dry and sand lightly, cleaning up any more dust on the floor before proceeding.

It’s now time to apply the polyurethane. Stir to mix and pour into your paint tray. Use a paintbrush, working from the farthest corner and apply along the edges of the room. Be careful not to let the edge of the strip dry to prevent marks on the floor. When the room has been outlined, use a paint roller to apply strokes that are parallel to the woodgrain, throughout the room. Be sure to overlap each stroke. Let it dry for three hours at minimum and recoat. Then, let the floor dry completely before using the room or putting furniture on it. Remember, water-based and oil-based polyurethane have different drying times. Check the product to see what the approximate time is according to the manufacturer. To protect your newly-finished floor, put felt pads on the bottom of your furniture and avoid scratches.


Refinishing hardwood floors is a labor-intensive and time-consuming DIY project, but has results that can’t be beat. Taking care of your hardwood floors is sure to protect your investment and help create a home you love.

If DIY hardwood floor refinishing isn’t for you, call a pro today and receive up to four free estimates.

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