How to Refinish Your Hardwood Floor

Step by Step Instructions on How to Refinish Hardwood Floors

By Mark J. Donovan

If you’re unfortunate enough not to have pre-finished hardwood floors or you purchased non-finished hardwood flooring material or your old wood floors are simply looking in rough shape you’ll have to finish / refinish them.

Finishing or refinishing your hardwood floors is not an easy job. Besides being a dusty and smelly job it also can be back-breaking, particularly if you don’t use the right tools. Even with the right tools, also expect to have to be on your knees quite a bit and having to do a lot of bending over. Scraping and sanding in corners and along the edges of a hardwood floor is tedious and painful work.

With that said, if you’re still committed to refinishing your hardwood floor, versus calling in a pro, read on.
Selecting the Right Type of Hardwood Finish

The first thing you need to decide upon when refinishing a hardwood floor is the type of finish you want to see on the floor, e.g. a high gloss finish, a medium gloss finish or a flat finish.

They pretty much wear similarly so select the type of hardwood flooring finish based on your personal preference. Both polyurethane paint and varnishes are commonly used when refinishing hardwood floors and each works very well. The both come in oil and water based. Varnish, however, will yellow over time and in my opinion is slightly less durable than polyurethane. I also prefer to use water based polyurethane, or varnish, since water based products are easier to clean and have less smell.

If you want to stain the hardwood floor a slightly different color you can do that too, after sanding all of the existing stain off of the hardwood floors.

Selecting the Right Hardwood Refinishing Tools

Visit your local hardware store or tool rental store and look into renting a floor sander and edge sander. They are too expensive to outright purchase so really try to rent these pieces of equipment. They’ll save you a ton of time and a lot of hand sanding and backaches.

Also pick up at the hardware store hand paint scrapers, sandpaper of coarse, medium and fine grit, polyethylene plastic, tape, brush, paint roller, and your finish of choice. Again, I prefer a polyurethane finish.

Getting to work – Refinishing Hardwood Floors

First, if you don’t want to get the rest of your home dusty, section off the room with the polyethylene plastic and tape. Then sweep and vacuum the hardwood floor thoroughly.

Now the fun part. Using the floor sander and a coarse grit sander, sand the main floor. The coarse sandpaper should get you to bare wood. Make sure when operating the floor sander to go in the same direction all of the time. Then repeat the process with a medium grit sandpaper, followed finally by a fine grit sandpaper. The fine grit sandpaper should leave the hardwood floor bare and smooth.

Next, sand the edges of the hardwood floor using the edge sander. Make sure to not bear down too hard on the edge sander when using it and constantly keep it rotating in semi-circle type movements. Otherwise you’ll leave sanding marks.

Wood Flooring Installation Bid Sheet

Now use your hand scraper and small blocks of sandpaper to get into the corners where the big-boy tools couldn’t.

With the floor entirely sanded, now sweep and vacuum it again thoroughly.

Next, apply stain to the hardwood floor, if you want to stain the wood a slightly different color than its natural stain.

Allow the stain to fully dry, e.g. wait 24 hours, and then apply the polyurethane sealer or varnish sealer to it using either a brush or roller.

Let the urethane or varnish dry for 24 hours and apply a second coat to complete the project. If you want to create an extremely durable finish apply a third coat of finish.

For help on finding a wood flooring installation contractor, see’s Wood Flooring Installation Bid Sheet. It will help ensure that you find and hire the right flooring installation contractor for your wood flooring project. In addition, it will help to ensure that your wood floor installation is completed on time and on budget.

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