How To Refinish Wood Floors Step By Step

Hardwood floors are such an attractive feature to have in homes, that people spend fortunes on homes when purchasing them to get these elegant looking floors. People will also often spend a fortune having these floors put in. This is a popular option because it is the best option for people with allergies and often the most aesthetically pleasing option. However, this is a delicate flooring option that needs proper care in order to stay in great shape. By not taking the proper precautions with this flooring, you will damage it and this can be a very costly fix. So, how to refinishing your hardwood floors?

How to Refinishing Your Hardwood Floors

Properly Cleaning Your Flooring

One of the biggest reasons for needing to refinish your flooring is because you do not clean it properly. You need to be very careful with the products that you use to protect the surface of your hardwood floor. When choosing a broom and dustpan, you will want options that have softer bristles and dustpans that have rubberized edging. This will prevent your floor from getting scratched up when sweeping. If you find sweeping the floor to be too physically demanding for you, you can also choose to vacuum your hardwood floor.

When you choose a vacuum for your hardwood floor, you will need to look for options that are specifically meant for this purpose. Traditional carpet vacuums have thicker bristles that can very easily scratch up the surface of your floor. These vacuums also have plastic wheels that will also damage the surface of your hardwood floor.

If you pick an option that does not explicitly say “for hardwood floors”, make sure that you pick an item that can be used on bare floors, as they often have a button that switches between the two surfaces and may not be as likely to scratch up your floor. Even still, you will run the risk of damaging your floor whenever you purchase an option that is not made for the hardwood floor, so you would be best to choose a hardwood floor vacuum.

An option like the BISSELL PowerEdge Pet Hard Floor Corded Vacuum, 81L2A is perfect vacuum cleaner for hardwood floors because it was made for hardwood flooring. It has powerful suction, as it was also made to pick up stubborn pet hair, but is made with rubber wipers rather than bristles to help glide smoothly along the hardwood floor with ease. This vacuum is very easy to move around the floor, and has a swivel head that can maneuver easily around furniture. It has a unique shape to it that helps collect the dust and debris into the center, similar to the way a broom and dustpan work. The ends also have suction to allow the dirt and dust to be collected if they cannot make it into the center area.

After you get all of that dust and dirt off of the ground, you will next clean using a mop and cleaner. First of all, you want to choose a cleaner that is made for use on hardwood floors or ones that are safe for hardwood floors. You will want to stay away from any wax-based or oil-based cleaner, as well as cleaners that are made with ammonia. It can be tempting to use a homemade floor detergent, but you need to be careful of what you use for that. Any homemade item that is made with vinegar will be too rough on your hardwood floor. Wax and oil-based cleaners can make your floor slippery and greasy while ones made with chemicals like ammonia or with vinegar can damage your floor’s finish. You will also need to pay attention to the type of mop that you use. A sponge mop, or a mop with microfiber pads, is generally the best option. String mops just end up rewashing your floor with dirty water, which defeats the purpose of this task while also leaving too much water behind on the surface of the floor. This excess water can damage your finish and also warp the wood floor boards.

Floor Damage

Understanding how to properly clean your floor is one useful step to help preserving its natural beauty without having to repair it. A common mistake is not using the proper tools for cleaning your floor. Traditional vacuums that were made for carpets can very easily scratch up and scuff your floors. This can also easily happen as a result of using the wrong cleaners. You should clean your floor on a regular basis as the dirt can also damage your floor if left to accumulate.

There are many other things that can cause damage to your floor. Shoes are a huge culprit for damaging floors. Spiky, high heels and even older shoes can scratch up the surface of the wood flooring. It is best to leave all of your shoes at the door before walking on the hardwood floor. Another common way that floors become damaged is by not properly caring for your pet’s nails. If they become too long or are too jagged, they will tear up your floor. It is important to make sure that your pets are properly groomed to prevent this.

Floor damage is preventable. By preventing this damage, you can save yourself the hassles and costs of refinishing your floor. But if your floor is damaged, you will want to consider your options for refinishing your floor. Otherwise, your hardwood floor will no longer look like the beautiful flooring that you previously had.

Under old, soiled, dirty carpet may be a beautiful wood floor screaming to be reintroduced to your home. Coating your floors with a clean, new finish is about as satisfying as it gets. A little hard work and you could have the hardwood floor you’ve always envied in the homes of others.

Prep Your Floor for Refinish

Remove any carpeting from the area. Cut and roll in sections manageable for carrying out to the trash. Once all carpeting has been removed, move on to the real work

Hammer down any protruding nail heads. Nails may have been added to the flooring to cut down on squeaking or to secure a loose baseboard. Either way, nails that are sticking up above the wood floor present both a danger and a nuisance. Most of the time, hammering the nails down deeper into the flooring is a better and easier solution than taking the nails out. •Hammer the nails down about 1⁄4 inch (0.6 cm) into the floor. Use a nail set so you don’t leave hammer marks(dents)in the wood. Work with their direction, not against it. Once the nails are 1⁄4 inch (0.6 cm) deep, they’re ready to be concealed with a little bit of filler that you’ll make after sanding down the rest of the flooring. More on that later

Make sure the floor is relatively clean. If old carpet backing is stuck to your wood floor, you will need to scrape it off with a putty knife. This can be a rather tedious job, and can take a great deal of time, but it’s worth it. •Go over the floor with a vacuum and mop if necessary. Years of dust and grit can create a lot of debris. You want this debris cleared away before you attack the old wood finish.

Remove any tack stripping along the floor edges. If tack stripping was present along with your carpet, remove it before you start sanding so that you can hit those areas with your finish.

Use sanding to buff up any very old, excessively scratched or worn wood. Chemical strippers can be used if what you’re after is a quick fix, or the floors themselves were recently finished. If, however, you’re dealing with traffic patterns, stains, or scratches, your best bet is to sand away those imperfections and then add another coat to the floor.

Prep the perimeter. Hand-sand or palm-sand the perimeter of the floor with coarse 180-grit sandpaper. Rub out 4 to 6 inches (10.2 to 15.2 cm) from the edge of the baseboard so that you’re sure to cover the areas your mechanical floor sander can’t get to.

Use a floor sander to hit the areas of the floor that weren’t hit by hand in the detail sanding. You can rent floor sanding machines at hardware supply stores or equipment rental stores. •Start with a coarse grit and begin to sand the floor. Start off gently. You don’t want to gouge the floor. If you get a good sander, you’ll even be able to lift up the sander and spend a little more time on heavy-wear or problem areas. Change out your sanding disks as necessary. You may need to change out the sandpaper once or twice using the same grit before you’ve completely removed the finish.

•Using a pencil, color the entire area lightly with streaks of graphite. This will help tell you when you’ve sanded an area. Otherwise, it’ll be tough to tell where you’ve sanded and where you haven’t.

•Go over the entire floor again with a medium-grit sandpaper. Look at the pencil streaks to determine whether you’ve already sanded an area or not. Again, you may need to change the disks on your sanding machine before the job is finished.

Is Refinishing a DYI Task or Should It Be Left to the Pros?

The answer is that this depends. If you are very handy around the house, you may be able to take on this task yourself. You will only need to rent out the supplies and teach yourself how to do this task. However, for those people who have yet to master the DYI thing, it could be much better to leave this task to a professional. If you are not particularly skilled here, hardwood floors are not forgiving when it comes to mistakes. You will be able to very clearly see your errors when you are finished with the job. This can negatively affect the appearance of your home.

Professional Refinishers

It will often take a professional less than a week to complete a simple task of refinishing, though some more complex cases can take up to 2 weeks. This can be affected by humid weather, which will change the drying times for the finishes.

Here are the steps a professional will go through in order to refinish your floor:


This tells the professional what actually needs to be done to the floor. Often times the scratches are superficial, and have only damaged the clear top coat of the hardwood flooring. If this is the case for you, they will only need to reapply this top coat. This is a relatively inexpensive and easy fix. If after this process, referred to as “screening”, finds that the scratches are more than just superficial ones, they will move onto the next step.

Sand and Finish

This will involve sanding down entirely to the bare wood. Before even sanding the floor, the professional will need to be sure that the floor is thick enough to complete this process. If there is enough solid wood to complete this job, they will begin the sanding process. After this is completed, they will next fill in any cracks or holes. Once this has been completed, the professional will move onto finishing your floor. While you have the option of leaving the floor in this natural state, people often choose to follow up with the stain instead. This process usually requires several coats, including sanding in between coats. There are different choices of coats. You will have the option of water-based coats, which lack the strong odor and are eco-friendly but are not the most durable option. The polyurethane finishes are the options that are typically used. These are the best options if you are looking to stain a high traffic area or if you are staining floors in kitchens. This is a very durable option. The final option is the acid-cured finish. This option dries fast, allowing for more than one coat to be applied in a single day. This option is probably the most durable stain; however it does come with a big downside. Some brands of this stain produce very dangerous fumes that will require you to not be home, turn off your pilot light and not turn on any light switch.

The DYI’er

The DYI’er will need to rent out a buffer to complete this task. This can be very difficult because if an oil or waxed-based soap was used to clean the floor, the buffer will not do its job properly. If the finish does not take, that means you need to thoroughly clean the wood floor before you can even begin this process. It would be wise to try out a location that no one will notice. If the stain stays, you can continue along with the rest of the flooring. If not, you will need to find a special commercial hardwood cleaner that will help remove this residue in order successfully stain the flooring.

After this, you will use a drum sander in order to sand the entire floor. This is similar to a lawnmower, as you walk behind it and guide it evenly along the flooring. You will need to sand with progressively more fine grits each time you go over the flooring. This is a complicated piece of equipment to use, as it will destroy your floor if you let it linger too long in one location. You need to keep it moving. After this, you will move onto an orbital sander, a smaller item that will remove the finish and get into locations that the much larger drum sander could not get to.

Your best choice for stain is to choose a polyurethane stain in the color of your liking. This is the easiest one to apply, and the stronger of the two viable options. The other option for the DYI’er is the water-based, which is not really a great choice for most homes.

Before you even get started on this process, you will need to block off all doors to areas where you will not be working in order to lessen the cleanup. The dust will get everywhere that is not covered. You will absolutely need a strong dust mask to protect yourself from the dust and the fumes. After buffing the floor, you should patch up any locations that need it by using wood filler. After the sanding portion of this, you will want to be sure that you vacuum up the dust to make sure that you get a nice smooth coating of stain on your floor. It would be terrible to go through this process only to make it look bad by staining over the excess dust.

Just remember that this is a difficult task and can be very unforgiving if you make any mistakes at all. Then you will end up paying more money to fix your mistakes or end up paying a professional after all to fix your errors. You can even severely damage your floor, especially if you do not use the drum sander properly. It is best to get it done right the first time.

It is a costly task to refinish a floor, and it can take a lot of time. If you do need to refinish your floor, you should consider using a professional to save yourself money in the long run. Mistakes can easily be made doing this yourself, and wood floors will show off every mistake that you have made. Even more than that, floor damage is very easily prevented so that you can avoid the need for refinishing your floor entirely. Be sure to put area carpets, runners, or mats in any high traffic location to help protect your flooring. It is also very important to remember to only use cleaning items that were made for hardwood floors, like vacuums. By remembering this step of how to refinishing your hardwood floors, you can save yourself the trouble of refinishing your floor.