The Most Common Hardwood Floor Refinishing Questions Answered


Learning how to refinish hardwood floors can be time-intensive but luckily you can always take the DIY route. Refreshing your hardwood floors will create a warm, welcoming look to your home, and doing it yourself could actually be a fun project. If you need help learning the ins and outs of this project, look no further. We’ve answered the most common questions when it comes to refinishing hardwood floors.

How Long Do Hardwood Floors Last?

Hardwood floors stand the test of time, lasting up to twenty-five years before needing to be refinished. However, the lifespan depends on a couple of different factors. How often you clean and maintain the floors, as well as the amount of wear and tear they get from everyday use all have an impact.

How Much Does It Cost To Refinish My Hardwood Floors?

If you’ve been putting off this project due to the price tag, you should know that doing it yourself, although more difficult, can be cost-effective when done correctly. The process of sanding and refinishing your hardwood floors yourself is a time investment, but it’s much less expensive than paying a professional. Depending on the type of project, you can expect to pay a professional anywhere from $3 to $6 per square foot to refinish your hardwood floors.

How Long Does It Take To Refinish My Hardwood Floors?

Refinishing your floors can take up to three or four days and for this period you may want to consider staying someplace else or closing off parts of the house that are being refinished. Also, note that you will not be able to step on the floor for at least 24 hours after being treated.

How Can I Tell If My Hardwood Floors Need to Be Refinished?

To determine if your hardwood floors need to be refinished, you can always do a simple “water test”:

  • Drop a few water beads on to the floor.

  • If a drop of water soaks in immediately, the wood fiber may already be exposed and the wood most likely needs to be refinished.

  • If the water doesn’t absorb within a few minutes, your floors are likely OK.

  • If the floor is warped, squeaky, deeply stained, or otherwise damaged, you’ll need to make repairs before refinishing.

Next, determine what type of wood flooring you have:

  • Remove a floor air vent and look at the ends of the flooring.

  • Make sure that the wood is at least ¾” thick.

  • If it is thinner than 3/4”, you may want to consider hiring a pro to avoid accidentally sanding down the subfloor.

  • A tongue and groove floor cannot be sanded down as many times as a plank floor.

  • If you see individual layers of thin wood, this is an engineered floor and you should hire a professional.

What Materials and Tools Do I Need To Refinish My Hardwood Floors?

Refinishing a floor requires a number of basic tools you will probably need to rent. Your local hardware store should have them on hand and available for rental.

What Equipment Do I Need?

  • Power hand sander

  • Orbital sander or drum sander

  • Shop Vacuum

  • Floor buffer

You will also need the correct size sandpaper and pads for each machine. You will need three different levels of sandpaper to complete this job, one for every pass over the floor. Depending on the state of the floors you will need:

  • 30 to 40 grit for your first pass

  • 50 to 60 grit for your second pass

  • 80 to 100 grit for your third pass

Are there any other supplies?

  • Dust mask

  • Goggles

  • Earplugs

  • Plastic Sheets

  • Painters tape

  • Hardwood floor cleaner

  • Putty knife

  • Cotton rags

  • Wood filler

  • Nail set

  • Polyurethane floor finish

  • Paintbrush

  • Lamb’s- wool applicator

How Do I Get Prepared for Refinishing My Hardwood Floors?

Before you start your refinishing job, you’re going to need to empty the room and thoroughly clean the floors. The key to any successful DIY project is preparation so make sure to take the time to clean your surface properly.

Follow these steps to prepare your home:

  • Clear the room of furniture, curtains and decorations

  • Remove doors and shoe molding. Removing molding is optional but it will help prevent damage. If you choose to remove it be sure to use tape to number each piece and its coordinating wall so that you will know where each piece belongs.

  • Inspect the floor for nails that are not flush with the floor. Use a nail set to drive nails below the surface of the wood to make sure the nail heads are not sticking up. If they are they could tear the sandpaper and slow your progress.

  • Repair any existing damage to the floors, like holes or scratches. To do this you can use wood putty and a putty knife.

  • Clean the floors with hardwood floor cleaner.

  • Vacuum the floor to remove dirt and debris

  • Cover all doors, vents, windows and other surfaces with plastic sheets and painters tape. This will help prevent dust from traveling through your house.

How Do Sand and Refinish My Hardwood Floors?

Once you’ve completed your prep work you're now ready to start sanding. Prepare your sander by attaching the coarsest grit of sandpaper.


Sanding the Floor

  • Begin by moving the forward as you turn it on.

  • Start at the center of the room and work out to each end of the room to the other, overlapping passes by an inch or two.

  • Repeat the procedure on the other half of the room.

  • Make sure to always wear your mask. Sweep and vacuum to remove dust and debris between sanding with different grit paper.

Sand the Edges and Corners

Use an edger sander or small orbital sander to sand corners, edges and small areas such as closet floors, bathrooms, and stairs.

  • An edger can be difficult to control, so practice on scrap wood before your first pass.

  • Start with coarse-grit paper and then move to finer grades.

  • If the flooring has small areas that even the edger cannot reach, use a scraper and some 80 and 100 grit paper to remove the old finish.

  • Remove all dust from the floor.

Staining the Floor

You can apply a clear sealer to your newly refinished floor or apply a stain, water, or oil base. Follow the directions on the sealer or stain. Some stains require more than one coat with sanding.

  • Apply the stain with a foam applicator pad in the direction of the grain.

  • Work one manageable area at a time.

  • Remove excess as you go, usually a few minutes after application

  • Use clean cotton cloths or paper towels to remove excess hardwood stain.

  • Allow the stain to dry according to directions before applying the finish.

Apply the Finish

This is the final and perhaps most important step when refinishing our hardwood floors. This coating seals your floors and protects them from future water damage. Wait until your stain is completely dry and clean the floors thoroughly before application.

Choose a finish that is best for your floor. Water-based polyurethane wood finished or lacquers dry quickly, which can create difficulties. Oil-based polyurethane wood finished dry more quickly, providing more time to ensure a smooth coat.

Follow these steps when applying the finish:

  • Begin by using a paintbrush to cover the perimeter of the room. Cover about 12 inches of the floor for the wall toward the center of the room. Work in the direction of the grain.

  • Keep the brush wet to avoid bubbles and drips.

  • Once the perimeter is complete, use the lambs-wool applicator to do the rest.

  • Consider three coats of oil-based finish and four coats of water-based finish.

  • When each coat dries, sand the floor lightly with 220-grit paper or #000 steel wool.

Once you’ve completed the final coat, wait for them to dry, vacuum up the dust and you’re finished! Make sure to not walk on the floors for 24-hours after adding the final coat. Make sure to wait a week before moving furniture back into the room to prevent scratching. Then take a load off, your home free!

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