How To Refinish Hardwood Floors

Maintaining the lustrous appeal of your hardwood floors is a crucial aspect of preserving the ambiance of your business premises. Refinishing hardwood floors not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of your space but also adds to its longevity. However, the process involves a critical step: sanding wood floors. This guide will provide business owners with a comprehensive understanding of refinishing hardwood floors, focusing on the sanding process. Let’s dive into the world of hardwood floor refinishing and unlock the secrets to a base that leaves a lasting impression.

Assessing the Condition of Your Hardwood Floors

Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of sanding and refinishing, it’s pivotal to assess the current state of your hardwood floors. Understanding the extent of wear and tear will help you gauge the level of work required and strategize the refinishing process effectively. This section will guide you through the initial assessment, highlighting key aspects to consider in your hardwood floor refinishing journey.

How To Determine If Your Floors Need Refinishing

The first step in hardwood floor refinishing is deciding whether your floors need it. Start by inspecting for visible signs of wear and tear. Look for scratches, dents, or areas where the protective coating has worn away, revealing bare wood beneath. These are clear indicators that your floor may benefit from a refinish.

Next, assess the overall dullness of your floor. Over time, hardwood floors lose their shine due to foot traffic and exposure to sunlight. If your floors appear dull and lack the polish they once had, it’s likely time for a refinish.

Finally, observe the color of your hardwood floors. Discoloration is common in aging wood floors, especially in high-traffic areas. If you notice areas where the paint is faded or inconsistent, this is a sign that refinishing may be necessary.

Preparation Steps Before Refinishing

Before we delve into the specifics of sanding wood floors and refinishing, it’s essential to adequately prepare your hardwood floors to ensure a smooth and efficient process. This section will offer a comprehensive guide before starting your hardwood floor refinishing project.

Clearing the Room and Preparing The Work Area

The first step in your hardwood floor refinishing project is to clear the space entirely. This includes furniture, rugs, curtains, and any wall decorations. Removing items from the room prevents them from being damaged or coated with sawdust during sanding.

After clearing the room, it’s time to prepare the work area. Start by cleaning the floor thoroughly to remove any debris or dust that could interfere with the sanding process. You should also cover any doorways or vents with plastic sheeting to prevent dust from spreading to other parts of your building during refinishing. Unplugging and covering any electrical outlets for safety is also a good idea. These steps ensure your work environment is safe and clean, setting you up for a successful hardwood floor refinishing project.

Repairing Any Damage Before Sanding

Before initiating the sanding process, addressing any damage to your hardwood floors is paramount. Start by identifying loose boards and securing them firmly to the floor joists with nails or screws. Proceed to check for deep scratches or gouges in the wood; fill these with matching wood filler. Allow the filler to dry, then hand-sand it down to floor level. Remember, neglecting to repair these faults can worsen during sanding and refinishing, leading to compromised results. By rectifying these issues beforehand, you ensure a smooth, damage-free surface ready for the transformative process of sanding and refinishing.

Choosing the Right Tools and Materials

Choosing the right tools and materials is vital to refinishing the hardwood floor. The quality and suitability of your equipment can significantly influence the outcome of your refinishing project. Explore the tools and materials to effectively sand and refinish your hardwood floors.

List Of Tools Needed For the Job

Drum Sander

A drum sander is an essential tool for sanding wood floors. It’s powerful and efficient, allowing you to remove old finishes and scratches quickly. However, operating cautiously is crucial as it can easily gouge your floors if not handled properly.

Edging Sander

An edging sander is used for areas the drum sander can’t reach, like corners and edges. It’s smaller and easier to handle, ensuring a thorough and even sanding job across your floor.

Hand Sander or Sanding Block

A hand sander or a sanding block is necessary to smooth out the areas where the drum sander and the edging sander overlapped. It’s also useful for manually sanding hard-to-reach spots.

Vacuum Cleaner

A vacuum cleaner is vital for removing the vast dust created during sanding. A shop vacuum is typically the best choice, designed to handle large amounts of fine dust.

Safety Gear

Safety gear, including protective eyewear, a dust mask or respirator, and ear protection, is crucial. Refinishing hardwood floors can generate a lot of dust and noise, so it’s important to protect yourself.

Other Materials

Additional materials needed include high-quality wood filler to patch any gaps or cracks in your floor, sandpaper of various grits for different stages of the sanding process, and, of course, your chosen wood finish and applicators (like brushes or lint-free cloths) for the final refinishing step.

Selecting The Correct Sandpaper Grit

Selecting the correct sandpaper grit is crucial in achieving a smooth and even finish when sanding wood floors. The process typically involves using a sequence of sandpapers with different grit levels.

Starting Grit

Begin with coarse-grit sandpaper, usually around 36 grit, to remove the old finish and any significant scratches or dents. This aggressive grit level removes material quickly, leaving noticeable scratches on the wood.

Mid-Level Grit

After the initial pass, move to medium-grit sandpaper, about 60 grit, to smooth out the deep scratches left by the first round of sanding.

Finishing Grit

Finally, finish with fine-grit sandpaper, roughly 100 grit, to polish the floor and prepare it for the new finish. This final pass leaves the wood smooth and free of scratches, ensuring an optimal surface for the finish to adhere to.

The Sanding Process

The sanding process is critical in hardwood floor refinishing, transforming an old, worn-out floor into a smooth, fresh surface ready for a new finish. This section will delve into the meticulous process of sanding wood floors, providing step-by-step guidance for achieving the best possible results.

Step-by-Step Guide on Sanding The Floors

  1. Start with the Drum Sander: Load your sander with the coarse-grit sandpaper. Begin at one end of the room and move towards the other, sanding along the grain of the wood, not against it. Keep the sander moving to avoid creating divots on the floor.
  2. Use the Edging Sander: Next, switch to the edging sander equipped with the same coarse-grit sandpaper. Use it to sand the perimeter of the room and any other areas the drum sander couldn’t reach.
  3. Repeat with Mid-Level Grit: Replace the coarse grit on both sanders with the medium-grit sandpaper. Repeat the process of sanding the main area of the floor with the drum sander, followed by the edges with the edging sander.
  4. Final Sand with Fine Grit: Swap to the fine-grit sandpaper and repeat the same process. This last pass removes any scratches and prepares the wood for the new finish.
  5. Hand Sand Corners and Hard-to-Reach Areas: Use a hand sander or sanding block for areas the larger sanders couldn’t reach. The goal here is a uniformly smooth floor across the entire room.
  6. Vacuum the Floor: After sanding, vacuum the entire floor thoroughly to remove all sawdust and debris.
  7. Inspect the Floor: Lastly, inspect the floor for any missed scratches or dents. Do a spot sanding to ensure the floor is uniformly smooth if necessary.

By following these steps carefully, you can achieve a perfectly sanded floor ready for refinishing.

Tips for Using a Drum Sander and Edger

Here are some practical tips that can make using a drum sander and edger much easier and more effective:

  • Start Slowly: If you’re new to using a drum sander, start slowly until you become familiar with how the machine operates.
  • Follow the Grain: Always sand along the grain of the wood, not against it, to prevent unwanted scratches and damage.
  • Keep the Sander Moving: Never let the drum sander sit in one spot while running; it can quickly create gouges on the floor.
  • Sanding Sequence: Use the drum sander for the main floor area first, then follow up with the edger for the perimeter and hard-to-reach spots.
  • Don’t Press Down: Let the sander’s weight do the work; don’t press down on the machine as it could cause uneven sanding.
  • Check Your Progress: Regularly turn off the sander and check your progress. This will help you detect any uneven sanding or missed spots.
  • Clean the Room: Keep the room free of dust and debris during sanding. This can interfere with the sander’s effectiveness and scratch the floor.

Following these guidelines will help you use a drum sander and edger effectively, leading to better results in your hardwood floor refinishing project.

Buffing and Cleaning

After the intense process of sanding wood floors, the next vital step in hardwood floor refinishing is buffing and cleaning. This phase ensures any remaining fine scratches are smoothed out and the bottom is impeccably clean before applying the new finish.

How To Properly Buff The Floors Post-Sanding

Buffing, or screening, is a vital step post-sanding in hardwood floor refinishing. It smooths out any minor imperfections and scratches left after sanding, preparing the floor to apply the new finish.

  • Start by attaching a buffing pad to a floor buffer machine. A 120-grit or 150-grit screen is typically suitable for this task. Turn on the device and guide it over the entire floor, following the grain of the wood. Be sure to overlap your passes to ensure all areas are evenly buffed.
  • After buffing, thoroughly vacuum the floor to remove the fine dust created during the process. Ensure every nook and corner is dust-free before moving on to the next step.
  • Finally, wipe down the floor with a damp mop or cloth. This should be a mild, water-dampened cleaning pad to pick up any remaining dust. Ensure not to soak the foot; a light, damp wipe will do.

This meticulous buffing and cleaning process ensures that your hardwood floor is perfectly prepared for the final refinishing step- applying a new finish.

Best Practices For Cleaning And Removing All Dust

Comprehensive cleaning is an indispensable part of hardwood floor refinishing. Here are some best practices to ensure your floor is dust-free:

Regular Vacuuming: Use a high-quality vacuum cleaner to remove fine dust particles. Vacuum in multiple directions and pay special attention to corners and edges where dust can accumulate.

Microfiber Mop: Use a microfiber mop to wipe the floor after vacuuming. The fibers trap small particles that vacuuming may have missed.

Tack Cloth: Use a tack cloth, a special wiping fabric treated with a sticky substance. It’s designed to pick up and hold dust, perfect for the final wipe-down before applying the new finish.

Adhering to these practices ensures thorough dust removal, providing an immaculate base for your refinished hardwood floor.

Staining Your Hardwood Floors

Staining is an optional yet transformative step in hardwood floor refinishing. If you desire to alter the natural color of your wood or accentuate its grain pattern, applying a stain could be the perfect choice before proceeding with the final finish.

Guide to Choosing a Stain and Applying it Evenly.

Selecting and using a suitable color is crucial to achieving a uniform and attractive look in your hardwood floor refinishing project. Here are some steps to guide you through the process:

  • Consider the Wood Type: Different woods absorb stains differently. For instance, oak soaks up the stain with its open grain more readily than a tight-grained wood like maple. Research or test how your wood type reacts to colors before deciding.
  • Test Stain Samples: Apply various stain samples to a scrap piece of the same wood or a hidden spot on the floor. This allows you to see how the stain looks when dry and in different lighting conditions. It also reveals how the wood grain responds to each color.
  • Choose Quality Stains: Opt for high-quality, oil-based stains. These penetrate the wood deeper, provide long-lasting color, and are less prone to fading.
  • Apply Evenly: Apply the stain with a brush or rag, working along the wood grain. Ensure a smooth, even application, and wipe off any excess paint to avoid uneven coloration.
  • Allow Adequate Drying Time: Let the stain dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions before applying the finish. Rushing can lead to a blotchy final result.

Remember, the key to successful staining lies in careful preparation, thoughtful choice of stain, and meticulous application. This ensures your sanded wood floors gain a beautiful, uniform color that enhances the overall appeal of your refinished hardwood floors.

The Technique of ‘Water Popping’ for Even Stain Absorption

Water popping ensures even stain absorption and accentuates the wood grain during the hardwood floor refinishing process. Here’s how it works:

  • Moisten the Wood: Dampen the wood floor with a wet mop or spray bottle after sanding and cleaning. The goal isn’t to soak the wood but to lightly moisten it.
  • Let it Dry: Allow the water to dry completely. The grain will rise or ‘pop’ as the wood dries.
  • Apply the Stain: Now that the wood’s pores are more receptive, apply your chosen stain. It should be absorbed more evenly, producing a uniform, rich color.

Dry and Finish: Let the stain dry thoroughly before applying the finish.

By following these steps, you can use the water-popping technique to enhance the beauty and consistency of your stained hardwood floors.

Applying the Finish

The final but most critical stage in your hardwood floor refinishing journey is the application of the finish. This step seals all your hard work in place, offering protection and adding a lustrous sheen to your beautifully sanded and optionally stained wood floors.

Different Types of Finishes and How To Apply Them

There are several types of finishes available, each with its unique properties and application methods:

  • Oil-Based Polyurethane: This is popular for its durability and high-gloss finish. Apply using a high-quality natural bristle brush or a lamb’s wool roller, and allow each coat to dry for 24 hours before lightly sanding and applying the next coat.
  • Water-Based Polyurethane: Quicker to dry and less odorous than its oil-based counterpart, it provides a clear finish that doesn’t yellow over time. Apply a synthetic bristle brush or a lamb’s wool roller, allowing two to three hours between coats.
  • Shellac: A natural product that provides a warm, rich finish. Shellac is easy to apply using a brush or cloth. Multiple thin coats are recommended, with a light sanding in between.
  • Lacquer: Known for its fast drying time and high gloss, paint can be brushed or sprayed on. It requires careful application due to its highly volatile and flammable nature.
  • Hard Wax Oil: A blend of natural oils and waxes offering a soft, matte finish. Apply a brush or cloth, allowing the product to penetrate the wood before buffing the excess.

Remember that no matter the finish you choose, proper preparation is key. The beauty of your refinished hardwood floor depends on it.

The Importance of Multiple Coats and Proper Drying Time

Applying multiple finish coats is pivotal to achieving a durable and visually appealing hardwood floor. Each coat adds depth to the color and enhances the grain of the wood, giving your foundation a rich, vibrant look. Additionally, multiple skins provide better protection for the wood, guarding against wear and tear, scratches, and moisture damage.

Proper drying time between coats is crucial in the hardwood floor refinishing process. It allows each finished layer to harden, ensuring a robust surface that can withstand heavy foot traffic. Rushing this process may produce a soft finish that easily scratches or peels off. Always adhere to the drying time recommended by the manufacturer.

In conclusion, applying multiple coats and allowing adequate drying time is a meticulous but worthwhile endeavor. It ensures your refinished, sanded wood floors look stunning and stand the test of time.

Reinstalling Trim and Final Touches

Now that your hardwood floor refinishing task is nearing completion, it’s time to reinstall any removed trim and apply the final touches. This will give your sanded and refinished floors a polished and professionally finished look.

Replace Trim and Molding After Refinishing

Restoring trim and molding after refinishing your hardwood floors involves a systematic process:

  • Preparation: Remove dust or dirt by gently cleaning the trim and molding. If they were stained or painted previously, lightly sand them to prepare for the new finish.
  • Applying New Finish: If desired, use a new coat of paint or stain to match your freshly refinished floors. Allow them to dry completely before installation.
  • Installation: Carefully position the trim or molding back, ensuring it fits snugly and evenly. Use finishing nails to secure it to the wall, hammering at an angle to hide the nail heads.
  • Finishing Touches: Fill any nail holes with wood putty and touch up with paint or stain if necessary. This final step ensures a seamless blend between your sanded, refinished floors and the trim or molding. With these steps, you can successfully reinstall decoration and molding after refinishing, adding a professional finish to your hardwood floors.

Final Checks and Clean-Up Tips

After all the hard work of refinishing your hardwood floors, it’s crucial to conduct final checks to ensure quality and longevity. Inspect the floor closely for any missed spots or inconsistencies in the finish. If you spot any, lightly sand the area and apply another coat.

Now, onto the clean-up. Collect all tools and materials, ensuring any leftover finish is properly sealed and stored. Sweep or vacuum the area to remove dust and debris. For stubborn residues, a damp cloth works well. Remember, any cleaning products used should be compatible with your new floor finish. Regular maintenance will help retain the charm of your refinished, sanded hardwood floors for years.

Maintenance Tips Post-Refinishing

Maintaining your newly refinished and sanded hardwood floors is imperative to ensure their longevity and keep them looking their best. Let’s explore some practical tips and strategies to help you achieve this.

Maintaining the Floors After Refinishing

Maintaining freshly refinished hardwood floors involves regular cleaning, prompt spill management, and mindful usage.

Regular Cleaning: Dust and dirt can act like sandpaper, scratching your beautiful finish over time. Use a microfiber mop or vacuum with a hardwood setting to clean your floors weekly. Avoid using water or steam cleaners, which can damage your hardwood floors.

Spill Management: Spills should be cleaned immediately to prevent staining or water damage. Use a soft, dry cloth for this purpose.

Mindful Usage: Use felt pads under furniture legs to prevent scratches. Avoid walking on the floors with high heels or sports shoes, as they can cause dents. In high-traffic areas, consider using rugs to minimize wear.

Periodic Re-Coating: Depending on the level of traffic, consider re-coating your floors every 3-5 years. This involves lightly sanding the top layer and applying a fresh finish coat.

By adhering to these maintenance tips, you can uphold the beauty of your refinished, sanded hardwood floors and ensure their longevity.

Considering a Professional For Refinishing

While hardwood floor refinishing can be a do-it-yourself project, there are instances when hiring a professional is the best course of action. A professional’s expertise ensures the restoration is done correctly and safely if the floor is significantly damaged, warped, or has deep stains. Moreover, older floors may contain lead-based finishes or adhesives, requiring professional handling. Finally, a professional can provide a stress-free solution if you need more time or the task seems too daunting. Their experience and specialized equipment often produce a higher quality finish and durability, making your investment worthwhile.


Refinishing your hardwood floors is a systematic process involving careful preparation, sanding, application of finish, and reinstating trim. The steps may seem intensive, but with patience and attention to detail, you can transform your worn hardwood floors into a beautiful and durable surface. Remember, maintaining your newly sanded and refinished floors is key to prolonging their life and appeal. If the task appears too daunting, professional help is always an option. However, don’t shy away from this DIY project. Your efforts will save costs and provide immense satisfaction as you breathe new life into your hardwood floors.

Jeffrey Bergan

Jeffrey Bergan is the founder of Soothing LifeStyle. He is from Los Angeles and has a passion for building and maintaining homes. He started this project based on his experience of building a cottage in Los Angeles. He used hardwood flooring for the most part of the house and used other types of flooring for special places like washrooms, basement, and porch. He made his choices after extensive research. It was when he was working on that cottage and had to choose from different types of floorings, he realized that there was a need for proper guidance for that which led him to launch this project.

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