10 Simple Steps to Refinishing Hardwood Floors

We all have a thing or two that we invest in a lot. Regardless, of the type of investment, they all need maintenance to prevent wear and tear or dents. Have you ever noticed scratches on your hardwood floor and thought of buying new hardwood floors? You shouldn’t. Luckily, this article has tons of information and steps to refinishing hardwood floors rather than going for new ones.

We are here to save you some coins.

Refinishing your hardwood floors is an excellent way of increasing the lifespan of your floor. It is cheaper and effortless compared to replacing your floor fully.

As a homeowner, always bear in mind that everything requires just a little maintenance to keep it going. So do hardwood floors.

Basically, refinishing your hardwood floor is giving it a reset. The finish is the uppermost layer of a hardwood plank. It protects the actual wood from damage.

Quickly, let us look at the reasons why you need to refinish hardwood floors.

  1. Water damage- water is one of the causes of ugly floors. Water stagnation on the floor damages the hardwood and weakens it. Refinishing the floor gives it a new look.
  2. Dents and scratches- you may consider refinishing your hardwood floors to cover up any dents on the floor.
  3. Fading and discoloration- when did you refinish your floor last? There isn’t the best time for refinishing but staying too long without refinishing makes your floor to start fading. Doing this helps to change the color of your floors.
  4. Tough stains- refinishing removes stubborn and tough stains on floors and floors their original look.

Do You Prefer a Satin or Glossy Floor?

Glossy floors are known to appear attractive. However, satin floors have taken over in popularity, more so in homes with children.

Waxed floors are known to be slippery and are not durable compared to urethane-based coating.

Polyurethane finishes that are water-based are low VOC, meaning they are not harmful to inhale as opposed to their counterparts.

Moving forward, let us look at the tools and equipment needed to make the refinishing process a success.

Read: 7 Best Flooring for Small Bathroom That Lasts

Steps to Refinishing Hardwood Floors – What You’ll Need

  • Knee pads   
  • Gloves
  • Pry bar
  • Hammer
  • Finishing nail
  • Sliding blade
  • Wood putty
  • Drum sander
  • Dustpan
  • Broom
  • Sanding edger
  • Floor buffer
  • Vacuum
  • Tack cloth
  • Rag
  • Foam applicator pad
  • Interior wood stain
  • Wood finish      
  • Lambswool applicator  

Step by Step Guide to Refinishing Hardwood Floors

1. Use a hardwood cleaner to clean the floor

Remove all the furniture from the room and clean it. Sweep the floor thoroughly using a soft bristle broom. Using a broom with stiff bristles might cause scratches on the surface of the wood.

You can use a mixture of water and vinegar in the ratio of 10:1 parts or spray using a hardwood floor cleaner.

Then wipe the floor gently using a mop and ensure the doors and windows are closed so that dust is enclosed in the room.

Go over the whole floor and carefully look out for any nails or stuff that may be protruding from the floor as they can damage or tear the sanding pad.

Hardwood floors where there is always high traffic will require deep and thorough cleaning. A scrubbing machine can be used to get rid of the embedded dirt.

For areas that are hard to reach, use a vacuum to remove in floorboards and corners.

Pro Tip: never use water, steam, and other cleaners that emit suds or bubbles to clean hardwood floors.

2. Remove the shoe base molding

This is the molding attached where the wall and the floor usually meet. It is also referred to as quarter-round molding.

Gently remove it, making sure that nothing breaks. Guard your baseboards using a piece of scrap wood and then start by using a pry bar to pull out the shoe base molding. To make it simple, label all the pieces of wood as it will make the whole process smooth when you are done refining the wood.

However, if there isn’t any base molding, move to step 3.

3. Fix creaks and squeaks

Carefully check your floor for any loose boards, creeks, or squeaks.

Take your finishing nails (preferably 8d) and hammer them into the floor joist, making sure no nails remain protruding.

Take your wood putty and fill all the holes, sliding the putty knife through the wood.

4. Do a rough sand of the floors

Immediately after the wood putty dries, do a rough sand of the floor using a drum sander. Ensure you have your dust mask on. Health safety is important!

Ensure you replace the abrasive belt on the drum sander every 2502 ft. Begin by using a 40 grit sandpaper belt then slow to 60 grit, followed by 80 grit and finally 100 grit sand.

For the best results, begin with rough sandpaper as you move up and finish with smooth sandpaper. This stage enables you to do away with any stains and scratches on the floors.

As you go, you will notice the old finish turning into powder thus you will easily see the parts you have covered.

5. Vacuum-clean between sands

It is very important to sweep and vacuum between the sands to do away with any debris or dust that might have settled between the baseboards. This is also a way of preventing scratches.

Put a clean filter inside the vacuum then vacuum up dust by use of a felt-bottomed vacuum attachment.

Sweep across the flooring strips to remove any dust and powder that might have settled between the boards.

6. Sand the edges and corners

Using a sand edger, begin by sanding all the closet floors, edges, and areas that are hard to reach on your floors. Ensure you use a similar grade with the edger as that of the drum sander.

Work your way up to the smoother sandpaper repeatedly and do not forget to sweep between the sands.

Remember to cover you’re your mouth and nose with a respirator that contains organic vapor canisters and have your shoes on.

7. Screen the sand

At this point, it may look like too much sanding but just keep going. By the time you are done, your floor will look new and sparkling clean.

Use a floor buffer to make everything even by flattening any bumpiness brought about by the edger and drum sander.  This buffer also removes scratches, making the floor appear smooth.

8. Remove dust

Do the sweeping and vacuuming again using a tack cloth. This will guarantee you a dust-free floor before doing stain application and floor finish.

9. Stain the floors

It is advisable to stain your floors moving towards the wood grain. As you go on with the process, wipe away any excess stain using a rag.

10. Finish the floors

This is the final step.

Ensure the stain dries first before you apply the wood finish. I would recommend an oil-based polyurethane wood finish because it dries out slowly, thus enabling you to cover up for any mistakes. You can also choose to use water-based polyurethane.

None is greater than the other. It all depends on your preference.

The difference between the two polyurethanes is that water-based ones will be cloudy and dry clear while oil-based ones will instill an amber or yellow color. So everyone will go for their preference.

When it comes to application, both products have advantages and disadvantages. Water-based polyurethanes are thinner and dry out quickly.

However, the fact that they dry out faster makes it hard for one to correct any unevenness. On the other hand, oil-based polyurethanes have good longevity but require protective wear e.g. masks due to fumes. They also take up to 24 hours to dry.

Use a lambswool applicator to apply the finish and apply sand lightly on the floors when the finish dries up. This gives the best results and voila! There you have your refinished floor.

Pro Tip: If you choose to use oil-based polyurethanes, make sure you completely dry the used rags. This is because the natural oxidation that occurs as oils evaporate from the rags can cause fire in good conditions.             

Another point to note in these steps to refinishing hardwood floors is that your safety comes first. Use a dust mask whenever you are refinishing your floor. Also, cover your mouth with a respirator and use protective shoes and gloves.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to refinish hardwood floors?

It really depends on several factors such as the humidity levels, condition of the wood for instance availability of stains, and how dark those stains are. The other important factor is how many coats of polyurethane you’re intending to apply.

Considering all these factors it can take about 2 – 6 days to complete refinishing your hardwood floors with an oil-based polyurethane wood finish which tends to dry relatively fast.

What is the difference between resurfacing and refinishing hardwood floors?

Most people use these two terms interchangeably to mean the same thing – which is wrong. Resurfacing is quite different from refinishing the floors.

Refinishing is quite easy and you can comfortably do it yourself. It involves sanding off the top layer of the floor and adding a fresh top coat over the existing wood as explained in this article.

Resurfacing on the other hand requires a bit of investment both in time and finances. This is because it involves more than just putting a layer of polish on top. It may require removing old floorboards, grinding down uneven boards, and reinforcing wood planks with new nails.

So, how do you decide which one is suitable for you? Check out this article.

How long should you keep off hardwood floors after refinishing?

For the best results, give it at least 2 to 3 days. However, this time frame is dependent on the prevailing weather conditions. If it’s humid the floors may take longer to dry out and vice versa.


Refinishing your hardwood floor is easier and cheaper than you think. It’s now time to stop worrying about replacing your hardwood floors that have had better days and are now looking tired.

These simple steps to refinishing hardwood floors will help you do away with your worries. Though time-consuming, you will notice that it is a simple DIY process. Let your flow glow like new.

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