How to Refinish Hardwood Floors: Quick & Easy Guide

By Cezar

Refinishing your hardwood flooring can dramatically change your home’s appearance, creating a notable impact. In this article, we will provide you with a clear and cost-effective procedure to rejuvenate the appearance of your flooring.

Prepare the Room

To begin with, verify that you are indeed dealing with genuine hardwood. Modern laminates can be deceptively similar to hardwood, making it challenging to distinguish between the two. To confirm, you might lift a heating vent cover or find another way to inspect the grain of the wood.

Secondly, assess whether the floor is thick enough for an additional refinishing. Generally, hardwood floors can withstand up to 10 such treatments. However, if your floor has been refinished multiple times previously, it may be too thin to handle another session.

Once you have ensured all necessary checks, get the room ready in the following manner:

  • Seal the Air Vent Covers: Ensure all air vent covers are adequately covered to stop the spread of sanding dust.
  • Encase the Doors with Plastic Sheeting: Employ plastic sheeting to prevent dust from infiltrating other areas of your home.
  • Empty the Room: Ensure all furniture and carpets are removed.
  • Detach Fixed Items: Remove any mouldings, boards, or other objects attached to the ground.

With the room now prepared, you can move forward with the detailed process of refinishing your hardwood.

Repair Hardwood Floor

Once the room has been cleaned, begin the hardwood floor refinishing process by preparing the surface for staining. First, fix any major cracks or damages. Next, ensure all protruding nails are removed; a putty knife can be helpful for detecting these by sliding it across the wood and noting any resistance.

Following this, fasten any unstable boards with finishing nails. Next, ensure the area is completely clean, utilizing a broom, vacuum cleaner, or mop for the task.

Sand the Floor and Corners

Now, you need to select the appropriate machinery for sanding your hardwood floors. Select a sander that is appropriate for large areas, or consider using a drum sander for more power. Keep in mind that drum sanders demand cautious operation to prevent damage. If you go with this option, it’s advisable to practice on an old piece of plywood to get comfortable with its functionality.

  • Safety First: Ensure you are wearing protective glasses, a dust mask, and ear protection.
  • Technique: Move in the direction of the wood grain when using the drum or belt sander. Work back and forth over a section that is three to four feet long. Use overlapping strokes for any scratches.
  • Graduate Sandpaper: Start with coarse sandpaper. Gradually move to finer grits. Make sure to clean away all dust and debris each time you change the sandpaper. Also, change the sanding belt after every 250 square feet.
  • Fill Gaps: Use wood putty or filler to fill any deep scratches or discoloured areas on the floor.

Sanding will remove stains and scratches from your hardwood floors, yet it might not address deeper gouges and discolorations. To remedy this, use a suitable filler or putty. Filling these holes and imperfections is essential. Always choose an appropriate filler or putty. It’s crucial to do this after the sanding stage during the floor refinishing process. Taking this step ensures your hardwood floors have a smooth, flawless finish.

Stain Hardwood Floor

You don’t have to apply a wood stain when refinishing hardwood floors, but it’s an option to consider. The stain interacts with the wood fibres, enhancing the floor’s aesthetic appeal. This process helps to highlight the material’s natural beauty.

  1. To begin, select the shade you prefer and a product that will yield the desired colour.
  2. Divide the surface into manageable sections, such as one-foot squares.
  3. Use a foam applicator to apply the stain in the direction of the wood grain for each section.
  4. Wipe away any surplus stain with paper towels or cotton cloths, following the product’s specific instructions.

Even if you opt not to stain the hardwood, it is recommended to apply a sanding sealer to prepare the surface.

Finishing the Hardwood Floor

The final step is to apply a protective finish to your hardwood floors. You have several options for this:

  • Conversion Varnish: This provides a glossy, hard finish but is challenging to remove. It requires safety precautions because it includes toxic solvents.
  • Nitrocellulose Lacquer: This finish offers a glossy look and durable protection. It contains toxic solvents, but is relatively easy to remove.
  • Oil Wood Finishes: These finishes, such as linseed and tung oils, enhance the wood’s look. However, they offer limited protection and removal requires sanding.
  • Polyurethane Varnish: This clear coating can be built up in layers for extra strength. It needs 30 days to fully cure and can be removed with paint remover.
  • Shellac: This finish provides a durable layer, protecting against water and most solvents. It is compatible with other coatings and can be removed with alcohol.
  • Water-based Polyurethane: This finish doesn’t have a plastic look and is less toxic. However, it dries quickly and can be removed with paint removers.

To apply the finish, use a lamb’s wool applicator. This helps to apply the finish evenly, minimizing any drips. For oil-based finishes, apply three coats. For water-based finishes, apply four. Between each coat, after it has dried, lightly sand the floor. You can use #000 steel wool or 220-grit paper for this. Remember to vacuum up any dust before applying the next coat.

Once the final coat is dry, you can put back any mouldings or items you removed before. Your hardwood floors should now look refreshed and be ready to enjoy for many years.

how to refinish hardwood floors

How to Care for Refinished Wood Floors

Taking care of hardwood floors after refinishing is a crucial step, and it requires careful attention and preventive actions to ensure the floors stay in top shape for years to come. After you’ve put in the time and effort to refinish your hardwood floor, it’s essential to give them plenty of time to cure and set properly. This curing period is a critical time when the applied finishes harden, creating a durable and resilient surface that’s ready to handle daily foot traffic and the weight of furniture.

During this sensitive time, it’s important for homeowners to take extra precautions. Keep furniture and rugs off the surfaces, and try to minimize walking on them as much as possible. This helps to prevent any potential damage or impressions on the newly applied finish. Additionally, maintaining a stable environment is key; fluctuations in temperature and humidity levels can negatively affect the curing process of the finishes. These practices play a significant role in preserving the condition of your surfaces, ensuring that your investment in wood floor refinishing pays off in the long run. The result is not only a visually appealing living space but also an enhancement to your home’s overall charm and worth.


The process of refinishing hardwood floors is a detailed task. It requires various tools and takes up quite a bit of time. You will need several essential items, such as:

  • A dust mask.
  • A tool bar.
  • A hammer.
  • Sanders.
  • Plastic drop sheets.
  • Safety goggles.
  • Hearing protection.
  • Painter’s tape.
  • Sandpaper.
  • Polyurethane.
  • A sanding sealer.
  • Mineral spirits or paint thinner.

On average, the task takes around 6–8 hours per floor for those who are professional or have experience. This means you might spend about one day working on each floor. So, if you have five floors, it could take you around five days. However, these time estimates are for experienced individuals. If you are a beginner, you might need more time. Additionally, the drying times of the stains and finishes you choose will affect the total time required.

This guide is here to help if you decide to do the job yourself. Nevertheless, if the work seems too time-consuming, you might find it more convenient and safer to hire a professional hardwood floor refinishing service.