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What Are the Different Methods for Refinishing Hardwood Floors?

A house with hardwood flooring.
Hardwood flooring.
Mahogany is a popular dark stain for hardwood floors.
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  • Written By: Summer Banks
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 03 July 2014
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Refinishing hardwood floors can be a lengthy process or a quick strip and protect job. The process of refinishing hardwood floors most often includes sanding the floor boards, staining the hardwood, and sealing the stain for a longer lasting finish. The finished look of the hardwood floor can differ based on the softness of the wood and the age of the floor.

Sanding the floor, often referred to as stripping, can be the most labor intensive part of refinishing hardwood floors. Sanding typically starts with a drum sander fit with course sandpaper. As one round of sanding is completed, the grit is usually changed to a less course sandpaper and re-sanded, until the hardwood floor is smooth and retains no hint of the previous finish. This technique slowly strips away the old finish on the floor and prepares it for the new finish.

After the old finish has been removed, the floor may be sealed to show off the natural look of the hardwood. If a darker look is desired, refinishing hardwood floors with a stain can deepen the color from the lightest pine to the darkest mahogany. Staining hardwood flooring can take time and several applications.

The final step in refinishing hardwood floors is sealing the floor boards. Polyurethane is most often used to seal hardwood flooring and two or more coats of it may be needed to completely seal the wood after floor refinishing. The first step usually involves rolling on a coat of polyurethane finish.

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When the first coat of polyurethane dries, fine grit sandpaper can be used to rough up the finish to prepare the floor for another coat of polyurethane. This process can be repeated several times to increase the shine of the finish. Layering on multiple coats of polyurethane in this way also increases the durability of the finished floor.

The polyurethane will need to dry for six to eight hours between the first and second coats. After the second coat, at least 24 hours should pass before any additional coats are applied to the hardwood flooring. The polyurethane may have a strong odor that could irritate the eyes and lungs. Depending on the type of polyurethane used, this odor could last 24 hours or more, with the strongest odors being associated with Swedish finish (acid cure) urethanes.

Refinishing hardwood floors can be a lengthy process. Some people choose a flooring company or flooring services firm to complete some or all of the refinishing process. A flooring company may have access to flooring tools that the consumer may not be able to obtain.

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