What is the Best Way to Refinish Wood Floors?

Malcolm Tatum

Restoring hardwood flooring to a pristine appearance is a task that many homeowners prefer to outsource to a professional flooring company. However, it is often possible to refinish wood floors yourself and still enjoy professional results. All it takes is setting aside some time, acquiring the right tools, and paying close attention to detail as you proceed with the task.

A dust mask should be worn while refinishing wood floors.
A dust mask should be worn while refinishing wood floors.

Before you can actually begin the task of floor refinishing, it is important to remove everything from the room. This includes all furnishings as well as any area rugs or carpets in the space. Not only will this protect your furniture from possible damage, it will also make it much easier for you to move freely around the room as you work on the floors.

A hardwood floor sander can smooth the floor before painting or refinishing.
A hardwood floor sander can smooth the floor before painting or refinishing.

Next, gather all the flooring tools required before you begin to refinish wood floors in the home. Rent a sander, making sure to choose a model you can handle with relative ease; many people find an orbital sander works very well for home projects. You will also need a hammer, sandpaper, a broom, and a shop vacuum cleaner for the first steps. To complete the job, select the stain you want for the floor, as well as brushes or cloths to apply the stain. Last, you will want some sort of sealing agent and a paintbrush roller to apply the sealant.

A house with hardwood flooring.
A house with hardwood flooring.

To protect yourself, obtain a face mask and wear it throughout the refinishing process. Kneepads will also come in handy as you refinish wood floors in. Remember to turn off ceiling fans and close air vents. You may also want to hang an old bed sheet over the main entrance to the room; this will help contain the spread of dust as you sand the floors.

Your first step in refinishing wood floors is to sand off the existing stain. Use the floor sander for this purpose. It is a good idea to begin the task at the farthest point from the main entrance to the room, and work your way backward. This will prevent you from having to walk through the residue generated by the sanding. Use the sandpaper for any stubborn spots. Once you have completed the floor sanding, sweep the space to remove most of the residue. Finish off with the shop vacuum to leave the floors clean and ready for staining.

It is important to remember that you must prepare the stain before you refinish wood floors in your home. Basically, this means stirring the stain with a stick before applying it to the wood. Stirring will prevent air bubbles from settling into the mixture and leaving a mottled appearance on the stained wood.

Depending on how dark a stain you want on the floor, you can go with lint-free cloths or a brush. Brushes normally make it easier to apply more stain, creating a deeper and darker color. If you want a lighter stain, use clean cloths to lightly coat the top of the wood. In both cases, you will want to move slowly and apply the stain in the direction of the wood grain. As with the sanding, you will want to refinish wood floors by starting at the point furtherest from the main entrance and working your way backward.

Your final step to refinish wood floors in the home is to seal the newly stained floors. Once again starting at a point far from the main entrance, use the roller to apply a thin and uniform layer of sealant to the stained wood. Always apply the sealant in the direction of the wood grain. Take your time and make sure the coat of sealant covers the entire floor. Allow the sealant to dry according to product instructions before moving any furniture back into the space.

If you suspect that it will take more time and effort to refinish wood floors in your home than you are willing to commit, call the various floor services in your town. Don't attempt to take short cuts, as this will often create problems that would require a professional to repair. Chances are you can find someone who will do the job at a price you can afford.

When hardwood floors are badly scratched, it may be necessary to strip the floor, buff it, and re-stain the entire surface.
When hardwood floors are badly scratched, it may be necessary to strip the floor, buff it, and re-stain the entire surface.

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Discussion Comments


This probably won't appeal to the traditionalist who is looking for a way to refinish hardwood floors, but this is something I found online. I needed a method of refinishing old wood floors without using a sander of any type. I was comfortable with the labor involved in doing the floors, but I had never used a sander and was concerned that I might damage the wood.

I read this article about how to use this particular cleaning product, which removed the built up dirt and residue from the floor. I had to scrub the floor with a scrubbing pad attached to a broom handle, and the cleaning solution. I had to wipe the cleaning solution up with a damp cloth.

After I scrubbed and wiped the entire floor once, I mopped the floor and wiped it dry with paper towels. Like I said, there was a lot of work involved. Finally, I applied the finish with another pad, attached to the broom handle. I put two coats of finish on and my floors looked great.


I have heard professionals and people with some experience sanding hard-wood floors say you must use one of the in-line sanders when you are refinishing wood floors. They say anything else is a waste of time.

This may be true, but the orbital sanders are easier to use. You don't have to be as precise, and there is less chance of damaging the wood. You still have to pay attention to what you are doing, but you have more room for error, which for us was very important.

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