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Refinishing Wood Floors: Turning Old into New for Less

Refinishing Wood Floors: Turning Old into New for Less

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October 30, 2009

Refinishing wood floors is one of those high-profile projects that offer immediate aesthetic benefits. It does require a fair amount of effort and time, but the pay-off is undeniable. Refinishing floors rates medium on the difficulty scale-- hiring a contractor is not uncommon. Whether you're doing it yourself or commissioning the work, here's what you can expect with this home improvement project.

Hardwood Flooring: The Sanding Process

Laying the groundwork is perhaps the most important step. Most floors are encumbered with rough seams, deep grooves and general unevenness. Sanding gets rid of the imperfections and prepares hardwood flooring for stain.

  • Rent Right. Go with one of the newer orbital sanders designed for refinishing wood floors
  • Remove Obstacles. This includes rugs, furniture and nails sticking out from the flooring; nothing should obstruct the action of the sander
  • True Grit. Use a gradual ascension of sandpaper grits, from 36 to 60 to 80 to 100, for best results

Refinishing Wood Floors: The Staining Process

This is the addition of color--not the refinish. Staining is remarkably similar to painting and can be just as tedious. Also, expect a delay between the staining and refinishing process as you wait for these coats to dry properly.

  • Be Dust Free. Use a shop vac to remove all of the dust that accumulated during the sanding phase
  • Test First. Use a rag to test the stain in a discrete corner of the room to verify its accuracy
  • Drying Out. Make sure your stain has completely dried before you apply a finisher

Hardwood Flooring Installation: The Finishing Process


Finish the job by applying refinisher to protect the hardwood flooring from foot and furniture traffic. A polyurethane finish is one of the more popular choices, as is a high-quality wax. In either case, several coats are required to achieve the desired results.

  • Shaken, Not Stirred. Stir your finish to avoid getting air bubbles in the mixture
  • Apply Evenly. Use a brush or roller to apply a single coat; repeat after the first coat is dry
  • Down Time. Give your newly refinished hardwood flooring at least three days before moving furniture back in

Always remember to wear the proper protective equipment throughout the project. You'll be working with a variety of caustic chemicals that can permanently damage eyes and skin. That means eye goggles, rubber gloves and a thick apron. If a contractor is completing the work, make sure there's proper ventilation to allow harmful fumes to release from the room.

About the Author: Kelly C. Richardson, MEd is a freelance writer and manic do-it-yourselfer. He specializes in home improvement projects ranging from savvy landscaping to house repair and beyond.

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