How to Refinish Hardwood Floors

If you’re ready to sell your lakefront home and its hardwood flooring is looking a bit worn, you don’t necessarily have to replace them. That’s good news because this type of flooring doesn’t come without a hefty price tag and even engineered flooring can be expensive. The great thing about hardwood is its resilience and its longevity. With a bit of ordinary, regular care, your floors can look great for many, many decades.

Hardwood, though very durable, is susceptible to damage caused by regular foot traffic, moving furniture, heat, cold, humidity, and even pets. All take their toll on hardwood, causing it to dull over time and become scratched, marred, or bow. When a wood floor begins to lose its shine or shows scratches, it can be refinished to make it look new once again. Refinishing is a great alternative to replacement because it will cost about half of new flooring.

The caveat to doing it yourself is just that, not hiring a professional. If you’re handy with tools and exercise a bit of caution, you can give your floor a nice refinishing. However, if you aren’t sure about the extent of your DIY skills, you’ll probably be better off by hiring an experienced pro to do the job for you.

How to Properly Care for Hardwood Flooring

The key to keeping hardwood looking its best for longer periods of time is to care for it properly on a regular basis. There are many things which cause hardwood to dull and become scratched. You can protect your floors by putting mats in high traffic locations, such as doorways. This will reduce the amount of dirt and debris which can be tracked inside your home. In addition, keep pet nails trimmed and clean-up any spills immediately. The liquid might cause discoloration to occur, while the moisture will seep into the wood, possibly causing it to warp.

“Floor sanding and refinishing is unforgiving work. Make a mistake and it will show. However, a refinished floor can bring beauty to a room like no other project. To hire a pro to sand, seal, stain, and apply several finish coats of an oil-based poly will cost $4 per square foot, or more. Doing it yourself can save at least half of that.” —Bob Vila

In addition to these preventative measures, keeping the humidity at a regular, steady level is a big plus. The more humidity, the more moisture the floors will absorb and that’s a slowly damaging impact. Remember to dust daily, with a microfiber dust-mop and do not use water, vinegar, or oil. Once a week, clean your hardwood using a pH-neutral, nontoxic and biodegradable cleaner and a microfiber mop. Every three months, clean with a water-based polish, which does not leave a residue. These also don’t cause wax build-up and dry in a short amount of time.

How to Refinish Hardwood Floors DIY Style

If you’re confident that you can refinish hardwood flooring on your own, you can do so, but it won’t be a quick project to undertake. You’ll need a terry cloth mop, bucket, white vinegar, 180-grit sandpaper, a dust mask, gloves, disposable boot covers, a buffer, a vacuum, a container, soft and clean paint brush, and a long-handled roller and paint pan. Once you have your tools and supplies, then do the following:

  1. Move all the furniture out of the room. Clear the room out completely to have ample space to work and to avoid any tripping hazards. Lift the furniture and carry it out of the room but don’t push it across the floor. Enlist the help of a family member or friend to make it easier and faster.
  2. Clean the floor thoroughly. Once the room is empty, combine 10 parts water with 1 part white vinegar to get the floor thoroughly clean. Use a terry cloth mop and allow the floor to completely dry before proceeding. You can place fans in the room to speed-up drying time.
  3. Lightly sand the perimeter. Using 180-grit sandpaper, very gently and lightly sand along the perimeter of the room, being careful not to scrape across the baseboard. You might even remove the baseboards, labeling them on the back to avoid scuffing them.
  4. Scuff-sand the floor finish. Place a buffing pad over the buffer orb and put on a dust mask. Buff from side to side along the floor, going with the grain, overlapping each pass by about 6 inches. The area you cover will turn ash white, so you won’t have to guess where you’ve covered. Keep the buffer moving at all times to avoid damaging the wood but do stop about every 5 minutes to vacuum the buffing pad.
  5. Vacuum the floor thoroughly. Once the entire floor has been gently buffed over, allow it to sit empty between 10 and 15 minutes to let all the powder settle. Then, you can vacuum, going along the flooring strips and vacuum out the small gaps in between planks. Sweep with a clean microfiber cloth thereafter.
  6. Brush along the edges. Put disposable boot covers over your shoes and then careful brush polyurethane along the perimeter, creating a small border. Start in the corner farthest away from the door to avoid painting yourself into a corner. Let dry for 10 minutes.

Now, you can apply polyurethane to the floor, following the manufacturer’s directions. Let dry as long as recommended and then put the furniture back into the room.