How to Refinish Hardwood Floors in a House: 7 Steps

If installed carefully with good quality material, most hardwood flooring would generally last the entire lifetime of a home. When subjected to the ongoing wear and tear that inevitably happens in any busy household, the hardwood floors are going to need a little TLC to stay looking their best.

If you suspect that it is probably time to refinish your hardwood floors, you’ll be glad to know that it is a fairly simple do-it-yourself project. Although you may need to rent a few machines in order to get a really professional finish, you can still get your floors looking shiny and new again for a relatively modest price.

Here are the seven steps on how to refinish hardwood floors in your house:

Step #1: Rent a floor sander and buffer

Although renting a floor sander and buffer does up the price of your re-finishing project, this investment is worth it if you want to refinish hardwood floors successfully. You’ll still save a lot of money compared to having a pro do the job for you, so find a reliable local hardware store and arrange to rent the machinery you’ll need to refinish your floor.

Step #2: Remove moulding and shore up the floor

Once you’ve got a sander, the next thing you need to do when refinishing your floor is to remove the shoe base. This is the piece of quarter-round moulding attached where the floor meets the wall, and by removing it you will prevent the floor sander from banging against it.

Pry each piece away and label them so that you’ll know where everything goes when you’re finished refinishing the floors. You can then go over the floor and check for squeaks or loose floorboards. Nail everything firmly into place before you move on.

Step #3: Rough sand the floor

Now you’re ready to start with the sanding. Working with the grain, use a drum sander to go back and forth over 3- to 4-foot lengths. By replacing the abrasive belt regularly, you’ll remove any scratches.

Due to the fact that drum sanders can be a bit tricky to manoeuvre if it’s your first time using one, you might want to practice on an old sheet of plywood before taking the machine to your floors.

Step #4: Start with coarsest sandpaper

During the process of sanding, it is important to start with the coarsest sandpaper and work up. That usually means starting out with around 40-grit, before moving to 60-grit, then 80 and finally 100-grit. It adds a bit of work, but it is important to follow this progression in order to ensure the best results. Also, be sure to sweep and vacuum before moving on to the next grit of sanding abrasive.

Step #5: Take care of the floor edges & corners

Requiring a little bit more finesse, it is time to move onto to sanding corners, edges and small areas like closet floors, bathrooms or stairs. You’ll need an edger to do this, and because they’re often a bit trick to control, it is likewise a good idea to get the technique down on a piece of scrap wood.

Here you also want to begin with course-grit paper and then move to finer grades. Once you’ve finished, it’s time to go over the entire floor with a rented floor buffer fitted with a fine-grit screening pad. This process will level any unevenness and make your DIY work look like a professional job.

Step #6: Get rid of dust and apply stain

Once you’re finished with all the sanding and buffing it’s time to sweep, vacuum and follow up with a tack cloth to remove all dust and hairs that you can. This will prevent any imperfections from remaining when the job is done. You can now apply interior wood stains to the flooring with a foam applicator pad.

Work in small areas and be sure to apply stain in the direction of the wood grain. When you’ve finished, you’ll use a clean cotton cloths or paper towels to remove excess. You should then allow the stain to dry as recommended and get ready to apply the finish.

Step #7: Finish off the floor

Before you decide on what kind of finish to use, it is important to note some key differences. Keep in mind that water-based polyurethane wood finishes or lacquers dry fast, so they’re a little bit more difficult to work with. Oil-based polyurethane wood finish, on the other hand, is slower to dry so you have a little more time to get a perfectly even coat.

Apply the finish carefully, following the manufacturer’s recommendations. Most recommend using a lamb’s-wool applicator and completing as many as three coats of oil-based finish or four coats of water-based finish with sanding in between. Take your time and get the finish done properly. It can be tempting to cheat because you’re so close to the end, but you’ll be glad you didn’t!