Step By Step Illustrated Guide to Refinishing Wood Floors

It is a very tedious job to refinish a wooden floor. The first and foremost aspect one has to figure out is what kind of wood is used, is it oak maple or heart pine? When compared heart pine and maple are harder to refinish than oak. Floors that are made of engineered wood cannot be refinished, as they have a thin layer of veneer on the top and when we try to sand it, it will come right off.

A minimum 1/8 inch of wood should remain above the tongue for the floor to be refinished. If your floor is in good condition then you can refinish and make it a beautiful floor to be able to walk on.

Things you will need to refinish a hardwood floor:

  • Mainly you will need to rent a drum sander or a belt sander. It is wiser to choose a belt sander as it is easy to control and you can change the belts easily as well. The problem with a drum sander is, if you don’t keep it moving it can make grooves on your floor that cannot be repaired. Moreover the drum sander is heavier.
  • You will need an edge sander. This will make it easy to sand the edges and the corners of a room.
  • Buffer
  • Orbital/palm sander
  • Vacuum
  • Tack cloths
  • Dust masks
  • To protect ears
  • Goggles
  • Knife or scraper
  • Natural bristle brush/foam applicators

Refinishing hard wood floors is a 6 step process:

refinish-hardwood-floorPreparation: Remove everything from the room. Pull out the staples and nails that have been used to put down a carpet/ plywood. Sweep the floor thoroughly and dust mop. Keep the floor as clean as possible.

Before you begin, do a walk through and carefully inspect that there are no loose boards or anything that needs repair.

1st sandingSanding a floor tends to raise a lot of dust. Make sure to cover everything like vents and doorways with plastic to keep the dust to get into them. Be sure to wear the safety gear, as sanders can get very loud. It is common for a nail or splinter to fly up on to your face when using a sander. Fit your sander with a course grit paper (20-36). Try an area that is less visible, to get a hang of it. Start the sander away from the floor and then slowly lower it onto the ground.

Be very careful as it is very easy for the sander to make a swirl mark or scratch the floor. Sand from wall to wall forward and backward along the grain for each row. First sanding removes the finish that was previously on it but does not resurface the wood floor. Make sure to check the sanding belt and change if needed. You can only remove up to 85% of the finish in the first step. Once you are done with the main part of the room, sand the edges using the edge sander. Sand the part next to the baseboard and work towards the area that just completed. Semi circular motion from left to right should be used.

2nd sanding: Sanding for the second time basically removes any scratches made by the previous sanding and removes any leftover finish and marks. Use an 80 grit paper and repeat what you did previously. The only thing is, start from the opposite end of the room. Once the floor is completely sanded, use the edge sander again with an 80 grit paper to sand the edges of the room. After this is done, the floor should look like planks that are freshly milled.

Final sanding: Install a 100 grit paper and begin sanding your room from the same place that you started the first sanding. This final sanding is to remove all the scratches left from the previous sanding. Sand up to the base boards and then blend the edges into the main floor.

Buffing: After you are done with the sanding, the next step is to buff your floor. Use a 100 grit sand screen on a buffer. Moving the buffer back and forth will help even out the scratches. Make sure not to hurry this step. Never leave the buffer in one place for too long as it can cause scratches. Use a random orbit sander with a 100 grit paper to finish up the buffing. Lastly the baseboards need to be sanded to blend it with the main floor.

Apply the finish: Firstly you have to decide what kind of a finish you are looking for. Two types of finishes available, water based or oil based. Using these you can either have a gloss, semi gloss or a satin finish. Mostly satin finish is preferred as it is good at hiding imperfections on the floor. If you are looking for a traditional look with a glow then oil based finish is the way to go but the only issue is the fumes are very toxic and you have to be sure you ventilate the room well. On the other hand the water based polyurethane will dry clear and doesn’t give a yellowish look for your floor.

Another kind of finish is the OSMO hard wax oil, it is an Eco-friendly option that resists humidity and can be used in bathrooms and kitchens. It is considered to be safe to use in children’s bedroom and there furniture.

Once the decision is made, use the natural bristle brush or a foam applicator to cut in along the edges and corners. Make sure the layers are not too thick and it doesn’t drip. Apply a thin even coat. Start applying from the inside of the room to the outside, so that you don’t get stuck inside. When the finish is still wet, blend in the brush marks with a foam applicator or a lamb’s wool. Be sure you give it 24 hours to dry. Before you start the last coat, use a soft damp cloth and drag it along the floor to clean out any dust particles. After the last coat is completed give it 24 hours to a week if possible for it to dry out completely. Do not mop the floor for at least a couple of weeks.

Step By Step Illustrated Guide to Refinishing Wood Floors was last modified: March 27th, 2015 by Jason Valasek