How to Refinish Hardwood Floors Like a Pro

By Harold K. Hardesty Updated September 8, 2021

Everything you need to know about refinishing hardwood floors.

How to Refinish Hardwood Floors Like a Pro

Interested in renewing your old hardwood floors?


It’s cheaper and easier than you may have thought. Getting to see the true beauty underneath your lifeless hardwood floors doesn’t always have to involve staining, sanding, and other complex processes, especially if your floors aren’t presenting significant damages.

Due to all this, it’s time you learn how to refinish your hardwood floors as hassle-free as possible.

But before we begin, there are several things you need to consider before deciding to refinish your hardwood floors.

Let’s go over them, shall we?

Table of Contents

How dirty and dull are your Hardwood Floors?

It’s pretty simple to know when your hardwood floors are looking dusty and dirty. But much to your surprise, you may find out that when tracked, there are scratches on the surface thus making it look dull.

Fortunately, restoring the shine on dirty floors is much easier than having to refinish. Read along!

Is It Time for a Deep Clean?

Sometimes, it’s just a matter of putting in the time to deep clean your hardwood floors to restore its luster. If this is the case, there are simple steps you can follow.

  • Begin by vacuuming or sweeping your floors thoroughly (leave no corner untouched). If you prefer to sweep, make sure you use a soft bristle broom. Keep in mind that thick, tense bristles will scratch the surface of the wood.
  • If you swept at first and owned a hardwood vacuum to give a finishing touch to any corners and floorboards, go for it.
  • After having done this, it’s time to mop and use a specially-made cleaner for hardwood floors. We usually recommend Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner. Note that water, steam, vinegar, and other cleaners not explicitly made for hardwood floors should not be used to clean hardwood floors.
  • If you have high-traffic areas in your home that are hard to clean, you can hire a deep cleaning expert. They will commonly utilize a scrubbing machine and will remove lodged dirt amazingly.
If deep cleaning is what your floors needed, make sure you keep them in shape by:

  • Cleaning the surfaces at least three times a week by using a micro cloth or vacuum.
  • Deep cleaning once a month with a hardwood floor cleaner.
  • Have your floors professionally cleaned once per year.
This will ensure your flooring’s lifespan is expanded and ensure its health and shine through time.

Do It Yourself Finish – No Sanding Required

If you notice a deep cleanse did not restore your hardwood floor’s life and shine, you can still give it a new finish without having to stain or sand using some of the products below:

These products are great to refresh your floors without having to sand. Due to their thick consistency, they are able to seep into scratches and soften small dings.

When is Refinishing the Best Option?

If your hardwood floor is looking too old, it may be beyond deep clean, and quick fixes. Grimy and dry looking floors with wide gaps and scratches will need refinishing for sure.

Once you do a fair amount of research, you know that refinishing is a labor-intensive and lengthy process. But if you plan to DIY, you might need to know each step of the way:

This will take about two days off your weekend (maybe more) for five-hundred square feet or less.

However, if you’re looking to have your floors professionally refinished, you can easily find contractors in your area. You should expect to pay around $3 or $4 per square foot.

Before you hire, it’s best that you speak to several contractors in your area in order to compare prices. Also, a good tip when hiring a contractor is making sure he is local. Contractors who come out of more remote areas tend to be more expensive.

Get bids from at least three companies. Contractors will visit your home to inspect your flooring at no cost. Once you’ve met potential contractors, evaluate the following:

Fixing Gaps in your Floor

Those gaps can really get under your hair, can’t they? The easiest way to repair dings, gaps, and deep gashes is by trowel filing after the sanding process. However, you will need to make sure to do this during the right time of year, as it may not be as long-lasting as you’d expect it to be.

How is that? Well, wood expands during the summer and compresses in the winter. When filling holes and gaps between floorboards when the weather is dry and cold, the material will be compressed and pushed out during the summer. It’s best to fill in floors when the humidity is high.

Trowel filling is not a long-time fix, though. The best thing to do in this case is to fill the larger gaps instead. Leave the smaller once unpatched to accommodate to the wood’s expansion.

Should you go for Glossy or Satin?

Glossy floors look delightful in any home; we can all agree. But with the growth of stain finishes, especially in homes with children, you may want to think about that twice.

Why? Well, you don’t slip as much with a satin finish.

Interested in other floor finishing evidence?

Dark Floor Stains Got you Down?

The fun part of refinishing your hardwood floor is always picking out a new stain color like dark Oak or Mahogany. Problem is, though, that while darker colors look incredible, they will make dust much more noticeable.

It’ll be smart to think about what floor stain your end up choosing to refinish with. Mainly due to the fact of having had trouble with dark floor stains in the past.

How to Refinish Hardwood Floors

Once you notice there is no other way to refresh your floor’s sheen, it may be time to have them refinished. Remember, you can either hire a contractor to do the job, or you can DIY all the way.

The first thing you’ll need to do is sand the old finish. For this, you’ll need a walk-behind floor sander and a handheld power edge sander, both you can rent. The edge sander is ideal for sanding against corners, walls, and doorways.

Sanding Hardwood Floors

This is probably one of the most time-involving tasks. For this, you’ll need to use different sandpaper grades to operate the sander and ensure you are evenly sanding the floors. Don’t forget to wear protection for your eyes, ears, and face.

After sanding and making sure every gouge and nick looks good, remove dust from moldings, walls, and of course, the floor. Use a damp mop on the moldings to clear away residue as well.

It’s important that you get every last bit of dust, as you don’t want any dust falling upon your new finish while it dries. Vacuum once the dust settles, wipe the floor’s surface with a wax-impregnated cloth, and you’re done.

Finish Types for Hardwood Floors

The type of finish you end up choosing will depend on your personal preferences and the look you want to achieve for your floor.

Here are your choices:

Polyurethane finishes are ideal for high-traffic and moisture areas. Nevertheless, once the finish gets gouged or nicked, it’s extremely complicated to repair.

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It’s always best to seal your floors the same day you finish sanding to avoid open wood surfaces from absorbing moisture. To achieve the best results, apply the sealer using a sheepskin applicator. It will help you apply the sealer evenly and use just enough to cover the surface. Make sure you discreetly apply the sealer and not end up applying too much.

When sealers are applied in excess, they end up not soaking into the wood and pools on the surface. Failing to remove it will result in an awful spot.

Final Steps

Once you applied the sealer of choice, follow these steps:
Step 1:
Buff the floor with a fine, number 2, piece of steel wool.

Step 2:
Vacuum or sweep the floor and wipe the floor through using a tack cloth.

Step 3:
Remove any dust between finish coats; it is critical to avoid an ugly-looking rough floor.

Step 4:
Apply the first coat of your floor finish of preference, such as varnish or polyurethane.

Step 5:
Make sure you follow the instructions on the finish container to learn about drying times between coats.

Step 6:
Apply a final coat.

Step 7:
Wait for 24 hours or more after the final coat dries before moving any furniture into the area.

Final Thoughts

In some cases, no matter how much you’ve been avoiding it, your hardwood floors scream for refinishing. No deep clean or floor reviver kits will fix your problem. At least not in the long-run.

Also, before deciding to DIY your floor’s refinish, make sure you think about your options and consider if you are up to the task. If you’re unsure, hire a contractor in your area! Sure, it’s an extra investment but ensures a job well done and no damage on your precious floors.

About the Author

Harold K. Hardesty

Harold is a Flooring Specialist at TheHouseWire, educating people on the flooring by writing guides about the topic. He is a well-seasoned flooring specialist with experience in the industry for nine years.

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