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Do It Yourself Home Improvement: How to Refinish Hardwood Flooring

Updated on August 15, 2013

Refinishing hardwood flooring improves your homes interior appearance and therefore adds value to your home. Hiring flooring professionals to do the work can be expensive and while the thought of doing the job yourself can be intimidating, just about anyone can do it! Save your money and get the job done yourself. Here is an in depth, easy to understand, step by step guide to refinishing hardwood flooring.

Prepping the room

First, clear the room of all furniture and remove all register vents, if any. It may also be beneficial for you to clog any vents using plastic or cardboard to avoid having to clean out any wood dust later on. Next, remove the baseboards by prying them away using a pry-bar or the sharp end of a hammer.

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Preparing the wood

Once the floor is cleared of any obstructions, thoroughly inspect the floor for any staples or nails protruding from the surface. If you previously had carpet in the room you may notice a considerable amount of them, especially around the edges of the room. Pull up any staples or nails using pliers, or if there are any visible nails below the surface, use a nail set and hammer to drive them deeper into the wood. Using either wood filler or putty, apply to any holes or cracks in the wood and allow to dry. Make sure if you are staining to use a filler that is stain safe.



Sanding the wood will remove any old finish or stain and will smooth away any unevenness or other types of damage to the wood. Unless you yourself are a flooring professional, I recommend renting a floor sander from your local home improvement store.

For an in-depth article read: How to use a drum sander for hardwood floors

Once you have sanded the majority of the room, use a hand sander to finish sanding around the edges. I recommend buying a random orbital sander to get the most even finish. Use the same grit sandpaper as was used on the main floor to make sure the wood is sanded evenly. Be sure the whole floor has been sanded, free from any previous finish or paint, and is even and smooth before moving on.

After sanding is complete, vacuum the room to clear as much wood dust as possible. Next, using a lightly damp cloth or mop, wipe down the entire floor. This will pick up any invisible pieces of sand dust that would get stuck into the stain or finish if not cleared away.

Home Improvement On Old Homes

Use caution when doing home improvement on older homes. Many homes constructed before the 1970's contain many harmful contaminants such as lead and asbestos. Always wear appropriate safety equipment when working around harmful substances.

Staining the wood

If you have decided to use a stain on your hardwood floors, here is what you will need:

  • Desired color stain
  • Stain applicator brush or wool application pad and handle
  • Organic vapor respirator (so you don't pass out from the fumes)
  • Gloves and protective clothing

Make sure the room you are about to stain is well ventilated by opening windows and/or outside doors. Put on your mask before opening the can, as the fumes are strong and toxic. To begin staining, first shake the can of stain vigorously and after opening, stir with a stir stick. If pigment has settled, you may not get the desired color if not shaken. You can either use a brush and dip into the can and begin staining by making smooth, even strokes back and forth. Or, for faster staining, pour out the stain into a paint tray and use a stain applicator pad attached to a long handle. Dip the applicator into the stain and as mentioned, use smooth, even strokes to apply the stain. While staining, be conscious of how much stain you are applying to certain areas. Try hard to blend the stain in as smoothly as possible to avoid having spots of dark or light areas. Work your way across the floor making sure to leave yourself a way out of the room. If you are satisfied with the job you have done in blending the stain together, and with the darkness and/or richness of the color, you can move on to finishing after the stain has dried for 24 hours. If you need to stain some more, wait 24 hours for the stain to dry and then give it another coat if needed.

Applying the Finish

Polyurethane finish will seal off the wood and protect it from wear and tear. Apply it by brush or lambs wool applicator pad. Usually just a few coats are needed, allow 24 hours between coats and allow to set for about a week before moving furniture back in and replacing the baseboards.


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      Will Jenkins 3 years ago

      I just had hardwood flooring installed throughout my house. I never thought about having to refinish it. About how many years on average until I should have to refinish the hardwood flooring?

      Will Jenkins