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How to Refinish Wood Floors-Easy Tips to Make Old Floors Look New Again

Updated on March 15, 2010

Refinishing wood floors isn't rocket science but it does require a bit of skill and most of all patience.  If you are willing to take the time to learn how to do it the right way, you shouldn't have any issues with it.  However, if patience is not one of your strong points, you may want to go ahead and pay for a professional contractor who refinishes floors for a living to do the job for you.

There are a couple things that you will need before you start refinishing the wood.  For one, you will need to either buy or rent a sander that is made to sand down floors.  If you don't want to drop a couple hundred dollars, most hardware or home improvement stores (think big box retailers like home depot or lowe's) will let you rent theirs.  You will be presented with two choices in regards to sanders; drum sanders or disc sanders.  I recommend the drum sander since it typically is more user friendly and makes for a more even finish once the sanding is done.

Of course, if you are a type A do-it-yourself person, you can always elect to hand-sand the floors.  This is a very labor intensive process and usually can take weeks, depending on the square footage of your home.  This is not the recommended way to refinish wood floors though as it will take a very long time to get them done.

While you may be excited about starting the refinishing project quickly, if you haven't used a sander before, you may want to spend a little time getting to know how it works as well as test it on a small patch of floor to see how it performs.  This will keep you from over sanding the floors once you begin the project.  Remember....once you start sanding down a layer of floor, there is no turning back!

Once again, a drum sander is better than a disc sander because the drum sander sands the floor in a back and forth motion and goes with the grain of the wood planks.  In contrast, a disc sander sands in circles, making it harder to get a uniform floor once the job is done.

When you are sanding, you are going to want to keep as even pressure as you can.  If you don't or press too hard in places, what will result is part of your floor will have the look of being "uneven" because of the spots that have been sanded down too hard.

Finally, get the floors as clean as possible before you begin sanding AND once you have made one sweep of the room.  It will be hard to see if you need to re-sand the room with all the wood dust and debris on the floor.  Plus, you will need to make it as clean as possible when you start to apply the finish and protective coat.  Depending on how many layers are needing to be sanded down, you will most likely need to sand the floors more than once.

Once the floors look like you want them to, the next step is to apply a finish.  Apply it evenly on the floors and then apply the transparent protective coat.  Depending on the finish and how dark you want the floors to be, you will need to reapply a couple more coats of finish to the floors.  You will have to wait until each coat is completely dry before re-coating though, just like painting a wall.


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    • profile image 7 years ago

      How we refinished our old and very damaged 1930's oak floors in one day with no sanding.

      1. We cleaned our 1930's wood floors with unleaded gasoline which evenly distributed stain onto deep scratches and made the floor almost scratchless.

      2. We then mixed 1/4 cup of Walnut Oil with a gallon of Oil Based Pro Floor Polyurethane Semi-Gloss (Home Depot) and wiped on a very light coat with a clean rag.

      3. Before the light coat could finish drying we put on a second coat of plain Oil based Pro Floor Semi-Gloss (no walnut oil) using a fully saturated roller but allowing excess polyurethane to drip off the roller before applying (as to apply as little polyurethane as we could).

      The result was a beautiful floor that is just breathtaking. And the floors we started with were very badly damaged and scratched.

      Marcia Stallcop

      Milaca, Mn

    • susanlang profile image

      susanlang 8 years ago

      Wish you were around when Mark and I tackled our old wood floor at the old house we sold. Your information is very helpful!