Is your old hardwood flooring looking like it needs refinishing? Can you spot scratches, scuff marks, gouges, stains, or general wear and tear on the surface? Well, hardwood floor refinishing is an easy home improvement that can make your floor look as good as new.

Experts advise that you should refinish your hardwood floors once every 10 years. Or, more often if your house experiences heavy traffic flow — especially from kids or pets. The reason is that over time, hardwood flooring can inevitably get dull or scratched. However, the good news is that such a floor, unlike other types of flooring, can make a lovely comeback with some refinishing. 

Planning to install new flooring? Try our free tool to estimate the cost of your flooring installation; it’s easy, quick, and convenient to use!

A typical wood floor refinishing involves sanding the top layer of the covering material. This process helps remove all the scratches, stains, or imperfections, leaving you with a fresh surface to be stained or painted.

Hardwood floor refinishing is definitely worth it as solid wood floors add value and style to your home — providing a classic look that never goes out of fashion. Refinishing an old hardwood floor is always a lot less expensive than replacing it altogether. Replacing the entire floor will require you to pay for additional wood, flooring materials, and labor costs. Not to forget, the extra effort of ripping up and hauling away the existing hardwood!

Hardwood floor refinishing cost

hardwood floor refinishing

The average cost of refinishing hardwood floors is around $3 to $8 per square foot. Most homeowners can expect to pay between $1,074 and $2,411. A more complex job or a custom refinish work involving sanding, applying stains, water-based, oil-based finishes, or acid-cured finishes might cost as high as $4,000. Of course, the total refinishing cost depends on the type of work, whether you prefer a DIY project or hire a flooring professional, the material costs, and your zip code. Interestingly, the more area you have, the lower will be the square foot price.

Generally, the process takes up about one week including cleanup depending upon the type of finish you use, the number of coats you apply, and the humidity level.

Ideally, if you want to seal the floor, it’s a good idea to do it on the same day you finish sanding. This is to ensure that the open wood surface doesn’t absorb moisture. Use a sheepskin applicator to apply the stain and sealer evenly. Remember that excess sealer doesn’t soak into the wood so be careful not to apply too much. 

If your wood floor is slightly worn out but otherwise in good condition, you may skip the sanding and directly recoat the flooring. This is perhaps the cheapest way to refinish hardwood floors at $1 per square foot.

Another way to refinish wood floors without sanding is by using a technique called screen and recoat. This process involves scuffing up the finish with a floor buffer and then applying a refresher coat.

But, how do you identify the condition of your floor? A simple water droplet test should do the trick. Splash some water droplets on your floor. If they soak in immediately, it means that the wood fibers of your flooring are exposed and the surface requires refinishing. If the droplets bead on the floor, thorough cleaning and polishing are all that’s required. 

Read more: Laminate Vs Hardwood Flooring

Types of hardwood floor finishes

wood floor fininsh

The type of hardwood floor finish you choose depends on the style and durability you’re looking for.

  • Polyurethane finish

This finish can be either oil- or water-based. The plastic-looking finish comes in varying degrees of luster. It’s excellent for high-traffic and high-moisture areas. But, keep in mind that such a finish is extremely difficult to spot-repair.

Read more: How to get rid polyurethane smell from floors

  • Varnish

The luster of varnish ranges from matte to glossy. Interestingly, the more the gloss, the more durable it will make the surface. You can easily make spot-repairs with varnish. Do remember that this finish tends to darken with age.

  • Penetrating sealer

If you’re looking for a natural-looking finish to bring out your wooden flooring’s grain, a penetrating sealer offers good protection. It looks especially great when waxed. It’s the easiest finish to spot-repair. However, it’s slightly less durable. 

Read more: How to install tongue and groove flooring

Hardwood floor refinishing steps

Knowing how to refinish your hardwood floors can help you maintain your home and combat the wear and tear of everyday use.

Prepare your floor for the refinishing

  • Move out all the furniture from the room
  • Pull out the rugs or carpeting 
  • Use plastic sheeting to seal doors (to keep dust from sanding contained)
  • Find and hammer down any protruding nails across the floor
  • Secure any loose floorboards with finishing nails. 
  • Clean the floor with a vacuum cleaner, mop, or floor cleaner
  • Seal air vent covers to prevent dust from entering your ductwork

Pull up the base molding with a pry bar

  • Pry up the molding from where the floor meets the wall
  • Make sure you protect the baseboard at all times, especially when operating the sander
  • Label each piece in order to make it easier to replace it after the refinishing

Read more: Types of Molding for Kitchen Makeovers

Rough-sand your hardwood floor

  • Wear a dust mask, safety goggles, and ear protection before beginning the sanding process
  • Use a drum sander or belt sander along the length of the floorboard to remove scratches and stains
  • Work the drum sander back and forth (over 3- to 4-foot lengths) with overlapping strokes
  • Begin with coarse sandpaper (36 to 40 grit), then with a medium one (60-grit), and finally a finer paper (100 grit). 
  • Sweep and vacuum the flooring between using the different grades of grit paper
  • Replace the abrasive belt after every 250 square feet for good results
  • Fill in the holes with wood putty or wood filler

Sand the floor edges and corners

  • Make use of an edger sander or a small orbital sander for corners, edges, closet floors, stairs, or around fitments.
  • Start with a coarse-grit paper before moving to a finer grade one
  • Sand the entire floor at a uniform consistency
  • For difficult to reach areas, remove the old finish by hand with sandpaper

Screen-sand the hardwood floor

  • Use a floor buffer with a screening pad
  • Level out the minor unevenness and smooth away any sanding scratches
  • Remove all the dust and debris by wiping the floor

Apply the wood stain

  • Choose a wood stain that suits the type of hardwood flooring you have 
  • Use a foam applicator pad to apply the stain
  • Always stain in the direction of the wood grain 
  • Keep removing the excess stain with clean cotton cloths or paper towels
  • Allow the stain to dry completely before applying the wood finish

Apply the finish

  • Apply the finish with a lamb’s wool applicator
  • Avoid drips and move in smooth, even lines 
  • Opt for three coats of oil-based finish or four coats of a water-based product
  • Wait for each coat to dry completely
  • Keep in mind that most water-based polyurethane wood finishes or lacquers dry quickly while oil-based polyurethane wood finish dry slowly, taking almost 24 hours to dry
  • Sand the hardwood floor lightly with 220-grit paper or a steel wool
  • Vacuum up the dust
  • Reattach the molding
  • Dispose off the oil-soaked rags properly
  • Bring back the furniture. Avoid dragging it across the floor

Read more: Hardwood Floor Care Tips

Last words

Whether you hire flooring pros or tackle the hardwood floor refinishing yourself, if you follow these steps, you can easily revitalize the look of your flooring without having to install a brand-new one. 

Keep in mind that experts estimate that hardwood floors can be refinished up to 10 times, depending upon the thoroughness of the sanding and refinishing. 

Read more: Best Wood Flooring Options

Hardwood Floor Refinishing: Costs, Tips, and Steps was last modified: July 7th, 2022 by Ramona Sinha
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