Refinishing Hardwood Floors - Step By Step

Refinishing hardwood floors is often viewed as a DIY nightmare. However, with careful preparation and plenty of common sense, this rewarding task can be accomplished fairly easily by homeowners.


Preparation is the key, as it is with all home renovation projects, and includes:

  • Removing all furniture and objects from the rooms being refinished
  • Covering with painters tape or plastic bags all light fixtures, outlets, and vents
  • Thoroughly cleaning and vacuuming the floor to be refinished

Not all hardwood may be refinished and it is important to establish first that your floor can sustain being sanded. This is done by determining the thickness of your floorboards, which should be at least ¾” to safely refinish.

If your floors have been hiding under carpet or other flooring materials, you need to take the extra time and effort to remove not only the floor covering, but all adhesives as well. This may require an adhesive remover to avoid damaging the wood.

Inspect the hardwood floor carefully for protruding nails and either pull them or countersink them below the floor surface. Remove and replace floor boards that appear to be damaged or warped to the point that they could not be sanded level with the rest of the floor.

Using a pry bar, carefully remove the shoe molding, if in place. Place wide painters tape over the baseboards to protect them during refinishing.


Now that you are fully prepped, the second step to refinishing hardwood floors starts with a belt sander. This is a very aggressive tool that can damage your floor if not handled with care.

For the best results, begin your first sanding passes on the diagonal, keeping the sander moving slowly and steadily. Let the sander do the work – your job is to keep it moving in the proper direction and not allow it to stop and have the opportunity to gouge your floor.

Once your across the grain sanding passes have been completed, go back over the floor with the grain.

Sanding your floor is a progressive process that uses a coarse to fine progression of sandpaper grit to achieve a smooth surface that is ready for sealing and/or staining.

Once your floor is sanded smooth, you need to thoroughly clean and vacuum the surface. Use a tack cloth or damp, lint-free towel to remove any dust from the floor prior to attempting to apply any sealer or stain.


Your final step in refinishing is sealing the wood surface with a high quality water-based poly-sealant. Thin the first application with water, mixing well, and applying with a painting pad. Allow this coat to dry completely and then, using a good quality brush, apply a full-strength coat of polyurethane sealant – brushing with the grain.

Additional coats of polyurethane may be applied, but be sure you allow each coat to dry to hardness and wipe the surface down to remove lint or dirt between applications.

Refinishing hardwood floors can be a rewarding experience, adding value and beauty to your home.  If you need any help with your project just give us a call.

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