Tips for Refinishing Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors last many years with proper care and refinishing, and keeping them looking like new adds value, warmth and beauty to your home. But refinishing hardwood floors requires time and patience. Whereas a full wood floor refinish might take up to a week, a partial refinish will take at least three days. No matter how big your project is, however, planning ahead will help it to go smoothly.


Before beginning this DIY job, evaluate the extent of any damage and whether the floor needs to be refinished in specific areas. Vacuum any debris and dust, while ensuring the vacuum doesn't do damage itself. After this general treatment, clean the floor with a Natural Product, which brings back shine without artificial chemicals that can cause fading and discoloration. Look for imperfections, such as stains and heavy wear. If the only wear is on the top coat, you have the less-intensive option of buffing and resealing the floor instead of a full refinish. If stains exist or deeper damage has occurred, a full refinish will restore the floors to their former beauty.


Once you choose a time, remove everything from the room before refinishing. If certain family members are sensitive to dust, you may want to seal the room. Taping plastic sheeting over vents and doorways keeps the dust isolated to the work area. Now, most hardware stores rent floor sanders and will have stain, sealants, applicators and cleaner as well. Always follow the instructions on your supplies. Start with a preferred stain color and sealant. Although oil-based sealants are eco-friendly and emit minimal fumes, water-based sealants dry faster and clearer with similarly low odor. However, if you have other woodwork in the room, try to match it or compliment it with your stain. Choose an applicator with attachments for stain and sealant, and ask the service clerks at the store for some over-the-counter advice before getting started — they should know their products well.


To improve a floor that has moderate wear, a partial refinish saves you time and money. In this process, you will buff or sand with a high-grit paper and apply new coats of sealant. Sand the floor to even the surface, remove some of the current finish and prepare it for your sealant. Remove all dust after buffing and apply a coat of sealant following the directions on the can. Allow it to dry before buffing and applying a second coat. Applying three coats will give you a durable, lasting finish. Buff lightly between each coat to achieve a smooth, air bubble-free result.


A complete sanding, staining and sealing may be overwhelming for a novice do-it-yourself individual. If you don't feel comfortable running the sander with a low-grit paper that will work into the wood, or if you have extensive damage, it might be best to contact professionals for quotes. If you choose to sand the floor yourself, take your time. Go slowly with the grain of the floor and clean thoroughly after sanding. You might even choose to skip staining your floor if it already has few stains or imperfections and you like the color. So to be cautious, stain a small section before committing to the whole floor to see how it affects the current look. When you're ready to stain your floor, apply it evenly and somewhat quickly to avoid overlapping marks. Remove excess as you go. Finish the floor with three coats of varnish, buffing between each coat for a smooth finish.


Proper care after refinishing hardwood floors extends the life of the top coat, maintains the shine and reduces signs of wear. Vacuuming your wood floors removes tiny debris that scratches the finish and should ideally be done daily in high-traffic zones. Avoid using water to clean your hardwood and soak up any spills immediately to avoid staining. And when it doubt, choose a cleaner that provides protection and maintains shine, while using primarily natural ingredients.

This article was brought to you by Colgate-Palmolive Company, the makers of Murphy® Oil Soap. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of the Colgate-Palmolive Company.