Hardwood Floor Refinishing: The Ultimate Dos and Don’ts

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Hardwood Floor Refinishing

The Importance of Caring for Your Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are a significant investment that can last for decades when properly maintained. However, over time, these floors can experience wear and tear due to foot traffic, pet scratches, and the occasional spill. Hardwood floor refinishing is an essential maintenance activity that can restore your floor’s original beauty and prolong its lifespan. According to the National Wood Flooring Association, professionally refinished hardwood floors can last up to 100 years with proper care. Therefore, understanding the correct procedures and pitfalls is crucial for maintaining the quality and longevity of your hardwood floors.

What is Hardwood Floor Refinishing?

Hardwood floor refinishing is a multistep process involving the removal of the existing finish, sanding the wood to eliminate imperfections, and then applying a new stain and sealant. This process not only rejuvenates the appearance of your hardwood floors but also addresses minor damages such as dents and scratches. According to industry estimates, the cost for a professional refinishing service can range between $3 to $5 per square foot, depending on the complexity of the job and the quality of materials used.

Why Refinishing is a Worthwhile Investment

There are several compelling reasons to consider refinishing your hardwood floors.

  1. Extend Floor Lifespan: Refinishing can add years to the life of your floors. As previously mentioned, with appropriate refinishing and maintenance, hardwood floors can last up to a century.
  2. Increase Property Value: Real estate experts suggest that hardwood floors can increase a home’s market value by 3% to 5%. Hence, a well-maintained hardwood floor is not only aesthetically pleasing but financially advantageous.
  3. Aesthetic Improvement: The process can remove visible imperfections such as stains, scuffs, and scratches, thereby restoring the original beauty and luster of the floor.

Do’s: Best Practices for Hardwood Floor Refinishing

1. Perform a Patch Test

Before undertaking a full refinishing project, it’s advisable to conduct a patch test on a small, inconspicuous area. This ensures that the stain and sealant you’ve chosen are compatible with your wood type and produce the desired effect.

2. Hire Qualified Professionals

The intricacies involved in refinishing hardwood floors require a certain level of expertise. Reports indicate that improper DIY refinishing can result in damages that cost up to 50% more to repair than the initial cost of professional service.

3. Use High-Quality Products

The market is flooded with a range of floor stains and sealants. Opt for premium, environmentally-friendly products that are known for durability and quality. Research shows that high-quality sealants can last up to 10 years before requiring a reapplication.

4. Properly Prepare the Room

Before the refinishing process starts, ensure the room is adequately prepared. Remove all furniture and other items. Seal off the room to prevent dust and fumes from escaping to other parts of the house.

Don’ts: Common Mistakes to Avoid

1. Rushing the Drying Process

Allow ample time for the stain and sealant to dry. Hastening this process can lead to uneven coloring and reduced durability of the sealant.

2. Ignoring Safety Protocols

Refinishing involves the use of chemicals and machinery that require adequate safety measures. Always ensure proper ventilation and make use of safety gear like masks and gloves.

3. Skimping on Sandpaper

Using low-quality sandpaper can lead to an uneven finish and may even damage the wood. The National Wood Flooring Association recommends using a sequence of sandpapers, starting from coarse to fine, for optimum results.

Steps Involved in Hardwood Floor Refinishing

Refinishing a hardwood floor involves several critical steps, each of which requires meticulous attention to detail to ensure a high-quality outcome. Here is an in-depth look at these steps.

1. Room Preparation

The first step is to prepare the room, which is often overlooked but crucial for a successful refinishing project. Remove all furniture, rugs, and other items from the room to ensure a clear working area. Cover electrical outlets with painter’s tape for safety, and seal off doorways and vents with plastic sheets to contain dust and fumes. Additionally, experts recommend turning off your HVAC system during the process to prevent the circulation of dust.

2. Sanding

Sanding is the most labor-intensive part of the process. A drum sander is generally used for the main areas of the floor, while an edge sander is used for corners and other hard-to-reach areas. You will need to start with coarse-grit sandpaper to remove the existing finish and imperfections efficiently. It’s vital to move the sander in the direction of the wood grain to avoid cross-grain scratches. Multiple passes may be necessary, progressively using finer grits to ensure a smooth, ready-for-stain surface. Vacuum thoroughly after each pass to remove all sawdust and particles. Some professionals also recommend a final light hand-sanding for the smoothest possible surface.

3. Cleaning

After sanding is complete, the entire surface should be cleaned meticulously to remove any remaining dust or debris, as these can ruin the final finish. Many professionals use tack cloth to wipe down the floor. Others might use a mixture of water and mild detergent to mop the floor gently, allowing it to dry thoroughly before proceeding to the staining step. The absence of any particles ensures a smoother finish and better adhesion of the stain and sealant.

4. Staining

Choosing the right stain is crucial as it determines the final color and appearance of your hardwood floor. Using a lambswool applicator or a foam brush, apply the stain, following the direction of the wood grain. For a more vibrant color, you can leave the stain on for a longer period before wiping off the excess with a clean cloth. It’s essential to apply the stain evenly to avoid blotches and streaks.

5. Sealing

After the stain has completely dried, the next step is to apply a sealant, usually a polyurethane-based product, to protect your newly-refinished floor. It is generally applied using a paint roller or lambswool applicator. Two to three coats are often recommended for optimum durability. Water-based sealants dry faster and are less toxic, while oil-based sealants offer a richer color and are more durable but require longer drying times.

6. Drying and Curing

This is the final step in the refinishing process. Allow a minimum of 24 to 48 hours for the floors to dry before walking on them, even if they feel dry to the touch sooner. The curing process, where the sealant reaches its maximum hardness, can take up to a month. During this time, it’s advisable to avoid placing heavy furniture or rugs on the floor.


Hardwood floor refinishing is a complex yet rewarding process that can significantly extend the life and beauty of your floors. With proper techniques, high-quality materials, and a focus on best practices, your hardwood floors can be a lasting asset to your home. Always remember, a well-executed refinishing project not only adds to the aesthetic appeal of your interior but also contributes positively to your property’s market value.

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