How to Refinish Your Hardwood Floors

Depending on the size of your space, you can actually revamp your hardwood floors—all on your own—in just one weekend.

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Has the wear-and-tear of everyday life left your once gleaming hardwood floors looking a little shabby? Homeowners with kids or pets, as well as those with own older homes, have likely considered having their hardwood floors refinished. Here's the good news: Whether you're not in a position to hire a professional right now or you're looking for a DIY project, with a little time, patience, and the right tools, any handy homeowner can refinish their own hardwood floors. Here, three experts explain exactly what you'll need in order to get your flooring back to its original glory. Plus, they share when it's time to call in a professional.

refinishing hardwood floor with stain
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Before You Begin

Before you begin your project, Brian Levy, store manager of Lowe's in Troutman, North Carolina, says you need to prep your space. Over time, debris can build up on your hardwood floor and cause scratches that can dull the wood. "Start by going over your floors with a microfiber dust mop, which will help reach into floor pores and lift dirt more effectively, followed by a vacuum," he says. Once that's done, you'll have a better view of any damage or scratches that will need to be repaired.

Removing the Existing Finish

You'll need to make sure everything has been removed from the room you're going to be working in, according to Levy. This means curtains, pictures, doors, and shoe molding. "Sanding produces significant dust, so be sure to wear a dust mask, safety goggles, and ear protection while working and cover air vents, lights, windows, and doorways with plastic," he explains. Once your space has been prepped, Levy says you'll need a random-orbit sander that is loaded with 40-grit sandpaper. "As soon as you start it up, immediately begin moving to keep the sander from sitting in one spot and further damaging your floor." Once that's done, you should target the floor edges with a power hand sander.

Repairing Any Damage

There are bound to be scratches or gouges in your floor that will need to be repaired with wood filler. In order to start identifying the areas that need attention, thoroughly vacuum the space again. Levy suggests using a brush attachment to get the deepest clean. After you've applied a layer of wood filler to any problem areas, go over your floor twice more with sandpaper. On the first of these two passes you should use 60-grit sandpaper followed by 100-grit paper. Afterward, he recommends using a damp mop on the floor to pick up any remaining particles, then thoroughly cleaning surrounding areas, such as windowsills and walls.

Applying Stain

Next, it's time to apply your stain. Abby Baker, design enthusiast and VP of marketing at N-Hance suggests doing so with a brush or foam applicator and wiping up any access as you go. "Finally, apply three to four coats of your finish and allow time for drying." The drying part can take a bit of time according to Baker, which is why if you need to be able to walk on the area quickly, you may want to leave the job to a professional since they usually come with tools like UV lights that can speed up the curing process.


Refinishing your floors isn't the only way to get back that original shine, Levy says. "Before opting to sand or stain your floors, consider using a hardwood floor cleaner such as Scott's Liquid Gold Floor Restore ($10.48, or Minwax Hardwood Floor Reviver ($24.99,," he says. "In many cases these will restore the beauty and shine of your floor without having to use any tools or spend an extensive amount of time on floor repair."

If you want to take Levy's advice and give your floors a deep clean before getting started, Barbara Goldstein, director of corporate communication at Scott's Liquid Gold, says the best way to do so is by removing all the furnishings and rugs from the room, then thoroughly cleaning the space with a vacuum. "Do a patch test in a closet or under a rug or furniture to be sure the formula is compatible with your floors," she says. "Working in sections, apply a thin, even coat of Floor Restore." You'll need to allow it to dry for two to three hours before applying additional coats. "Let it dry thoroughly before replacing rugs and furniture." One bottle can tackle a space that is approximately 300 square feet, which Goldstein says is the average size of a kitchen or master bedroom. "A quick touch up with a product like Floor Restore will last six months to a year, depending on the normal wear and tear."

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