How to Refinish a Hardwood Floor

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

Tools Required
  • Floor sander and sandpaper
  • Sanding edger and sandpaper
  • Hand scraper
  • Pry bar
  • Hammer and nail set
  • Shop vacuum
  • Flashlight or worklight
  • Pliers
Materials Required
  • Plastic dropcloths
    and mastic tape
  • Respirator
  • Work gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Floor finish

Before You Begin

Refinishing a hardwood floor requires as much time preparing the room as it does actually grinding off the finish with the sander. That's because everything (really) must be removed from the floor, doors and windows and sometimes that's a mind-boggling challenge. Best advice is try to relocate furniture, clothing, pets, whatever into nearby rooms and schedule the job over a long weekend to create the shortest amount of disruption. But be assured, distruption there will be.

Figure day one for sanding and applying the first coat and 24 hours to dry. Then on day two sand lightly and apply a second finish coat allowing for another 24 hours to dry before returning furniture and traffic.

Tape plastic dropcloths at door openings that lead to other rooms in the house to contain the grit and dust stirred up by the sanding machines. And count on there being a lot of it! We're talking Lawrence of Arabia kind of dust.

At the rental center, ask for a floor sander and edger that runs on 120 volts (unless you have a 220-volt outlet near the room.) Make sure you take home well-tuned tools: a floor sander with the belt (for the sandpaper) well adjusted and an edger that's in good working order. Check out the tools before leaving the rental shop. Buy sandpaper according to the condition of the surface of the floor. For a floor with little damage, fine sandpaper should be enough. With damaged or stained floor you'll need to make two passes, one with coarse sandpaper followed by another pass with fine sandpaper. Before leaving ask for instructions about how to change sandpaper on the machines and if there are any "tips" you should know to operate them.

Don't want to do the job? Click here to Home Advisor, a local referral service that connects homeowners with flooring contractors in your area.

  • Step 1 : Remove the baseboard

    Use a pry bar to remove the baseboard molding from around the room being careful not to crack or break it as you ease it away from the wall. Label it with masking tape i.e. west wall, so it's easy to replace after refinishing the floor.

    Get down on your hands and knees and use a flashlight or worklight to look for nailheads that protrude. These will tear up sandpaper very quickly and can damage the sander so spend considerable time finding them. Use pliers to pull out staples; for nails that are too difficult to remove, use a nail set and hammer to tap their heads below the surface of the floor.

    If you removed carpeting, pay particular attention looking for staples from the carpet installation. Pull them out of the floor with a pliers or Robo-Grip® tool.

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