Finishing & Refinishing Hardwood Floors: DIY Instruction Guide & Tips
One of the great things about hardwood – refinishing hardwood floors back to beauty.
Solid hardwood floors are as long wearing as they are stunning. Even the most well kept floor will eventually start to look less than perfect. This wear can actually start to add great character to the floor.
It’s time for refinishing hardwood floors when the finish starts wearing and there is bare wood coming through. Or when you’ve found an old floor to restore. Whether a full face lift is needed or just a little TLC, here are some tips to get you started. Follow the links for even more information.
Here’s what you need to know to make finishing, refinishing or restoring hardwood floors a success:
- DIY vs. professional refinishing
- First, knowing the history of the floor and/or examining the current condition is important for refinishing hardwood floors. If you have an engineered floor (not solid wood) your refinishing possibilities are limited and sometimes non existent.
- Finishing a new floor? Go straight to tools and finishing, below.
- Choosing the final look you are going for (color, gloss, etc) is the interesting and hopefully least stressful part…
- Finally, you can proceed with preparing the floor, sanding, buffing, and finishing to the look you’ve chosen. Here are the steps for refinishing wood floors and some tips for along the way.
- How to refinish hardwood floors with lots of knots, cracks & character marks
- When more than refinishing is required restore your floors.
DIY or Hiring a Professional?
Refinishing is the best way to make a big visual impact on any area and add value for your money at the same time. I’m not going to mislead you here – the sanding and finishing process is not an easy one.
It is a challenging task as there are a few steps involved that need careful attention. If it’s in your budget and you have less than a good ability in renovation projects my sincere suggestion is to go with a professional. It will be worth it in the long run. There are many little things that can go wrong at each step – the professionals just make it look easy!
However, if you are confident in your DIY skills and the types of processes involved or perhaps are looking for a challenge – by all means go for it! Refinishing hardwood floors can make for a very rewarding DIY project.
If you decide to go with a professional you can still find advice about knowing the floor history and choosing the look of the floor below. In any case, read on to see what you’re getting into and then you’ll be in a position to make the best decision for you. And for your precious gem – your floor!
Floor History & Current Condition
What’s history got to do with it you may ask? Well, in general, history can help us understand the present – in this case the present condition of the floor.
Before refinishing hardwood floors, it is important to know the floor history because this knowledge helps to avoid making mistakes with sanding and finishing the floor. For example, how many times was the previous floor sanded and what type of finish was used?
The answers will tell you how much sanding can be done and what type of finishes should be used. Of course this info might not always be available so there are ways to check the current floor characteristics.
Before going ahead with refinishing your hardwood floor, here are some things to check your floor for:
- How difficult will it be to remove anything covering the floor?
- Is there adhesive or anything on the wood surface that might need to be stripped off first?
- Are there any nails sticking out?
- Are there stains ground into the floor?
- How many and how deep are the scratches and dents?
- How thick is the wear layer that you can sand?
If you’ve answered ‘Yes’ and ‘A Lot’ to all of these questions you have your work cut out for you. But all hope is not lost. That’s the great thing about hardwood – it can be revamped, refinished and can survive the tests of time.
Tools and Equipment
Refinishing hardwood floors is about striping off old, damaged finishes and coatings and creating a smooth, clean surface for your new finish to be applied to. In order to do that, you will need to use some specialized tools but the good news is that they are generally available to rent, so you will not have to spend a fortune buying them – unless of course you’re looking to use them again!
The basic tools that you will need for any refinishing job are:
- a drum sander with a dust bag
- an edger or disk sander or hand held sanding block
for the parts of the room where the drum sander cannot fit
- a stock of sandpaper
in varying grits (20, 40 and 100 should do it)
- dust masks
Remember that even ‘dustless’ floor sanding will send tiny particles into the air, and you do not really want to breathe them in.
Finishing & Choosing the Finished Look
In many ways, a hardwood floor is only as good as its finish. That means that if you want to have a beautiful, long lasting floor, you need to use the right finishing products and apply them right.
Techniques for how to finish hardwood floors are becoming less well-known with the increase in pre-finished products on the market. Unfortunate since finishing an unfinished hardwood to a shine is so rewarding.
As you may have seen on the ‘Wood types’ page there is a very large selection when it comes to the style and look of hardwood floors. Mainly you will need to decide if you want to enhance the natural beauty of the wood itself, bringing out its natural characteristics with a neutral finish.
Choose a stain to update or change your décor since you’ll already be sanding your floors down ready for finish anyway.
If you’re going for a professional for refinishing hardwood floors you will just need to ask to see samples of the stains and/or finishes with your current wood. Of course, if you’re installing a new floor from scratch the possibilities are endless!
Beyond Refinishing Hardwood Floors – Restoration
What a great way to improve the look of an entire room or home. Restoring hardwood floors can be a labor intensive and time-consuming but totally worthwhile job.
Whether the floor has been hidden under carpet for a few years or has never seen the light of day, the process of restoring hardwood floors, if done correctly, can give your home a makeover and greatly increase its worth.
If you’re lucky your hidden floors might be well preserved and not need much work at all. In any case, your restored hardwood floors will breathe new life into your home. There is simply no comparison to an original, antique hardwood floor!
Thanks to refinishing, solid hardwood floors are a versatile part of your décor that will keep your home looking great for years to come.