Project Guide: Refinishing Hardwood Floors

Few do-it-yourself projects deliver the "wow" factor as potently as refinishing hardwood floors.

  1. Watch Your Back

    Jprovey refinishing wood floors ramp for sander

    Joe Provey

    A ramp may be used to move heavy sanders from your vehicle to the ground, or from your porch through your threshold as shown here.

  2. Sanding the Floor

    Jprovey refinishing wood floors sanding

    Joe Provey

    Sand as though you are mowing the lawn. Proceed row by row, overlapping runs by half the sander’s width. Unlike with mowing, however, you will have to make numerous passes with each grit.

  3. Sharpen Scraper

    Jprovey refinishing wood floors sharpening scraper

    Joe Provey

    Sharpen your scraper with a mill bastard file. Follow the manufacturer’s original bevel using a diagonal, slicing stroke.

  4. Shop Vac

    Jprovey refinishing wood floors shop vac

    Joe Provey

    Industrial vacs will do a better job, but save the rental fee and use your shop vac instead. Install a new filter and invest in a good brush attachment, if you don’t already have one.

  5. Wipe with Tack Cloth

    Jprovey refinishing wood floors tack cloth

    Joe Provey

    A single wipe with a tack cloth removed a significant amount of dust, even after vacuuming.

  6. Lambswool Applicator

    Jprovey refinishing wood floors lambswool applicator sealer

    Joe Provey

    Use a lamb’s wool applicator (not foam) for applying shellac-based sealers.

  7. Cutting In

    Jprovey refinishing wood floors brush applied sealer

    Joe Provey

    Use a brush to cut in around the room perimeter.

  8. Applying Stain

    Jprovey refinishing wood floors applying stain

    Joe Provey

    Applying stain (as well as sealer and polyurethane) is done using many of the same techniques you’d use when painting. Always begin your stroke a foot or two away from the area you’ve just coated. Then brush (or push applicator) to meet the previously stained area. This will help ensure even coverage.

  9. Remove Excess Stain

    Jprovey refinishing wood floors removing staining

    Joe Provey

    Follow up application by rubbing off excess stain with a rag. The goal is an even tone across the entire floor surface, although slight variations are perfectly acceptable.

  10. Applying Polyurethane

    Jprovey floor refinishing applying polyurethane

    Joe Provey

    Apply polyurethane in two- or three-foot-wide parallel rows, each row overlapping the previous one. Make smoothing strokes (uninterrupted, continuous runs with the roller using light, even pressure) after completing each row. Avoid thick coats.

  11. Applying Polyurethane

    Jprovey floor refinishing applying polyurethane

    Joe Provey

    Lightly sand between coats of polyurethane with very fine, 320-grit paper. A sanding pole makes it easier on your knees, but hand-sanding allows you to spot embedded debris. Wipe surface clean with a tack cloth or a rag dampened with mineral spirits before proceeding with the next coat.

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