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How to Refinish Hardwood Floors

by Adele Joy

To restore your hardwood floor’s original beauty and richness, refinishing is the best option. When it comes to refinishing a hardwood floor, you can enjoy the satisfaction of doing it yourself rather than hiring a professional. While refinishing a hardwood floor is hard work and a time consuming process, the good news is that the steps are simple and you should be able to rent the necessary equipment.

The following equipment will be needed:

  • brushes, foam or lamb’s wool applicator
  • buffer
  • drum sander
  • ear protection, dust masks, safety goggles
  • edger
  • floor wax or polyurethane finish
  • putty knife and scraper
  • rags
  • sandpaper in coarse, medium and fine grits
  • shop vacuum
  • wide brooms
  • wood stain


  • Start by removing everything from the room, sweep the floor clean and check it thoroughly for any carpet staples or exposed nails. Remove carpet staples with pliers and sink nails with a nailset. Walk across the entire floor to check for squeaks, cracks or any other repairs that need to be undertaken before sanding.
  • Sanding hardwood floors is a noisy and dusty job, so ensure you take adequate precautions by wearing ear protection, safety goggles and a dust mask. To prevent dust from leaving the room, place rags or towels under doors and over vents, and hang plastic or damp sheets over doorways.
  • When sanding, remove as little of the surface as is absolutely necessary and sand in the direction of the grain.
  • Never let the drum touch the floor when it is not moving. Practice this first with the machine switched off.
  • Ensure the area is well ventilated when finishing, though air flow should be reduced while sanding etc. as dust may be blown about.
  • Plan your project considering that immediately after sanding is completed, finishing should commence.

Refinishing Your Hardwood Floor

  • The first pass of sanding
    Load the drum sander with coarse grit sandpaper to remove the finish. Place the machine along the right hand wall with about 2/3 of the length of the floor in front of you. With the drum raised off the floor, start the motor, then walk slowly forward at an even pace while easing the drum to the floor. Follow the same process in reverse, gradually raising the drum off the floor, as you near the wall at the end of the pass.

  • Continuing SandingCover the same path you made on the forward cut by pulling the machine backward and easing the drum to the floor as you begin the backward pass. When you reach your original starting point, raise the drum from the floor, move the machine about 3-4 inches left ,and repeat the forward and backward passes. Continuing moving to the left after completing each set of passes.

    When 2/3 of the room has been sanded, turn the machine in the opposite direction and sand the remaining 1/3 in the same manner. To make sure the two areas are blended together, these sanding passes should overlap the first passes by 2-3 feet. After completing the first cut with the drum sander, use the edger to sand along areas the drum sander could not reach, such as in baseboards, up to corners, in closets, and so on.

    Next use medium grit sandpaper and repeat the drum sanding. Finally, fill any nail holes, blemishes or cracks, and do the final sanding cut with fine grit sandpaper. Be sure to use the buffer with a fine grit sandpaper to improve the blending of the edged and drum sanded areas.

  • Scraping and cleaning

    When drum sanding and edging is completed, hand scrape and then hand sand corners around perimeter edges, doors, and other cased openings. Finally, sweep and vacuum the floor and wipe up all of the dust.

  • Finishing the job

    For a natural finish, use a penetrating seal; otherwise select your stain of choice. Using long, even strokes, going with the grain, apply your seal/stain of choice, but remember to apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the stain/penetrating sealer has dried completely, apply the finish with a brush or foam/lamb’s wool applicator, using smooth, even strokes. Apply a coat of good wax and buff to a satin sheen to protect the finish and add a final beautiful touch.





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