How to Refinish Hardwood Floors

If your hardwood floors have lost their luster, it may be time to refinish them. This will entail repairing and sanding the wood, and applying three coats of finish.

Start by prepping your floors:


  1. Fill in minor cracks and scratches with wood filler and a putty knife [source: Hometime].
  2. Replace badly cracked, warped or sagging boards.
  3. Sink any protruding nails.
  4. Drive a nail into the joists (i.e. supporting beams) beneath squeaky floorboards to tighten them. Driving it in at an angle will keep the board from riding up again [source: Home Flooring Guide].

The next step is sanding the floorboards. Remember, you don't have to remove all the finish, but the boards should be clean and scratch-free when you're done. Before sanding, be sure to remove all the blinds and curtains, close and seal the doors with damp rolled-up towels and seal any adjoining openings with plastic to contain the dust. Always wear eye protection when sanding. Sand your floor with:

  • A rotary orbital sander on a large floor area
  • An orbital sander along the edges
  • A mouse sander in tight corers [source: Home Flooring Guide]

Clean up the dust by vacuuming and washing down the floors. Mineral turpentine is best for this.

The finish you use on your floors must be compatible with the one that's already on them. Check the compatibility in an inconspicuous area. If the finishes aren't compatible, there will be an immediate bubbling reaction [source: Home Flooring Guide].

Once you've found the right finish, apply it with a lamb's-wool brush. Here are some tips for applying the finish:

  • Overlap each stroke slightly with the last one so you won't create a "tram-line" effect.
  • Be consistent with your coverage.
  • Don't let the applicator dry out before applying another coat.
  • Keep the room well-ventilated until the finish dries completely.
  • Let the finish dry for the amount of time specified by the manufacturer.
  • Sand the floors lightly after the finish dries.
  • Apply second and third coats, sanding after each coat. [Source: Home Flooring Guide].

If your floors are made of maple, consider hiring a professional to refinish them because they'll be difficult to sand and stain [source: Hometime].