Hardwood floors give a look of natural beauty and comfort to any space. But over the years, they take a lot of heavy usage and abuse, picking up scratches, scuffs, and stains. Luckily, it’s possible to restore them to their original beauty without installing a whole new floor. Refinishing a wood floor can be a do-it-yourself project, though you will need to invest a fair amount of time and effort. You can learn how to refinish hardwood floors with advice from trusted online sources and videos.
As with any DIY project, the best way to begin is to learn all you need to know about how to refinish hardwood floors. Then, choose a good time to begin, allowing for a week or ten days for the whole project. The next step is to make sure you have all the equipment and materials you will need for every stage of the project.
These include a sanding machine, hand-held sander, sandpaper, plastic sheets to protect air vents, a vacuum or shopvac to clean up, as well as the varnish or polyurethane coating you will need to refinish the floor.
WHAT IS HARDWOOD FLOOR REFINISHING?
Hardwood flooring can be the most beautiful feature of a house, giving it a feeling of comfort and warmth. Wood floors can also be one of the most abused features of a house. Over the years, they have to handle not just heavy foot traffic but also scuffs, scratches, and even gouges.
They may have been hidden under paint or even 1970s fluorescent carpeting. You may end up with a floor that looks dirty, scuffed and dingy.
Luckily, hardwood flooring is durable. There is a beautiful floor hiding under the tired surface, and it can be renewed without having to install a whole new floor. You can learn how to refinish hardwood floors and make it a DIY project.
There are several steps you have to complete to restore your hardwood floor to its original beauty. You can learn how to refinish hardwood floors through online tutorials from trusted home improvement sites. You can also find online videos that show you all the steps for how to refinish wood floors.
First, you have to remove the layers of dirt, stains, and imperfections, using a sanding machine. Depending on the materials previously used on the floor, you may be removing old shellac, paint or varnishes well. Once the top layer has been removed, the floor must be cleaned thoroughly and then treated with varnish or stain for the look you want to achieve. The whole project can take a week to ten days, and some serious elbow grease.
You should be aware that all stages you will be dealing with chemicals that may give off toxic fumes when they are being handled. You will have to keep the workspace well ventilated, while closing it off from the rest of the house to contain the dust from sanding. You will also have to wear protective gear like goggles, a face mask, and gloves.
CHOOSING YOUR FINISH
The last step for how to refinish hardwood floors is to apply a protective layer. There are several kinds of finish to choose from, and they will affect the look of the refinished floor. Some people first use a stain to add color to the floor. Depending on the product you choose, stains can color a floor anywhere from honey-colored to cherry to a dark wood.
If you don’t want to change the color of the wood, you can skip the stain and apply a protective coat. The protective coat again can be different kinds. The most commonly used are varnish or a polyurethane coating which protects the floor surface. Some polyurethanes also add a light touch of color to the floor, so make sure you read the labels carefully before buying to make sure you get the right product.
This is the most commonly used finish and goes on like a clear plastic protective coating. A range of finishes from matte to glossy can add to the beauty of the floor. This layer protects the floor from scratches, spills, and stains.
Oil-based polyurethanes are the most commonly used type of finish, but they release toxic fumes and must be applied in a well-ventilated space. You must use protective equipment for hands, eyes, and nose, and each coat must be allowed to dry for 24 hours.
As an alternative, you can use a low-VOC water-based polyurethane layer. These are easier to apply since they have fewer to no toxic fumes, but they dry quickly. This means that you have to work fast to get an even coat. Low-VOC water-based coating also lasts longer than oil-based polyurethane.
Varnish also puts down a protective layer on the floor, but with more color than a polyurethane coating.
Some people prefer just to use a sealer which gives the floor a thin protective layer. This provides the least protection out of all the efferent typos of finish and must be renewed every 12 months or so. Paint can also be used to finish a wood floor, but it covers up the beauty and natural look of the original wood. It’s a personal choice, but it seems to waste all the hard work you put into cleaning the wood surface in the first place.
IS THERE A NEED FOR FLOOR REFINISHING?
If your wood floor has scratches and scuffs or looks old and dirty, it may be time to refinish. But first, you need to determine if refinishing is needed or if you can just do a deep clean instead. A simple test can help you decide.
Scatter some drops of water on the floor and watch. If the drops form beads or soak in the floor slowly, it means that there is enough of the old finish left. In this case, you can just do a thorough cleaning. If the water soaks through the wood quickly, the old finish is gone, and the floor needs to be refinished.
Another test you need to carry out before planning your project is to determine if your floor is solid hardwood or engineered hardwood. You can do this by checking the thickness of the wood inside a vent or along a baseboard.
If the floor is solid hardwood with a thickness of three-fourths of an inch, you can do the refinishing yourself. If it is several layers of engineered wood, it’s best to call in a professional, since these floors can be damaged easily and need special care.
In general, solid hardwood floors can be refinished as many as 10 to 12 times. Engineered wood floors cane refinished only once or twice over their lifetimes, and this should be done by a professional. In fact, the next decision you have to make is whether you can learn how to refinish hardwood floors and do the job yourself or if you should call in the professionals.
SHOULD YOU DO IT YOURSELF?
Once you know how to refinish a hardwood floor, you’ll have to decide if this can be a DIY project for you. It will take some time and effort on your part. You will have to buy some supplies and rent equipment like a sander. The rentals alone can cost up to $200 a day. You will also have to wear protective gear for your eyes and nose to avoid dust as well the chemicals that may have been used on the floor earlier.
You should also be aware that the project will take some physical effort and a fair bit of elbow grease to complete. Using a handheld sander and applying varnish or a sealant will require you to work on your hands and knees. This is not a good project for anyone who has back or knee problems.
On the other hand, once you’ve finished, there’s nothing quite like the glow of pride you’ll feel when you have mastered how to refinish a wood floor. You can survey your gleaming wood floor with a feeling of pride and achievement.
Another choice is to call in the professionals. This will cost anywhere from $ to $$ per square foot. This is undoubtedly an easier option and ensures that there will be no mistakes. Also, if after doing the water test described above, you find that your floor is made of engineered hardwoods rather than solid hardwood, it’s best to leave the job to the professionals. That’s because the top layer of hardwood in engineered hardwoods is so thin that there is no room for mistakes.
HOW TO REFINISH HARDWOOD FLOORS - STEP BY STEP GUIDE
Before beginning, you should learn all you need to know about how to refinish hardwood floors. You will need special equipment like a sander and sandpaper, and material like stain, varnish or polyurethane. It’s a good idea to have all of these ready at hand before starting. Allow yourself a week to ten days for the entire project.
Before beginning your project, make sure you have all the equipment and materials you will need. This includes equipment for sanding, cleaning, and finishing. You can use the list below as a guide.
First, you will need to remove all furniture and floor coverings from the room. Plastic sheets should be used to cover air vents and light fixtures to protect them from dust.
Now it’s time to tackle the floor itself. Begin with cleaning the floor. Use a vacuum cleaner and follow up with a mop to ensure that there is no dust on the floor before you begin. Make sure you wear protective goggles and a face mask when you begin the next step of sanding the floor.
Begin with the floor sanding machine. This is a large and unwieldy machine and takes some practice to handle. You can start by practicing in a corner where mistakes won’t matter so much.
The important thing here is to make sure that you sand evenly, and that the floor surface remains level. This means moving the sander across the floor at a steady pace and making sure that each part of the floor surface is ground down to the same level.
If you linger with the sander over any area, you may end up with a depression in the floor that will be almost impossible to fix. The floor should be sanded three times, using lighter grit sandpaper each time. You can begin with a coarse 30-40 grit, go on to a medium 50-60 grit and finish with a fine 80-100 grit. The floor should be cleaned between each sanding.
The large sander comes with an attached bag to collect the dust raised by sanding. Flooring professionals recommend emptying the dust bag when it becomes half full. If the dust bag becomes too heavy, it will affect the evenness of the sanding. For corners and edges, where the large sander can’t reach, you will need to use the handheld sander. This also takes some practice.
When using the handheld sander, you have to be careful not to grind down the floor unevenly. It can also help to run your hands over the floor when you are done to ensure that there are no bumps or rises. The handheld sander also has a bag to collect dust, but some will always escape and should be cleaned up.
Helpful tip: Use face masks and goggles to protect yourself from any residual dust and chemicals that may have been used on the floor.
This is an important step as it prepares the floor to receive the final finish. Even though most sanders nowadays vacuum up the sawdust generated by sanding the floor, there will be some residual dust that escapes. Once you have finished sanding, the entire floor should be vacuumed and mopped to ensure that all the dust has been removed.
Helpful tip: If there are any deep gouges in the floor, you can fill these in with wood putty. It should be left to dry for 24 hours, and then sanded down by hand to level with the floor.
This is the final step where you put down a protective layer over the floor. It’s also possible to add color with stains or varnish. Stains are liquid materials that can be brushed on to the floor, to give it coloring.
They come in various shades, ranging from honey color to cherry to dark wood. As mentioned above, some people prefer to skip this step and keep the natural color of the wood. The final protective layer of polyurethane or a water-based finish is brushed on.
Use a floor-finish applicator to apply the finish in a thin and even layer. Two or three coats may be needed, and you must allow for drying time as recommended by the manufacturer. If necessary, any imperfections or bumps can be sanded down, and the finish reapplied to achieve an even look.
If you use oil-based polyurethane, you will have to wear protective gear, including goggles, face mask, and gloves. That’s because polyurethane gives off toxic fumes when it is being applied. You should also make sure that the space is well ventilated. To avoid these issues, you can choose a water-based low-VOC layer of protective coating instead.
Water-based low-VOC coating handles a little differently from oil-based polyurethane. It dries faster and must be applied quickly. As the name suggests, there are few to no toxic fumes during application. The final look is clear and glossy. Another advantage of the water-based coating is that it will last longer than the oil-based version.
And finally, you’re done! Your floor looks beautiful, and the room is ready to use again. Experts recommend waiting for a week before moving the furniture back in the room. Remember to lift the furniture instead of sliding it to avoid scratching the floor again. If you must slide the furniture, it's advisable to put a soft moving rug or cloth under it to protect the flooring.
Hardwood floors give any home a look of beauty and comfort. They can become scratched and worn over the years, but refinishing can restore their original look. You can learn how to refinish hardwood floors and make this a DIY project. You will need the right equipment and materials for the job. It’s a good idea to make sure you have all of them at hand before you begin.
The whole project can take a week or ten days and requires some physical effort. Each step - sanding, cleaning and applying the protective coating - helps to bring out the natural beauty that’s hiding under the scuffs and stains. In the end, you will have the satisfaction of a job well done, and a beautifully renewed floor to prove it.