DIY Guide: How to Refinish Wood Floors Yourself

how to refinish wood floors yourself

Learning how to refinish wood floors yourself can breathe new life into your home, adding warmth and increasing its value. Many homeowners shy away from tackling this project themselves, intimidated by the thought of complex machinery and messy finishes.

But don’t worry, with the right guidance, refinishing wood floors is manageable.  Understanding how to refinish wood floors yourself is not only feasible but also rewarding.

This guide will take you step-by-step through the process of refinishing hardwood floors, from assessing the condition of your floors to applying that final, gleaming finish.

Whether you’re a seasoned DIYer or a curious beginner, we’ll equip you with the knowledge and confidence to transform your floors, one plank at a time.

Ready to transform your hardwood floors? Schedule your service online or by phone with Apogee Hardwood Cleaning today and enjoy beautifully restored floors in just one day.

Evaluating Your Floors: Refinish or Replace?

Before starting to refinish hardwood floors, it’s vital to determine if it’s the right approach. In some cases, the damage might be too severe, or the type of flooring you have may not be suitable.

When Refinishing Works

Solid hardwood floors are ideal candidates for refinishing. They boast a thickness that can withstand multiple standings.

If you’re unsure, a quick peek at the edge of a plank by removing a floor vent will reveal its construction.

Here are a few scenarios when refinishing is a smart choice:

  • Surface scratches and dings: These are easily removed with sanding, leaving you with a fresh surface.
  • Faded finish: Sun exposure, foot traffic, and time can dull your floors’ sheen. Refinishing brings back the luster.
  • Minor water damage: Caught early on, water stains can often be sanded out, particularly on lighter-colored wood.

When Replacement Is Necessary

Sometimes, the damage runs deeper than a simple refinish can handle. Here are situations where replacement is often the more practical route:

  • Deep gouges and cracks: If the damage extends significantly into the wood, sanding may not be sufficient.
  • Extensive water damage: Severe warping, buckling, or mold growth signals deeper issues that require replacement.
  • Thin hardwood or veneer: Repeated refinishing can wear down thin floors, making replacement the safer bet.

Essential Tools and Materials: What You’ll Need

Refinishing your floors involves specialized equipment that you can rent from most home improvement stores.  When planning your budget, inquire about rental costs.

Safety Gear: Protect Yourself

Prioritizing hardwood floor refinishing safety during any DIY project is essential. When dealing with sanding dust and potent chemicals, this becomes even more crucial.

  • Respirator Mask:  Protects your lungs from harmful dust particles.
  • Safety Glasses: Shields your eyes from flying wood chips and dust.
  • Ear Protection: Sanders can be incredibly loud, so use earmuffs or plugs to protect your hearing.
  • Work Gloves: Protects your hands from splinters, harsh chemicals, and potential blisters.

Essential Tools for the Job

  • Pry Bar: For removing baseboards and any stubborn nails or staples.
  • Drum Sander or Belt Sander: Tackles the main areas of your floor, removing the old finish and leveling the surface.
  • Edge Sander: Essential for getting close to walls and tackling corners that the drum sander can’t reach.
  • Shop Vacuum: A powerful vacuum to handle the significant dust generated during sanding.
  • Hand Sanding Block: For detail-oriented touch-ups or hard-to-reach areas.


  • Sandpaper:  A variety of grits, from coarse to fine, for the best results.
  • Wood Filler: For patching gaps, holes, or cracks in your wood floor.
  • Painter’s Tape: To protect your baseboards, cover vents, and create clean lines.
  • Drop Cloths: To safeguard your furniture and areas not being refinished from dust.
  • Wood Stain (Optional): If you want to alter the color of your wood.
  • Polyurethane Finish or Oil-Based Finish: To seal and protect your refinished floors. Choose between water-based (faster drying, lower odor) or oil-based (more durable, amber tone).
  • Lambswool Applicator or Paintbrush: For applying the finish evenly to your hardwood floor.

Prepping Your Workspace and Hardwood Floor Refinishing

Adequate preparation before refinishing your hardwood floor is key for a smooth process and impressive outcomes. Take the time for these crucial steps:

Clearing the Room

Begin by completely emptying the room of all furniture, rugs, and belongings. This might seem obvious, but ensuring a clean slate is essential to avoiding mishaps and ensuring a flawless application of stain and finish.

Protecting Your Home

Sanding generates a considerable amount of dust.  Minimize cleanup and prevent particles from infiltrating other areas of your home by sealing doorways with plastic sheeting and painter’s tape.

You should also cover air vents to prevent dust from traveling through your HVAC system.

Preparing Your Floors

Proper surface preparation is crucial when refinishing wood floors.

Start by securing any loose floorboards with finishing nails to ensure an even surface for sanding.

Next, remove any protruding nails or staples to prevent damage to your sanding equipment. Use a hammer to set them flush with the wood surface.

Lastly, thoroughly clean your floors to remove dirt, debris, and any lingering dust. A shop vac is particularly handy for this task.

how to refinish wood floors yourself walkthrough Refinishing Wood Floors: A Step-by-Step Walkthrough

With prep work complete and your safety gear in place, you’re ready to tackle on how to refinish wood floors yourself.

This process demands patience, a steady hand, and attention to detail. For those who prefer professional assistance, Apogee Hardwood Cleaning can help you achieve a flawless finish.

1. Sanding: The Foundation of a Flawless Finish

Using the Drum Sander: Always sand in the direction of the wood grain. Make overlapping passes, starting from one end of the room and working towards the other.

Avoid stopping the sander while it’s in contact with the wood to prevent dips or marks. For warped floors, sand diagonally.

Use the following grit sandpaper sequence:

  • First Pass (Rough Sanding): 36-grit
  • Second Pass (Medium Sanding): 60-grit
  • Third Pass (Fine Sanding): 80-grit or higher

Change the sandpaper as it wears down (every 200-250 sq feet).

Edge Sanding: Use an edge sander for areas the drum sander can’t reach, such as room perimeters and corners. Maintain consistent grit progression for a uniform texture.

2. Repairing Imperfections

After sanding, address imperfections by applying wood filler to gaps, cracks, or nail holes using a putty knife.

Once the filler dries, lightly sand the patched areas for a smooth finish.

3. Staining and Finishing

Cleaning Again: Thoroughly vacuum and use tack cloths to remove all dust.

Staining (Optional): Apply stain evenly in the direction of the wood grain. Test the stain on a discreet area or spare wood to ensure desired color and coverage. Multiple coats may be needed, allowing each to dry thoroughly before applying the next.

Top Coat Application: Choose between oil-based (richer tones, yellowing over time) or water-based finishes. Apply using a foam applicator pad or high-quality paintbrush.

Work in the direction of the wood grain for full coverage and minimal streaks or bubbles. Ensure proper ventilation and follow the manufacturer’s drying time recommendations.

4. Patience: The Waiting Game

Allow ample time for the finish to dry before moving furniture back in. Avoid walking on the surface for at least 24 hours, longer for multiple coats of polyurethane.

Refinishing wood floors can be a fulfilling DIY project, but for those seeking professional results, Apogee Hardwood Cleaning offers expert services to help you achieve a perfect finish.

FAQs about How to Refinish Wood Floors Yourself

Can I refinish my own hardwood floors?

With a bit of research, patience, and the right approach, you can learn how to refinish your wood floors yourself.

How can I restore my hardwood floors without sanding?

For minor scratches and dullness, you can use the screen and recoat method, which involves buffing the surface before applying a new finish. Significant damage or deep scratches typically require sanding to fully restore the floors.

Do you have to sand hardwood floors before restaining?

If you’re happy with the existing color and the floors are in good shape, a light sanding or screening is often enough. For a complete color change, sanding down to bare wood is usually necessary for even stain penetration.

What is the next step after sanding wood floors?

After sanding, thoroughly vacuum and wipe down the floors to remove all sanding dust. This ensures a clean surface before applying stain or finish.

wood floor refinishing service

Refinishing Your Own Hardwood Floors

Taking on a project like how to refinish wood floors yourself can be incredibly rewarding, both for your home and your sense of accomplishment.

It allows you to transform a space dramatically, all while mastering new DIY skills along the way.

With a dash of patience and a generous helping of enthusiasm, your tired old floors will once again be the highlight of your home.

If you prefer an expert to handle the job, Apogee Hardwood Cleaning can provide professional refinishing services to ensure a flawless finish.

Transform your floors with Apogee Hardwood Cleaning! Serving Fairfax, VA, and surrounding areas, we deliver expert hardwood refinishing services for stunning results. Contact us today for a free consultation!