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A Step-By-Step Guide on Refinishing Hardwood Floors for Absolute Beginners

Did you know that adding hardwood floors to your home can increase its value by 6 to 11 percent?

However, what happens when you already have hardwood floors, but they need a little love. If you’re interested in bringing your hardwood floors to their former glory, there are a few things you can do to achieve this effect.

Read on for a guide to refinishing hardwood floors in a few steps.  

Before You Get Started

Before you get ready to refinish your hardwood floors, there are a few things you need to prep. 

The first thing you need to do is take a look at the gaps between the floor planks. If the gaps between the planks are too wide and you can see the nails, you will not be able to refinish your floors. 

If your floors are 1/4″ thick and have a laminate coating, you cannot refinish these floors or you risk wearing away the entire thing.

As you inspect your floors, look for signs of any pests. If you’re dealing with termites, for example, you need to take care of the issue before you proceed. A termite control expert can help with this problem.

You also have to keep in mind some types of floors are a lot easier to refinish than others. For example, some of the easier floors to work with are oak and pine. Others such as maple, walnut, and mahogany are more difficult to work with. 

Do an Adhesion Test

Once you’re sure you will be able to refinish your floors, you should perform an adhesion test. To more accurately perform the test, you should do it in a high-traffic area of the floor and one near a wall or a closet. 

Start by cleaning the area you’re working on thoroughly with a floor cleaner. The area should measure about 6 by 6 inches. 

Using a sanding screen, sand the area and then wipe off the excess residue. Once the area is free of dust, you can start applying a coat of polyurethane. Apply the polyurethane in both areas.

You will need to wait about 24 hours before you can check the area.

When you check the area the next day, you should only see a few whiskers cause by dust. Other than the dust, the area will be smooth.

Using a coin, press down on the surface with even pressure. Make sure you don’t press too hard. If the coat of polyurethane doesn’t scrape off with medium pressure, then you’re good to start recoating your floors. 

However, if the polyurethane scrapes off as you use the coin or it looks cracked, you will not be able to refinish your floors. The reason is there might be something getting in the way such as a previous substance that will prevent the solution form adhering. 

Gather the Materials 

If you plan on doing the refinishing yourself, you might not have all of the materials at home. However, you can gather all of these materials from a home improvement store or online. 

You will the following:

  • Edge sander
  • Hammer
  • Pliers
  • Wide-blade dull putty knife
  • Nail set
  • Power floor buffer
  • Box Fan
  • Painter’s tape
  • Polyurethane floor sealant
  • Work gloves
  • Safety glasses 
  • Hearing protection
  • Breathing protection
  • Industrial-grade vacuum cleaner

These are most of the materials you will need when refinishing your floors. However, if you have any more questions you can get more information at your local home improvement store.

Clean Your Floor

Before you start refinishing your floors, you need to make sure to clean away any stains, scratches, residue, and other gunk off the floors. Make sure you keep track of all the marks and scratches using masking or painter’s tape. 

If you have kids, chances are you might have some chewing gum on your floors. Other substances might also cause gunk and build-up on your floors. 

As you notice such areas, you need to clean it off completely before you can move on to the next step. Using the dull putty knife, scrape off the gum and other gunk. 

If you deal with tough marks that are difficult to get out, you can always use mineral spirits to help with it. You can get rid of any deep scratches by using a sanding screen. 

Use a Buffer

Once your floor is clean, you can move on to the next step which is buffing the floor.

You need to grab a sanding screen and place it under the electric buffer. Try your best to ensure the screen is well centered at the bottom of the buffer. Keep in mind the sanding screen will only last about 10 to 15 minutes.

After the screen has lost the sanding ability, you can peel it off and flip it over. If you don’t know when it’s time to switch it, you can check it every few minutes. 

To start buffing the floor, you need to take the buffer from one side of the wall and move it back until you reach the other side of the room.

As you slowly move backward, sway the buffer to the left and the right as you go. 

If you want to move the buffer to the right, simply lift the handle. On the other hand, if you lower the handle, it will sway to the left. 

Keep in mind, buffing will get dusty, so you need to protect your eyes and nose. Make sure you wear the protective eye goggles and mask over your nose. 

After you buffer the floors, make sure you clean the area of any dust before moving to the next step. 

Do the Finish

The last step is to add the floor finish. If you’re going to do it yourself, the easiest finish to work with is polyurethane. Of course, there are other finish options but they’re not as durable or easy to work with.

To start applying the finish, you need to start at the base of the walls using a brush. Make sure you protect the trim using painters tape. The rest of the floors you can do using an applicator pad. 

Refinishing Hardwood Floors for Beginners: The Bottom Line

As you can see, it’s possible to refinish hardwood floors yourself. Start by inspecting your floors to ensure the quality of your floors will allow it. 

The next thing you need to do is gather all of the materials you need, clean your floors, and prepare to buffer. After you apply the finish, you will have new floors.


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