Damaged hardwood floors aren’t something you have to live with, and you don’t have to hire a pro to refinish them. With some elbow grease, and the right tools and materials, you can breathe new life into old hardwood floors all by yourself over a long weekend, saving yourself some money in the process. Here’s what you’ll need to refinish hardwood floors by yourself:
TOOLS & MATERIALS
- Pry Bar
- Paint Stirrer & Tray
- Cordless Drill/Driver & Bits
- Tongue & Groove Pliers
- Broom & Wet/Dry Vac
- Drum or Oscillating Floor Sander
- 36, 60, 80 & 120 Grit Sanding Pads
- Square-Base Palm Sander
- Water or Oil-Based Polyurethane Finish
- Microfiber Cleaning Cloths
- Mouse Detail Dander
- Synthetic Painter’s Pad
- Lamb’s Wool Applicator
- Plastic Drop Cloths
- Painter’s Tape
- Wood Filler
- Putty Knife (optional)
When taking on this DIY task, be sure to equip yourself with the proper safety gear.
- Eye Protection
- Ear Protection
Remove Base Molding. Start by removing your base molding. Use a pry bar to gently pry the trim away from the base of your wall. If you plan on re‑using the boards, protect them by prying against a shim or paint stirrer.
Prep Floorboards. You want your floor to be as stable as possible for this project. Secure any loose or squeaky floorboards by drilling 1/16th-inch pilot holes, then hammering in 8d finish nails. Remove tacks and staples with pliers, and fill holes with water-based wood filler.
Choose a Sander. The type of sander you’ll use depends on the condition of your floor. Drum sanders, which can be rented at local hardware stores, are great for deep wear and tear. Floors with less damage can be sanded with an orbital or oscillating sander.
Seal Room. Sanding hardwood floors creates a lot of dust that will spread across your entire house if you’re not careful, so sealing the room or rooms you’ll be working on is essential. Seal all interior doors with painter’s tape and plastic drop cloths, and tape plastic over HVAC vents. You want to air out your home as you work, so open windows to increase air flow.
Sand. Large industrial sanders can be hard to handle. Give yourself some time to get comfortable with your sander by starting your project in the least visible area of your floor. We recommend practicing with 60 or 80 grit sandpaper to avoid damage. You’ll be using a few different sandpapers to refinish your floors. Typical floor sanding begins with course 36 grit paper, followed by 60 grit, 80 grit, and 120 grit.
Sand in a Pattern. Once you’re comfortable with your sander, install a courser paper. We recommend 36 grit. Sanding parallel to the boards, work the sander back and forth over a 4‑foot length of floor, overlapping strokes by about one-third of the base.
Tackle edges and corners. Big sanders aren’t able to get into hard-to-reach places, such as baseboards and corners, so you’ll need to use a palm sander and mouse detail sander for those areas. Sand edges and corners with the same grit after each pass. Be sure to sand edges parallel to floor planks, and overlap previously-sanded areas by about four to six inches. After your final pass with 120 grit paper, sweep and vacuum with a wet/dry vac.
Get Rid of Dust. To get the perfect final finish, you’ll need a dust-free floor. Vacuum the floor twice, then use microfiber cloths to collect anything left behind.
Stain and finish. Now that you have a newly-sanded floor, you can stain it whatever color you’d like — something you can’t do with a finished floor. So take your time and select exactly what you’d like. You can apply your stain and then a polyurethane finish, but a combined stain/polyurethane is a big time-saver. The trick for perfectly stained floor is to apply the same evenly, wiping it in a way that leaves a consistent color without an edge. Use a synthetic painter’s pad to apply the stain, working with the grain. Stain a four- to six-square foot area at a time, immediately removing excess with a clean absorbing rag, and checking for consistency as you go. Wipe away excess stain on any overly dark areas, and allow to dry per manufacturer’s instructions.
Your project is complete step back and admire your newly refinished hardwood floors.