How to Refinish your Hardwood Floors

If you pull up the carpet in your house, you might be surprised to find that there are beautiful hardwood floors underneath. At least, they could be beautiful. After years or even decades under carpet, the hardwood floors in your home likely don't sparkle and shine. Even if the wood wasn't covered with carpet, daily traffic can leave the floor looking worn.

Although you can hire a professional for the job, most hardwood floors make great DIY projects, even for beginners. Some floors are too damaged to be refinished or need to be treated by a contractor with experience. You should consider replacing the floor or hiring a professional if…

• The wood feels soggy, spongy, or wet

• There are holes or entire boards need to be replaced

• The floor has been refinished many times already, so previous sanding hasn't left you with much wood

• You notice buckling or warps in the wood

• The floor is made of a wood that is hard to refinish, like maple

If you have a floor that's free from structural problems, you can get started refinishing the wood today. This process starts with sanding, but before you begin, you need to clear out the room completely, remove carpet staples in the floor, and cover vents to prevent dust from entering other rooms. You should also inspect the floor to ensure there are no boards that should be replaced or nails sticking up higher than the wood, which could damage your sanding equipment.

Unless you plan to do a lot of sanding in the future, you should probably rent the equipment you need, rather than purchasing it. Start with a drum sander and a course paper, around 20 grit. Drum sanders are extremely powerful, so make sure that the rental company shows you how to use it. You should sand with the grain of the wood, slowly moving the sander back and forth over the wood. If you've never used a drum sander before, start in an area that won't be highly visible, like a part of the floor that you know will be covered by furniture.

After you use the drum sander, switch to an edge sander with the same grit sandpaper and work around the perimeter of the room. Edge sanders are smaller with a tip that allows you to sand into the corners of the room. At this point, any paint, stain, or finish that was on the wood should be gone. You may want to sweep the floor to get rid of some of the dust.

Next, you'll need to repeat the process. This time, use a 50 to 60 grit sandpaper, which will give you a much finer finish. Before you start, inspect the floor again for nails that might be sticking up so that you don't damage the sander. You should then sand for a third time, using a very fine 80 grit sandpaper.

Along with renting an edge sander and a drum sander, you should also rent a buffer. A buffer works similar to a sander, but uses a sandpaper with such a fine grit that it polishes the wood, rather than removing measurable amounts of wood. Before you get started with buffing, you'll want to vacuum the room. Don't mop the floors, though, since the wood is currently unprotected. Buff with the grain, as you did when you sanded the floor, using a 120 grit screen.

Once you're done sanding and buffing, you can stain, paint, or otherwise finish the wood. Your options here are nearly limitless. The best choice has to do with your home's style and the type of wood used to create the floor. With some woods, the grain is so beautiful that you likely don't want to cover it completely with a very dark stain or a paint finish. If you see a number of imperfections, however, which is common with less expensive wood, you can use a darker finish to make the room look more uniform.

After staining or painting, you need to protect your floor so that you don't have to refinish the floor every few months. There are two types of finish - surface finish and penetrating finish. Surface finishes are durable and easy to maintain. They're typically can be cleaned with water and are made with polyurethane in most cases. You'll need about three coats if you use a surface finish. Wax-based finishes, which are penetrating, require more long-term maintenance and cannot be cleaned with water. However, these finishes can create a very unique look for your floors.

You don't need a professional for every home project. Contractors are great if you want to quickly finish a project, but you can save money if you do the project yourself instead. The sense of satisfaction when you're done is also a great reason to take on this project. Unless you have highly damaged floors, you can easily complete this project, even if you usually don't do much in the way of home improvement.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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