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Wood floors can be striking -- when they're in good condition, of course. But over time the wood begins to show its age and break down. This can happen through normal wear and tear (like constant foot traffic). So if you're looking to prevent or put off refinishing, make sure to keep floors mopped and swept, and take every opportunity to avoid unnecessary dirt and wear: doormats at every entrance and floor protector pads on all furniture legs.

But if that's not enough and you've got the time, skill and money to refinish wood floors yourself, here's a breakdown of what it takes:

SKILL LEVEL: Beginner/Intermediate
Almost anyone can refinish their own floors. It does take a bit of elbow grease to manage a floor sander as well as transport the rented sander from the shop to your house. You'll also need to remove all furnishings from the room, so try to have at least one other person assist you throughout the process.


Rent the following tools
from your local home improvement store:

Floor sander: $40-$50 per day
Edge or orbital sander: $20-30 per day
Industrial vacuum: $20-30 per day

Other tools you should have on hand:
Hammer and nail set: $20 and $5, respectively
Paint pad and pole to apply varnish: $15
Water-based polyurethane varnish: $50-$60 for one gallon

This project can typically be completed for less than $230. But a larger room will require more varnish, which will increase the cost. The tool rental prices in your area may differ from our findings; this will also impact the final cost as well.

Reserve 2-3 hours for prep. The time it will take to refinish your hardwood floors is based on your experience and size of the room(s) to be refinished. As a general rule, a 10'x15' room will require 10-15 hours to refinish.

mattbatt0, Flickr


1. Remove furniture and any obstructions on the floor, such as heater covers and pipe-collars. Use clear plastic to mask the wood baseboard moldings and tape off rooms to keep dust from flying into other areas of the house. Open all windows in the room for ventilation.

2. Inspect the floor for nail pops and hammer them down. In fact, it's a good idea to countersink nails so they are at least ¼" below floor level.

3. Prep your drum floor sander; it'll take at least an hour. When you rent the floor sander, be sure to purchase sandpaper belts. You should use 80-grit paper on a drum sander.


1. Sanding test: Once your floor is prepped and your sander is set up, you can start sanding. It's best to test your sander on a sheet of scrap plywood to make sure you're comfortable with its operation.

2. Sanding plan: Sand according to the type of floor you have. A floor with little or no damage will only require one pass of the drum sander using fine sandpaper. For a strip wood floor, sand back and forth along the direction of the wood grain. For a parquet floor, sand diagonally across the tiles.

3. Start sanding: Position the drum sander about 6" from the wall in the center of the room and sand a straight path in the direction of the floorboards. Keep the machine constantly moving. If you must stop, lift the sander and turn it off.

4. Select the right grit: If the sander isn't removing enough finish, then switch to a coarser grit paper. That said, try to use the finest grit necessary.

5. Make your second pass: If you need to make a second pass across your floors, overlap the paths by about ½". Replace the sandpaper as needed.

6. Edge the borders: Use your edge sander to reach the finish along the walls and in the corners. Maintain light and even pressure.

7. Clean up remaining sanding dust with the industrial vacuum. Most sanding machines have a dust collector, but you'll want to do another round with a vacuum to collect the finer dust.


1. Seal with polyurethane: Seal the sanded wood floors with a mixture of water-based polyurethane and water. Apply using a painting pad and a pole extension. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for proper ratio mix and dry times.

2. Apply the final coat: The final coat should be a thin layer of undiluted water-based polyurethane applied in the same manner as the first sealant. You can use the painting pad and pole extension again. Brush with the grain and apply as evenly as possible.

3. Buff: Once the finish has dried, use an abrasive pad to buff the floor.

4. Repeat the process: Your floor may require 2-3 coats depending on thickness and look desired. Make sure you buff between each coat.

5. Apply the finishing touches: After your last finish application, buff the floor surface with clean terry cloth rags to remove surface imperfections and diminish the gloss.

For a visual on this process, check out this video:


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