The wood floors of your home will indeed become worn and dull over time due to heavy foot traffic, friction, and other damages. As such, they would need refinishing to make them look presentable again. Yet, hiring a professional refinishing service would mean denting your savings.
The reason is that professional floor refinishers would charge you anywhere between three to eight dollars per square foot. Besides, if you want a dustless and less-disruptive refinishing process, you need to pay the service more.
So, if you want to spare yourself the cost of hiring a professional, you can engage in DIY refinishing and renewing of your floor to regain the lost glory and sheen of your wood floor.
Table of Contents
- What Previous Finish Does Your Floor Have?
- Easy Method for Refinishing & make Your Floor Look New Without Sanding
- When Should You Engage in Full-on Sanding?
- Steps on Sanding the Floor
- Why Do Floors Appear Dry & Dull?
What Previous Finish Does Your Floor Have?
Before you engage in a DIY refinishing of your worn-out floor, you should figure out one thing about your hardwood floor. You need to figure out which finish your wood floor has. Is it sealed with polyacrylic urethane or polyurethane finish? Was it finished in paste wax?
If you are at a loss as to which finish your worn-out floor has, it will be best to do a simple experiment to figure out the old finish of your wood. The test is pretty simple. Let the water droplet fall on the floor area where the regular foot traffic goes. If the water seeps quickly into the wood or causes spotting on wood, it is indicative that the wood has never gotten sealed. If the water droplet stays on the surface and is not absorbed, the hardwood got sealed in the past.
You can also test for paste wax finish by simply grabbing fine steel wool and rubbing it gently over the hardwood surface in one corner. The floor has been finished with paste wax if you see a gray and waxy film on the steel wood.
If the floor got waxed in the past, you would find it hard to make the new finish bond with the old, even if the hardwood floor has already worn. The reason is that some areas with low foot traffic will be different from worn-out areas that receive heavy foot traffic.
You can likewise test the wood surface with mineral spirits to determine if the floor got waxed. Mineral spirits are petroleum-derived solvents that you can easily buy from home improvement stores. You can use a drop of mineral spirits on some not-worn surface of the floor to test for the wax finish. Wipe the droplet using a clean rag.
The floor has not gotten waxed if the rag remains clean after wiping. But if it comes out shiny or brown, the floor has been waxed.
Moreover, if your floor is an old floor that has been there since 1970, chances are, the wood floor got waxed. If the floor got waxed, you don’t necessarily need to sand it. First, you can buff it on with a fresh coat of wax to regain its shine.
Aside from wax, however, your floor might also have accumulated residue of household chemicals like glass cleaner, furniture polish, and many other substances. These chemicals can prevent bonding of the new finish onto the floor. You can also conduct a test using mineral spirits on areas you suspect to have residue of other chemicals before you even get started with the refinishing.
Easy Method for Refinishing & make Your Floor Look New Without Sanding
You can refinish your old floor without sanding, especially if the wooden floor has been laminated and prefinished. Moreover, you might sand traditional hardwood floors. Yet, if the wood floor is prefinished or laminated, you will find it almost impossible or challenging to sand. The reason is that these floor types feature a thin layer of wood veneer set over plywood.
So, if you sand it, you might damage the thin veneer and expose the plywood. It will help if you do not sand it. Moreover, if you’re dealing with traditional hardwood floors, you can sidestep the sanding process to save you some energy, time, and money.
Polishing Wood Floors to Make Them Shine
You can polish wood floors to make them shine. To polish, you can start in the room’s back corner. Plan your path leading to the exit. Pour an S-shaped amount of floor polish onto the wood floor. Then, use a flat-surface mop to work along the wood grain back and forth. Smooth out air bubbles. Remember to work on small surface areas of three to five feet.
In this way, you can control the quantity of polish you will be applying.
You should ensure that you thoroughly coat the entire floor. But always remember that the thin layers will dry quicker than the thicker layers. So, it will be best to apply thin layers. Afterward, you can apply an extra coat if necessary.
When Should You Engage in Full-on Sanding?
If you think refinishing without sanding isn’t working for you, you can always engage in full-on sanding of your floor. As mentioned above, some factors make the sand-free method not applicable to your floor. One factor is if the floor got waxed before or if some chemicals prevent the bonding of the new coat. In such a case, you need to engage in the sanding of the floor.
Moreover, if the wood floor got dents and deep scratches, it will be best to sand the outer layers of the wood floor. In this way, you can give your hardwood floor the best and cleanest new finish.
If the floor, for example, got damaged by water or pet stains that penetrated beyond the floor finish, you need to sand the floor to do away with these stains or damages.
Steps on Sanding the Floor
Floors that you can’t refinish without sanding should be sanded before refinishing. The sanding process ensures that you can do away with the damages incurred over time. Below are the simple steps on how to go about the sanding process.
Step 1: Sand the Floor Using Liquid Etcher
After cleaning the floor to get it ready for sanding, you should roughen the floor’s surface using a liquid etcher. Liquid etcher emits less odor. Yet, it will be best to ventilate the place where you work to ensure that you will not get exposed to unwanted odor.
You should attach the needed abrasive pad from your sanding kit to your applicator block. Then, screw your broom handle to your block. Insert a cardboard box onto a plastic bag. Then, position a paint tray inside the box.
Pour in your etcher. Afterward, you can dip the pad into your etcher. Press the pad against your tray and squeeze out any excess etcher. Then, scrub the mop firmly along the grain. Ensure that you make a pass over every area several times. In this way, the abrasive pad will lightly scratch the wood finish.
You should not leave the etcher too long on the floor, for it can imbue and sip into the cracks and crevices between flooring strips. Eventually, it can damage the laminated floor’s core. You can prevent this scenario by working on small sections at a time.
You can completely cover this small section within five minutes. A 4 x 4-ft area would be perfect. Once done with scrubbing, wipe the remaining etcher using an old towel. Avoid wiping the floor entirely dry. Only wipe the excess etcher and let a light film of this etcher remain on the wood surface.
Once you’ve completely covered the entire floor, you can detach the abrasive pad. Then, rinse the block and the paint tray. Allow the wood surface to dry for half an hour before proceeding with the next step.
Step 2: Use a Mop to Damp Mop the Floor
Once the etcher has dried, you can mix two tablespoons of dishwashing liquid with one warm water gallon. Then, damp-mop the wood surface. This damp-mopping will serve as your final cleaning to remove any leftover residue and neutralize the etcher.
Remember that water can damage the wood surface. So, it will help if you work in sections. Don’t let water puddles stay long on the floor. Wipe them up immediately. Allow the wood surface to dry. Then, inspect the surface for any imperfection. You can fix scratches likewise.
Using an artist’s brush, you can dab on the matching stain and blot out the stain using a rag. Using a hairdryer, you can blow-dry the stain for a minute. Afterward, you can use the floor finish from your kit to seal the stain.
Using the artist’s brush, you can apply a thin coat of finish. Then, feather out the room’s edges to prevent any visible ridges around patches. This repair method might not be the perfect method. Yet, if you do it well, no one will notice and know about it except you.
Leave the floor to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.
Step 3: Apply Your New Finish
The waterborne urethane finish is the best option you have for a new finish. This finish dries fast but not as quickly as other water-based finishes. You can spread it over the floor, and you got five to ten minutes to work on it before it begins to appear gummy. Once it becomes sticky, you can no longer smooth it out. So, you only got up to five minutes of a window to spread it over the floor.
You need a helper to ensure that the new finish will not become gummy. Before applying, ensure that all your materials and tools are in place. Attach your applicator pad to your block. Then, prepare the paint tray.
Keep a paint pad handy as well as a three-inch wide paintbrush (polyester) for use by your helper. Rinse your brushes, paint pads, and the applicator pad with water to make them more responsive and pliable. Dry them afterward until they get damp a bit for the application.
Why Do Floors Appear Dry & Dull?
Dull-looking floors might not jive well with your elegant interior design. Moreover, several reasons might cause your wood floors to look dull and worn. Below are some of the succinct reasons why this happens:
You Always Use a Dirty Mop When Cleaning, or You Forget to Sweep the Floor
If you often use a dirty mop when cleaning the floor or forget to sweep the floor, you will notice that dust and dirt will only get distributed across the floor surface. Over time, this accumulated grit, dirt, and dust will make the floor look dull.
You Don’t Protect the Floor from Being Scratched
If you don’t protect the floor from getting scratched, you will notice that the color and sheen of the floor will fade over time. If you have pets, for example, with sharp claws, they might scratch the floor. Cats, for instance, might scratch the floor to dull their claws. Your floor will soon become dull looking if you don’t do anything about your pets. Besides, it is better to prevent scratches than refinishing your floor.
Buildup of Wax
If the floors weren’t sealed using polyurethane finish, and you only rely heavily on paste wax, chances are, wax buildup might ensure, making the floor look dry. You will notice this dulling of your wood floor in areas with not much heavy foot traffic. You can use mineral spirits to strip paste wax.
Using Cleaners that Harm the Wood Surfaces
You will discover that many acrylic-based liquid waxes might harm your wood floor instead of making it shine, mainly if applied on top of paste wax or polyurethane finishes. They might leave your wood floor with patchy-looking spots or might make the floor look milky.
To do away with these patchy spots, you can use mineral spirits along with elbow grease. Apply them to a small area to do away with the milky appearance. You can strip and reseal the wood floor to entirely restore the sheen of your wood floor.
Moreover, aside from these cleaners, you can also damage the floor if you use harsh chemicals like ammonia, chlorine bleach, pine oil, and undiluted vinegar. So, you need to select the right commercial product for cleaning your floor. Make sure that you follow the guidelines of manufacturers when using such a product.
Using Too Many Cleaning Products
You might overuse or misuse your cleaning products leaving the floor looking worse than before. So, make sure that you don’t overdo the use of cleaning products to prevent unwanted damage to your wood floor.
Not completing the Finishing of your Hardwood Floor
When starting something like refinishing or staining your wood floor, always complete the job. Once you’ve damp mopped or waxed the wood floor, you should also finish it with a buffing to prevent the hardwood floor from streaking. You can utilize a dry microfiber mop for buffing the finish. This process will ensure that the floor is shiny.
Lack of Preventive Maintenance
Always remember that nothing lasts forever. Even a correctly done finishing will never stay the same. Hence, you need to engage in preventive maintenance or refinishing of the floor to keep it shiny over time.
Hardwood floors will surely get a beating over time from constant foot traffic and other factors. So, you need to maintain your floors and do the necessary refinishing for them. You can restore, for example, a worn and dull wood floor to its previous sheen and beauty with the proper maintenance and refinishing.
Of course, before restoring a dull floor, you need to figure out its old finish and determine if you can sidestep the sanding process when restoring the old beauty of the wood floor. Lastly, the abovementioned steps and tips will surely help you with the restoration process without any issue or problem.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker and carpenter who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.