How to Sand and Refinish Hardwood Floors Yourself

September 18, 2022

Refinish hardwood floor with drum sander.

Quite frankly, refinishing old hardwood floors may not be that difficult if you know the steps on how to do it. The reason is that renewing its obscured beauty doesn’t necessarily mean you need to engage in messy sanding and staining, especially if your hard floor doesn’t exhibit severe damages. At the onset, however, you need to assess the damage to the floors. If you see only a couple of minor scratches or dull finish, you might get away with a bit of buffing and the application of a new varnish coat.

But if you think the floors require a complete makeover, you can indeed manage to refinish your hardwood floors without hiring a refinishing service. You can save money in the process, considering a professional can charge you somewhere between three dollars to four dollars per square foot. Hence, if the floor area is around 1,500-square feet, you will shell out about $6,000.

Steps on Refinishing Your Old Floors (DIY)

If it is your first time refinishing your hardwood floors, you might be a bit tentative and unsure about where to start and how to start. Below is a rundown of the simple steps you can follow to refinish your hardwood floors:

Step 1: Prepare the Floor

The first thing to do when refinishing hardwood floors is prepping the room. You can remove all the furniture inside the room and stack them away in another room. Remove the rugs and window treatments likewise. You must cover the electrical boxes and vents using painter’s tape. You can also utilize plastic sheeting for sealing doors. 

You can remove base molding using a pry bar. Number the pieces of molding as you remove them one by one to reinstall them with ease afterward. You can also utilize needle-nosed pliers to do away with staples and nails. 

You should also nail down boards that are a bit loose. Then, prepare the room by engaging in deep cleaning. Thoroughly sweep the floors using a soft bristle broom. Please refrain from using a stiff bristle broom because it can scratch the wood’s surface. Afterward, you can utilize a vacuum to do away with dirt and dust in-between floorboards. 

Then, you can mop the floors with a micro cloth along with a concentrated cleaner. You can use, for example, Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner. However, it will help if you refrain from using water cleaners and vinegar.

Step 2: Patch the Floors and Repair

Once you’ve prepped the floors, you can check for larger cracks and holes. Then, repair using a spackle knife or wood filler. If the floorboards show heavy damages, you can use a trowel filler. Use a thinner wood filler likewise to cover large areas. You can apply this using a putty knife. 

Yet, if the floors show fewer damages, you can utilize a wood patch filler on each spot. Allow the filler to dry completely. Then, using a damp rag, you can remove dust and debris. Let the floor dry before you sand.

Step 3: Begin Sanding the Floor!

You can use a drum sander for sanding the floor. You can find the drum sander a bit hard to use because it can be challenging to control. Besides, if you misuse it, you might damage the floorboards. So, before embarking on using a drum sander, you can ask for pointers and a short tutorial about using the equipment. 

Then, practice sanding along a plywood sheet until you get the hang of its use. Learn how to engage the sander while you move, and before stopping, you should disengage the sander. Make sure you wear your mask and other safety gear when working with the drum sander.

You can begin sanding using 40-grit sandpaper. Using this sandpaper, you can remove scratches, old finishes, and dings. Nevertheless, it will leave the floors with a rough surface. Move along the grain and work each section (three to four feet). You can move along the floorboards using slow and steady motion. 

Refrain from stopping to avoid leaving a permanent mark on the floors. With a single sandpaper piece, you can cover up to twenty square feet. Check the sandpaper and replace it if it looks worn. You should also not forget to empty the dust bag often. The sander, of course, will perform better if you often empty the dust bag.

The drum sander is large and heavy. Thus, it will help to use another sander for the room edges. Yet, you should use similar grit sandpaper for sanding the edge. Sand up to the wall. You can use 40-grit sandpaper to sand the floor with uniformity. 

Repeat the sanding process using 60 and 80-grit sandpaper. Afterward, you can use 120-grit paper on the drum sander and edge sander. You will notice that every sanding round will manifest a better and smoother surface. Use your vacuum to remove debris and dust. Then, wipe the dust from the floor every after sanding. Lastly, use fine-grit sandpaper for the final sanding.

Step 4: Then, Buff the Floor

You can buff the floor to remove the sanding marks and render the floor an entirely smooth finish. You can rent an industrial floor buffer for this purpose. You can likewise use a pole sander. 

The use of a pole sander would consume more time. Nevertheless, it is less challenging to use and is less expensive. Moreover, you can use a 120-grit sanding screen to buff each floorboard, using back and forth movement along the grain.

Step 5: Prepare the Stain or Sealer

Once you’ve thoroughly cleaned the floor and prep it for staining or sealing, you can, for the last time, inspect if there are small debris or speck that could affect the finish. Using a clean rag, you can wipe walls down to prevent debris and dust from falling to the boards of the floor. 

Utilize a shop vacuum using a brush head to clean the boards and floor area thoroughly. Using a tack cloth, remove whatever debris you can find on the floor. You can use a water popping technique to ensure that the stain penetrates the boards evenly. 

You can combine two parts of water and one part of denatured alcohol. Using a pump sprayer, you can spray the mixture on the floor. Cover the entire floor. Then, run a rag over the whole floor area to distribute the solution evenly. This solution will enable the wood grains to accept the sealer or stain better.

Step 6: You Can Apply Stain (Optional)

Now that you’ve thoroughly cleaned the floor, you can now apply a stain. Applying stain is optional, and you will only do it if you want to alter the color of the wood. It will be best to use an oil-based stain. Ensure that you allow good ventilation into the room. You should also wear your respirator mask. Remember that stain might emit toxic vapors. 

Using a staining sponge or lambswool applicator, you can apply the stain onto the board. Dip the sponge onto the stain and wring out the excess stain. 

Start with the room’s far corner and move toward the door. In this way, you will not be stepping on freshly stained boards. Apply the stain, moving along the grain. Moreover, you must move in three to four-foot sections each time. 

Don’t let the pooling of stain on the floor. You should wipe any excess stain before you move to the next area. Besides, don’t let the edges dry. Blend the sections by using a sponge. Blend the areas where the sections meet. Once you’ve entirely stained the floor, allow it to dry for a day. If you are desirous of a better finish, you can do a second coat.

Step 7: Seal the Floor

If you don’t want to stain the floor, you can skip this process. You can finish the floor by sealing it. Sealing, of course, can protect the floor from any damage caused by scratches, water, or dings. It also adds an extra luster and sheen to your hardwood floor. 

Your best option for a sealer is the polyurethane sealer. You can either buy it as an oil-based sealer or a water-based one. This sealer provides your floor with exceptional protection from damages. Besides, it requires less upkeep. You also got a wide array of options, from matte to glossy. 

When applying the sealer, ensure that you do it with enough ventilation. Additionally, you should wear your respirator mask to ensure you get protected from toxic vapors. Before applying the sealer, you should ensure that the floor is free of debris. Use your vacuum along with a tack cloth to clean the floor. 

Once the floor is entirely free of debris, you can apply the sealer using a sponge roller. Use around the edges a paintbrush. Make sure you work in small manageable sections along the wood’s grain. 

When applying polyurethane, you need to apply multiple coats. You can let the coat dry completely. Buff the floor after every coat. You can utilize a machine buffer or do it by hand using a fine steel wood pad (#2). 

The more coats applied, the more protection you provide your floor. As usual, you need to start with the room’s far corner and move toward the door. Let the sealer dry for a day before you start using the floor. You can replace the furniture and rugs after 72 hours.

Step 8: Avail of the Service of Professionals

If you feel you’re not up to the task of refinishing your hardwood floors, you might as well avail yourself of the service of professionals. Professional floor refinishers utilize specialized equipment capable of heavy dust removal. 

With their experience, you can prevent your house from becoming too messy during the refinishing process. Their services charge somewhere between $2 to $4 for each square foot.


You can spruce up your present abode by tweaking a bit your window treatment or altering some of your furniture. Yet, if you want to enhance the interior of your house, you can start with the refinishing of the floors. Refinishing is an excellent method of changing the floors’ color. It can also let you remove the old stain on your floor and recapture the original exquisite beauty of your hardwood floors. 

Hardwood floors, of course, can last long and even for a lifetime. You simply need to provide it with regular maintenance like daily cleaning. You can also provide it with regular polishing every month or two. But if you want to give it an entirely new appearance or look, you can refinish your floors with a new stain.

Related Posts:

Leave a Comment