6 Things to Know Before Refinishing Your Hardwood Floors

Becca Stokes
Written by Becca Stokes
Reviewed by Robert Tschudi
Updated December 10, 2021
 grandmother playing with kids on hardwood floor in living room
Photo: Westend61 / Getty Images

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Our hardwood floors take a beating over time. From snowy boots, to dogs clicking around, to muddy soccer cleats wreaking havoc, even the finest wood floor can start to show signs of wear and tear. 

Luckily, one of the greatest things about hardwood floors is just how resilient they can be. With regular cleaning, sanding, and finish and stain application, there’s no reason you can’t bring them back to their original luster in no time. Before you contact a hardwood refinishing company near you, here’s what you need to know.

“Hardwood floors can handle sanding and restaining very well,” says Bob Tschudi, Angi Expert Review Board member and general contractor in Raleigh, NC. “We’ve refinished 40-year-old hardwood floors by simply sanding, staining and applying three coats of polyurethane.”

1. Make Sure Your Floor Isn’t Just Dirty

Cleaning your hardwood floor is a no-brainer, but here’s something you might not know: Dirt and mud tracked inside don’t just sit on the top of the wood’s surface, they scratch their way into nicks and crevices. This can leave even the floor looking dingy, no matter how many times you clean the surface. 

To bring your hardwood back to life without calling in the professionals or breaking out the sander, start by deep cleaning your wood. Sweep it thoroughly with a soft bristle broom (harder bristles can add even more scratches!) and then mop with a microfiber cloth and a non-foaming cleanser. 

If it foams, keep it away from wood flooring! It’s important to avoid abrasive cleaners that might just add to the scratch-fest that’s already making your hardwood look so tired.

2. Sanding Isn’t Always Necessary

Most hardwood floor boards are thick enough to be thoroughly sanded between six and eight times during its life. But remember: Just because you can sand your floor, that doesn’t mean you should—or even that you have to. 

Several different companies, including Rust-Oleum, make products designed to give hardwood floors new life, all without sanding. These kits and products work by filling in the nicks and scratches on your floor, so it’s definitely worth making sure the hardwood is entirely cleaned to the best of your ability before you apply something like this. 

Rust-Oleum’s Wood and Laminate Renewal Kit can be purchased for $80.

3. Pay Attention to the Time of Year

One of the most common hardwood floor problems is gaps in the flooring, which is caused by cracked boards that haven’t been well-maintained. This can be solved by filling in those gaps using a trowel and your choice of material.

The key is knowing how wood reacts to changing temperatures. When filling in the gaps, make sure the weather is warm and the wood is already at its most expanded. If you fill the gaps in winter, the packing material will be pushed back out as they expand in the spring and summer.

4. What You Need in a Finish or Stain

If you’ve made the decision that sanding is required, you’ll need to apply a finish or a stain afterward. But it’s important to remember that finishes bring other factors to the floor (love a pun, sorry) aside from how they look. 

Dark stains, while very popular in modern designs, don’t actually hide dirt all that well, something to think about if you have pets or children. And while a glossy finish might look good, satin finishes also have their perks—and, because they’re less slick, they are much less likely to cause someone to slip.

5. When to Bring in the Professionals

Refinishing your hardwood floors yourself is a major project, particularly if you are dealing with older floors. To save yourself some time and elbow grease, consider calling a pro. They’ll know everything about sanding, patching, staining/finishing, and applying a topcoat, so you can rest easy.

6. How Much You’re Going to Spend

If you’re going to tackle refinishing your hardwood floors by yourself, expect it to take at least one weekend per room. The DIYer should also expect to spend between $1.50 and $5.00 per square foot of hardwood flooring. If you decide to leave the job in the hands of the professionals, expect to spend between $1,070 to $2,490.

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