How to Refinish Hardwood Floors Without Sanding

Bring your tired wood floors back to life

Elisa Greenberg
Written by Elisa Greenberg
Updated May 7, 2022
Father and daughter playing on the floor
Photo: MoMo Productions / Stone / Getty Images


Perfect for handy homeowners.

Time to complete

48 hours



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What you'll need:


  • Floor buffer
  • Hardwood floor cleaner
  • Polyurethane floor finish (water-based or oil-based)
  • 120-grit sanding screen
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • Hammer
  • Microfiber flat mop
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint roller with an extension
  • Putty knife
  • Roller tray
  • Shop vacuum


  • Bucket
  • Painter’s tape
  • Dust mask
  • Cleaning wipes or rags
  • Synthetic steel wool pads
  • Shoe booties
  • Nose and mouth respirator
  • Plastic watering can
  • Mineral spirits

Hardwood floors make a home feel warm, cozy, and stylish. But over time, they can become scuffed, scratched, and lose their shine. 

Options like sanding hardwood floors or replacing your hardwood floors can be costly. Luckily, you can make your old wood floors look brand new again by refinishing them without sanding. Known as screening and recoating, you can make your floors look pristine in a matter of hours. If you’d rather leave the task to the pros, hire a hardwood floor finishing service near you.

Prepping to Refinish Hardwood Floors Without Sanding

Cat sitting on a wooden floor
Photo: Catherine Falls Commercial / Moment / Getty Images

Before starting this project, you’ll need to decide which refinishing method to take, depending on the condition of your floors. Recoating your floors with a polyurethane finish will provide a long-lasting solution. For a less invasive approach, you can purchase a store-bought chemical abrasion kit—which will run around $60 or revitalize your floors with a store-bought hardwood restorer, which will average $25

You can expect to spend at least one day prepping your floors for refinishing with cleaning, buffing, roughing the floor’s edges, and thoroughly vacuuming up dust.

7 Steps to Refinishing Hardwood Flooring Without Sanding

House interior with a wooden floor
Photo: Wirestock / Adobe Stock
  1. Inspect Your Hardwood Flooring

    Before choosing the best method for refinishing your floors, you’ll want to check the condition of your hardwood. Surface-level scratches and scuffs can easily get buffed out. If scratches run deep under the top layer of wood, you may have to consider sanding or replacing your floors entirely.

    You can perform a spot test on a small taped-off area of your floor. Rub the area with a sand screen and apply a coat of polyurethane. Check your floor after 24 hours—if the hardwood has no residue, you can continue to refinish without sanding.

  2. Thoroughly Clean Hardwood Floors

    Woman mopping corner of hardwood floor
    Photo: Grace Cary / Moment / Getty Images

    Next, you’ll want to gather the necessary tools and supplies and remove all furniture and fixtures from the room. Then, close the windows, doors, and ducts and use a putty knife to scrape off any hardened dirt and debris from the floor.

    You’ll want to clean your hardwood floors thoroughly before refinishing them. Choose a store-bought wood floor cleaner or create a homemade cleaning solution by mixing 10 parts water and 1 part white vinegar. Clean your wood floors gently with a microfiber or terry-cloth mop. If you need to resolve hard stains or deep scratches, use mineral spirits for a deeper scrub.

  3. Sand the Perimeter of the Room

    A buffer typically cannot reach all of the nooks in the perimeter of your room, so you’ll want to hand-sand hard-to-reach places.

    Grab your 120-grit sandpaper and hand-buff floors with the grain four to six inches from the baseboard and continue sanding until there’s a top layer of powder. Run your hand over the wood to ensure a smooth finish.

  4. Buff the Floor

    A worker with polishing machine
    Photo: vovashevchuk / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

    Before starting the buffer, hammer down any protruding nails to avoid damage. Then, put on your dust mask and place your buffer in the middle of the room on a 120-grit sanding screen. 

    Start buffing in the middle of the floor to get a feel for the equipment. Once you figure out how to maneuver the buffer, you can move freely across the floor. Move with the direction of the grain and buff the floor from side to side. 

    Be sure to only go over each area once or twice to avoid cutting into the hardwood finish. The old finish will turn to powder, so you’ll want to stop and vacuum up the dust frequently.

  5. Vacuum and Re-Clean the Floor

    Once you’ve finished buffing the floor, leave the room sealed shut for up to 15 minutes to let the powder layer settle.

    Once settled, use a shop vacuum to clean the floors thoroughly and remove all powder—double-check the strips in the floorboards. Use a microfiber mop to remove all dust and debris from the floor. Ensure there is no remaining residue.

  6. Coat the Perimeter of the Room

    Now it’s time to don the respirator that covers your nose and mouth and the booties for your shoes. By now, you’ve chosen to use either oil-based polyurethane, which takes longer to dry between each coat, or water-based polyurethane, which is considered more durable.

    Tape your baseboards along the perimeter of the wall. Next, take your finish and strain it through a cone filter into a clean watering can without the sprinkler head. Then pour the finish into a plastic container.

    Choose a starting point that’s furthest from the door. For an oil-based finish, use a natural bristle brush and a synthetic brush for water-based finishes. Take your brush and start stroking the polyurethane along the perimeter of your room.

    Pro tip: You may want to apply a base coat to water-based polyurethane solutions to provide proper coloration and smoothness.

  7. Apply Your First Coat to the Floor

    Worker coating wooden floor
    Photo: jovkovski1969 / Adobe Stock

    Grab your long-handled roller with a ¼-inch thick nap cover. Pour your finish in line with the grain, and use your roller to work with the grain and then move across your floor. Continue to overlap your strokes and keep a wet edge.

    Pour more finish onto the hardwood and roll across the floor until the entire floor is covered. Keep in mind that water-based polyurethane dries very quickly, so you’ll have about 10 minutes to spread your finish across the floor.

    Wait for three hours for water-based and up to eight hours for an oil-based finish to dry. Add another coat. Wait a week before putting your furniture back in the room to avoid scratching and scuffing.

DIY Refinishing Hardwood Floors Without Sanding vs. Hiring a Pro

DIYers can save an average of $1 to $2.50 per square foot by buffing floors themselves and up to $300 by tackling the job of polishing hardwood floors.

However, handy homeowners need to account for the cost of renting a buffer and shop vacuum and purchasing the tools and supplies required for this project.

When you hire a hardwood flooring pro, they’ll come equipped with the necessary tools, supplies, and expertise to get the job done right and help you choose the proper polyurethane finish. A pro can also help you assess whether your floors were previously waxed or coated in chemicals, which could pose a bonding problem with the new finish.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.