Hardwood floors are one of the best options when it comes to flooring. Durable, beautiful, and relatively inexpensive when compared to other options – there’s a lot to love about it. Even better, homeowners can refinish hardwood floors by themselves with a bit of knowledge and the right tools.

And that’s the topic for today: how to become your own expert in hardwood floor refinishing. We’ll be covering everything you need, starting from the tools and then going through every step of the process.

“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have. – Vince Lombardi 


These are the basic tools you’ll need to get the job done. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to own some of the more expensive ones (such as the drum sander), since you can simply rent it from a local store or borrow it from a neighbor. Wood floor restoration takes a lot of time and tools, but the results are worth it!

And remember, if all of this seems like too much for you to perform by yourself, you can always refer to a hardwood flooring professional in your area and request a free quote!

  • Drum sander
  • Edger sander
  • Pry bar
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Painter’s tape
  • Wood filler
  • Vacuum
  • Foam roller
  • Rags
  • Eye wear and respirator

Step 1: Prepare the room

Before you start, you need to make sure the area is prepped, which by itself is a huge and very important step.

You will need to remove all the furniture and rugs from the premises, including curtains and other window treatments. With the pry bar, remove the base molding to ensure we can reach the entire floor.

If you have any ducts and vents in the room, you can use the painter’s tape or plastic sheeting to cover them – this will prevent dust from the wood from entering your ventilation system during refinishing.

Step 2: Patch and repair

Medium scratches are easy to deal with. Source: The Spruce
Medium scratches are easy to deal with. Source: The Spruce

There’s no point staining and sealing before making some basic repairs, because staining alone can’t hide or fix scratches and it’s much easier to perform these repairs sooner rather than later.

For repairing minor scratches, cracks and holes, a simple wood filler can be applied following manufacturer’s instructions. If your floor has more dramatic scratches on a wider area, you can use a different wood filler made for covering bigger areas or replace the boards individually – though that will add up in time and labour, so do plan accordingly.

Once the wood filler is applied, let it dry fully and then use a damp rag to wipe the excess dust before moving on (at this point you might want to start using eye wear and a mask to avoid inhaling that dust).

Step 3: Sand the floor

Major scratches might require more time and labour to fix. Source: The Family Handyman
Major scratches might require more time and labour to fix. Source: The Family Handyman

Once you’ve prepped the area and finished all the repairs, you’re ready to start sanding. The process of sanding hardwood floors makes them perfectly smooth and ready to receive the treatment we’ll see on the following steps. 

First and foremost, if you’ve never used a drum sander before, you might want to practice on a different piece of wood to get the hang of it. Be sure to check out some video tutorials as well, the visual reference really helps if you’re inexperienced. It might be difficult to handle a drum sander at first, but sanding your entire floor by hand would be considerably more difficult.

You’ll start by sanding with 40-grit sandpaper. Move the drum slowly and steadily across the entire floor following the direction of the wood and overlapping rows by one board. For the edges however you will need the edge sanger, using the same 40-grit sandpaper.

Repeat the entire process but then using 60, 80, and finally 120-grit sandpaper. The idea is that the first round of sanding will take care of most minor scratches, as 40-grit sandpaper is quite rough. Then, every subsequent pass will make it smoother without chipping the wood more than necessary.

Don’t forget to wear protective gear during the entire process.

Step 4: Prep for stain and sealer

The most important thing to do before moving to the sealing and staining steps is to make sure everything is perfectly clean. Wipe and vacuum the room thoroughly to ensure there’s as little dust as possible, and that includes wiping the walls too. We don’t want dust, debris and hairs falling and sticking on your sealer and stainer later!

Step 5: Stain the floor

The stain process isn’t obligatory, but it’s useful if you want to change the tone of the wood while preserving its natural look.

To apply, use a staining sponge and start working from the far corner towards the door – this way you won’t ever step on the liquid and can easily leave the room by the end to let it dry. Follow the direction of the grain and work in sections of about 3-foot at a time, making sure you never let the stain pool by wiping the excess constantly.

The trickiest aspect of staining is making sure the in between sections match well. Use the sponge to ensure these sections blend together nicely. During this entire process, wear a protective mask to avoid inhaling the chemicals from the stain.

It will take at least 24 hours for the stain to dry.

Step 6: Seal the floor 

The most common type of sealant is water or oil-based polyurethane. Polyurethane isn’t absorbed by the wood and creates a protective layer, which is what we’re looking for.

To apply, it’s better to use a sponge roller for most of the floor and a paint brush for the edges, following the same rule as for the stainer – start from the far corner and work your way to the door.

To ensure the best results, you’ll have to apply multiple coats, allowing the sealer to dry between each coat – you can check the recommended number of coats and time to dry by referring to the manufacturer’s instructions. Usually we’re talking about at least 24 hours for the sealer to dry, but do wait 48 hours or more before moving the furniture and rugs back in.

Need help in refinishing your hardwood floors? Get free quotes from hardwood floor companies in your area today!


The Pros and Cons of the Most Popular Roof Types
10 Ways To Make More Room Without Changing Your Floor Plans
How To Make Sure Your Countertops Always Look Brand New

Join the conversation