Refresh Your Hardwood Floors

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  • 3-6 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-500
What You'll Need
Drum sander
Putty knife
Paint roller

My sister recently bought a new house. It is a modest two-story building in the suburbs, with an open floor plan and large kitchen, yet what my mother first noticed about it was the floors. They are natural hardwood floors, the original from when the place was first built in the 1950s and still in rather fair condition for being such an old home. Though not in need of a major overhaul, the floor’s appearance looks dull; they're simply in need of a bit of refreshing to bring back their old charm and beauty.

If you have natural wood floors in your home, you understand this need. Due to time, wear, or a long winter season, sometimes hardwood floors need to be brought back to life. This article will offer a basic DIY guide to do just that, and add another simple, DIY task to your yearly spring-cleaning routine.

Step 1 - Clean and Prepare

A swiffer cleaning a wood floor.

Before taking on a hardwood floor refinishing project, I always recommend a homeowner clean the area to be worked on first. This consists of clearing physical items off the floor and sweeping with a broom, ensuring excess dirt and dust built up over time won’t interfere with your work.

This phase of the undertaking is a wonderful time to prepare the floor for refinishing. Carefully inspect each board, looking for protruding nails and materials that will slow down the task. If any panels are loose, drive them back into place using a hammer.

Though it may not be all that important for this project as we will be stripping the wood, an added tip here is a great way of wet-cleaning this type of flooring without inflicting damage upon it. As anyone who owns natural hardwoods knows, an excess of water or store-bought cleaning agents can actually cause the wood to warp, something that is expensive to fix. So to wash the floor, simply dip a mildly wet microfiber pad into a 50/50 white vinegar and water mix. Wipe needed areas and allow to dry.

Step 2 - Sand the Floor

A DIYer sanding a wood floor.

Depending on skill level and dedication to the project, there are two ways of sanding a floor for refinishing. One is using a drum sander to remove old layers of stain and coating baring the natural grain of the wood below. The second way is to sand down the floor by hand using traditional pieces of sandpaper and elbow grease. While a drum sander can be rented, it is best for stripping large areas of flooring and when used with the grain of wood, creates an even and professional-looking job. Simple sandpaper, on the other hand, is best when refreshing only spots and smaller areas of floors, or for corners and places not reached by a large drum sander.

Step 3 - Filler

A DIYer filling a hole in a wood floor with putty.

Depending on the age and current condition of your floors, the use of a filler may be necessary. Sold in most home improvement stores, hardwood floor filler consists of a putty-like texture and actually works to fill the holes and gaps left by time that decrease the beauty and usability of floor space. Though some feel its presence leaves a fake and plastic looking result, to those looking to refinish a floor it can help offer new life to a lackluster appearance.

To use, first re-sweep, ensuring that excess debris from sanding isn’t lodged in the gaps to be filled. Then with a putty knife or even a finger, fill the product in the wood gap and allow it to dry. Then re-sand before going on to the final step.

Step 4 - Re-stain

A hand rubbing a cloth on a wood floor.

The final step in refreshing a wooden floor is to reapply the stain previously taken off. To do this, we must use a trick entitled “water popping,” in which one liberally applies a layer of water using a wet mop or sponge to the newly sanded wood. Although it seems silly and against what we have been taught as proper care of this type of flooring, experts claim this process allows the grain of the wood to be more pronounced as well as to prepare the wood to better accept the coming stain. Allow the water to fully dry.

Finally, using a paint roller, gently apply stain to the floor. Begin at one end of the room and work toward the one across from it, aiming for smooth strokes and an even coating. After drying completely, apply a coat of wood finish using the same procedure, locking in your work until you wish to refresh it again.