Hardwood Floor Refinishing: Complete Guide

Hardwood floors were at one point the most popular type of floor in the United States. They were first used in a finished way in the 1600s and continued to grow in popularity until the 1980s when cheaper options became available.

floor refinishing

Today, they are a luxury and anyone with them should be proud. If the hardwood floors you have are old, scuffed, and unattractive, perhaps all they need is to be refinished. This guide will help you make the final decision. 

How To Refinish Hardwood Floors

How To Refinish Hardwood Floors
Via Tamalpais Hardwood Floors

Finishing old hardwood floors will take some know-how. But once you do know how to do so, it isn’t all that difficult. You must be patient and take things slowly when need be. If you can do that, you can have your dream floors. 

What You’ll Need

  • Broom
  • Mop
  • Hardwood floor cleaner
  • Mask
  • Buffer
  • Sandpaper
  • Vacuum
  • Microfiber sweeper
  • Hardwood floor finish


The first thing you do is remove everything from the room. Then, start cleaning. Sweep the floor well before you mop. Then mop. You can buy hardwood floor cleaner or make your own with 1 part vinegar for every 10 parts water.

Just make sure that your floor is dry afterward. It’s very important to apply finishes on a dry floor. Letting it be wet will make marks as the finish won’t apply to the wet areas and will make blots on the floor. 


Putting a mask on will be beneficial. So, it’s a good idea to make sure everyone in the room is wearing one. You will want to rent a buffer to make this process a lot easier. Then, use about 150 to 200-grit sandpaper and sand anywhere that a buffer can’t reach.

Then, start buffing with the buffer. It should come with instructions, but if it doesn’t, you can ask the company that you rented it from. You should be left with a powder all over the floor and the old finish should come right off.


You may want to vacuum up the powder as you go. This will make it easier to see and be less powder for you to breathe in the air. If you have a helper, it’s a good thing for them to do. After you’re all done buffing the floor, let it settle for ten minutes, then go over the entire floor one more time with the vacuum.

Finally, with a soft microfiber sweeper, sweep the floor. Don’t use a bristle broom or you’ll miss dust and spread it around. Use a Swiffer or another soft pad sweeper or duster. Dusting works just fine.

Applying Finish

If you have a respirator, then use it. If not, then a mask may do if you take a lot of breaks to get fresh air. Again, cover the hard-to-reach parts, this time with a small hand brush. Then, for the rest of the room, pour strips of finish on the floor and spread it out like you would with a mop.

Apply it like paint, working with the grain of the wood. If you do a second coat, wait 3 hours, or however long it says on the bucket. It’s best to wait about a week before adding furniture or walking into the room.

How Much Does It Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors?

Hardwood Floor Refinishing
Via Bent Nails, Inc. Contractor

The cost to refinish hardwood floors primarily depends on whether you do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you. You can expect to pay $1,751 on average since the range is generally between $1,074 and $2,482. 

This is if you pay between $3 to $8 per square foot, which is the cost on average to refinish hardwood floors. It can cost more or less, but will generally be in this range. Here’s a breakdown of what you’re paying for:

  • Sanding: $0.50 to $3.00 per square foot
  • Staining: $1 to $3 per square foot
  • Coating: $1 to $2 per square foot

Other costs include labor, tools, and any specialty items you need to buy for different types of floors. 

Hardwood Floor Refinishing Projects

Here are a few projects where people refinished old hardwood floors and were left with amazing results! Take a look at them for inspiration for your project! 

Roxanne’s White Hardwood Floors

This project is quite inspiring. Roxanne of The Honeycomb Home refinished her hardwood floors. They start off looking quite rough. Most people would give up before they even start refinishing them without a professional. 

Hardwood Floor Refinishing Projects

As you can see, the medium-colored floors were old, rundown, and not really attractive at all. But after some DIY, she had them looking marvelous! Instead of using a wood stain, she tried a different route.

Hardwood Floor Refinishing

She whitewashed them with paint after a good condition and a polyurethane coat to seal the floors afterward. This just goes to show you that you don’t have to go darker to cover hardwood floors with a new finish.

Karen’s Modern Hardwood Floor Refinish

Karen of The Art Of Doing Stuff showed us how to finish pine hardwood to make it look spectacular. You see, the struggle with pine is that it’s hard to finish it without it looking orange. But Karen found a way.

Hardwood Floor Refinishing

What she did was start off the floors like normal, only used less fine-grit sandpaper to give the floors a more natural look. She also used a matte finish and a water-based formula. She swears by BonaVida and used only their products. 

Hardwood Floor Refinishing

The final look is stunning, natural, and is a gorgeous hue that you can hardly find anywhere else. The look can be used in farmhouses, shabby chic houses, and any type of rustic house. In fact, you can make it work for any house. 

Robert And Lauren’s Hardwood Floor Under Carpet

If you’re lucky enough to have hardwood floors under old carpet, then remove the carpet! That’s what Robert and Lauren of Blesser House did. They pulled up that carpet and were left with what looked like a moldy mess. 

Hardwood Floor Refinishing

It wasn’t molded though. It was marks left by the carpet. They suggest using a hammer and pry bar to remove any baseboard covering the carpet. Then, pull up the carpet and use a utility knife to help out with any stubborn sections.

Hardwood Floor Refinishing

They then remove staples and continue on as if the carpet was never there. Make sure to wear a safety mask in case there is mold or something even more sinister under the carpet. As you can see, their floors look amazing. 

Sarah’s Light To Dark Hardwood Floors

Sarah of Room For Tuesday made the bold decision to take her light hardwood floors and go really dark with them. When Sarah decided to do so, she was given a quote of $4000. With that, she decided to do it herself.

Hardwood Floor Refinishing

She ended up spending $600 so she saved thousands of dollars. This is something to consider if you think your quote is outrageous. You’ll always save money doing it yourself, especially if you do it right. 

Hardwood Floor Refinishing

She opted for a smooth look with over 200-grit sandpaper. The result is fantastic. The dark floors are just about as dark as you can go and it looks amazing with the white fireplace to contrast them.

The Whole Process Of Refinishing

The people of Life On Shady Lane showed us step-by-step how to refinish hardwood floors by allowing us to follow along. They took us through each step and even created two posts to make sure we didn’t miss anything.

Hardwood Floor Refinishing

What’s so special about this project is that they show why each step is important. Why sanding old finished off is important, what the difference in non sealed and sealed floors is, and more. It’s definitely worth a read.

Hardwood Floor Refinishing

Just look at these results! It may look easy but if you follow along each step you can see that it takes hard work and dedication. Taking shortcuts doesn’t work out, you need to earn your hardwood floors. But it will be worth it! 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

Is Replacing Hardwood Floors A Better Option?

Unless the wood is rotting, then no. Replacing hardwood floors is extremely expensive. Refinishing them can be expensive if you hire a professional, but it’s even more expensive to redo them completely. Stick to the original if you can. 

Is My Floor Too Scuffed And Scratched? 

Probably not. if you get a good sander, you can get through most scratches unless they are cuts that go really deep. In that case, you may want to leave them as they can add character and are hardly noticeable when finished. 

How Do I Clean Hardwood Floors?

Here’s a wonderful guide on cleaning hardwood floors safely. You should clean them well at least once a week unless you want to be refinishing them again in the not-so-distant future. You worked so hard to get here, so take care of them!