How to Refinish a Wood Floor

Make a scuffed, dull surface look brand-new again—without hiring a professional.

how to refinish wood floors

Naturally beautiful, comparatively soft and warm underfoot, wood floors are also durable and renewable. And when they become faded, scratched or stained, sanding and refinishing can make them as good as new. Professionals charge 90 cents to $2 per square foot to do the job. But it's not rocket science, so if you're fairly confident in your handyman skills, you could give it a whirl. Your investments include your time, good old-fashioned elbow grease and a few hundred dollars for supplies. One caveat: Because even small missteps might cause gouges or streaks in the finish, start in closets and other out-of-the-way spaces to get a feel for the project before moving front and center.


Planning is essential with a project this big. Before you begin, read the instructions and gather equipment.

• Flat bar • Hammer • Carpenter nippers • Stud finder • Nail set • Drum sander* • Edge sander* or random-orbit palm sander* (see Step 5 to help you choose) • Sharp, carbine-tipped paint scraper • Vibrating sander* (optional) *These can be rented from home-improvement retailers and other sources.

• Ring-shank finish nails • Plastic drop cloths • Blue painter's tape • Sanding belts, 60-to 80-grit • Fine sandpaper, 100-to 120-grit • Tack cloth • Wood stain, oil-or water-based (see Step 8 to help you choose) • Foam applicator pad • Cotton rag • Colored wood putty • Polyurethane, water-or oil-based (see Step 9) • Lamb's wool (to apply oil-based polyurethane) or synthetic wool (to apply water-based polyurethane) • Steel wool or sanding pad • paint (for touching up baseboard)

• Box fan (optional) • Respirator mask • HEPA-filter vacuum • Broom

Rent the right tools for great results. You're not going to want to tackle this task by making do with the tools found in a typical homeowners kit. Professional-quality is the way to go here. Home centers and tool-rental companies offer the belt and edge sanders you need—along with a beginner-friendly vibrating sander—typically for less than $100 per day combined. They also sell the required sanding belts and pads. Buy plenty of extras (make sure you confirm the return policy) so you don't run out.