Refinishing Wood Flooring - Make Ready Residential
Refinishing Wood Floors

Refinishing Wood Floors to Breathe New Life Into Your Home

Posted on June 25, 2022 by Hunt Holdridge

Many centuries-old colonial homes in the Northeast United States and other areas have the original hardwood flooring that was installed when they were first built. That speaks to the durability of the wood floors, which can last decades, according to the National Wood Flooring Association. The material also provides a classic, timeless and stylish look to any home.

However, wear and tear in high-traffic areas, exposure to sunshine, your pets’ toenails and a myriad of other factors—in short, life—start to make the wood floors dull. The sheen is gone, the stain is uneven around the home, scratches are visible. Maybe you’ve even noticed that water droplets soak into the wood immediately, instead of beading. 

If this sounds familiar, you should consider refinishing your floors to protect them and give your home a rejuvenated look. 

Don’t skimp, hire a professional

While there are countless YouTube videos and other tutorials that suggest refinishing wood floors is something anyone can do, this type of project is something you really should leave to professionals.

The job can be lengthy, and the results will be noticeable if not done right. Additionally, if you don’t have the proper protective equipment—goggles and respirators, for example— it can be dangerous to your health. The price might be higher, but a good contractor will make sure the job is done right.

Once you’ve determined you need your floors refinished, get estimates from a few contractors. Ask them questions—price, naturally; the scope of the work; estimated time to completion; what you, the occupant, need to do before the work starts; get references. Do a walkthrough with them and point out defects that you want to ensure the contractor will address. 

To stain or not to stain

Once you have settled on a professional to do the work, you’ll need to decide whether you want to stain your floors. When the wood is sanded to its raw state, it is the perfect opportunity to stain.

There are dozens of colors available, from natural to red to black or nearly black. The possibilities are almost endless. That is an entirely personal decision that depends on the look you want to achieve. Maybe you want an entirely different color for an updated look? A lighter color could make your home look brighter and larger.

You should also consider the sheen level you want for your refinished floors. A matte floor will look more natural and is not as shiny. This sometimes depends on the color you choose if you have your floors stained. 

Get the project started

First, you might consider having somewhere to stay during the project. The work can be loud during the sanding, and you definitely should not be in the home for at least a day after the floors are stained due to the fumes.

You will need to move all the furniture, so the workers can have access to the entire floor without obstructions. This also means removing curtains and other textiles that could get wood dust stuck on them and absorb fumes. You should also cover fabric furniture in other rooms just in case some of the dust escapes the rooms where the floor is sanded.

A good contractor will make suggestions about things to do and may even do some of that as part of the project.

The contractor will make any necessary repairs and remove the base moldings before they start. If you’re only having one or two rooms redone, they will seal the doors to those rooms to prevent the dust from escaping into the rest of the home and minimize the fumes from the sealer.

Sand, vacuum, dust, repeat

Once all the prep work is done, the job is fairly straightforward. The workers will first sand the floor using coarse sandpaper, vacuum and dust. This initial step with 40-grit sandpaper will get rid of the larger imperfections in the floor. 

They will repeat this process with increasingly finer sandpaper, using 60- then 80- and, finally, 120-grit, which will give it a fine, smooth look. The next stage is buffing to remove any fine scratches from the sanding.   

At this point, the workers will clean and wipe down all the surfaces that might have dust stuck on them and which could fall on the floor before staining and sealing. The floors have to be completely clean and free of any dirt to ensure the best possible outcome.

Stain and seal

When the floor is ready, the contractor will begin the final phase. As stated above, staining the floor is optional. There are no right answers because it’s all about your preferences and the look you want to achieve.

Keep in mind that darker colors will reveal dirt, dust and, if you have pets, fur more easily. However, it can be perceived as warmer and perhaps more elegant by some. Light stains make the room look larger and feel airy. It also hides dust and fur more easily.

After staining, the final stage is sealing.

The preferred sealer is oil- or water-based polyurethane. The sealer will protect your floor from water, scratches and other damage. This is where your choice of matte or shiny will come in. 

The contractor will apply several coats of sealer to protect the floors. The sealer needs at least 24 hours between each application to make sure it is completely dry.

After the job

Generally, you can walk on the floors after 24 hours, but you should not put any furniture or rugs on the newly refinished floors for at least 72 hours after the job is done.

The fumes will be pretty strong immediately after, so you should open windows, if possible, to help ventilate the home and dissipate the odors. If available, try putting some fans on the windows to assist with this process as well. You might also consider turning up the heat to speed up the curing process.

While the contractor should have covered the vents, it’s a good idea to change the air filter in your HVAC system, which may have extra dust from the project. 

Your hardwood floors will last a lifetime and probably much longer, and they can be refinished multiple times, depending on usage.

A few tips

Once the work is done, hardwood floors are easy to maintain:

  • Sweep, dry-mop and vacuum regularly 
  • Wipe any spills as soon as possible 
  • Use felt pads under furniture legs to avoid scratching the floors
  • Polish the floors occasionally to keep your floors looking like new
  • Don’t use water and soap or vinegar because these substances eventually dull the floors

Enjoy your “new” floors!

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