Refinished Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors were #3 in our list of perfect house features, after three bedrooms and at least 1.5 bathrooms. The first floor are original oak with the cherry inlay, in great condition. However, the second floor red oak needed a little TLC. I discovered it required more than just another coat of finish.

I took some photos into a local place that rents floor refinishing equipment. We determined that the previous owner went over a few spots with the coarsest sand paper on a drum sander, then gave up and slapped a coat of finish over it. Also, over time the floors had fade spots from area rugs and ware.

I decided on renting a drum sander (seen in upper left corner in the image above ), which is rather aggressive, to strip the floors down to bare wood . If it is only your top finish that is dull or scratched, you can get away with an orbital sander, which is less aggressive. I’m glad I didn’t go with a big chain. The sales person took his time to show me how to properly use the equipment and had me try it before driving away with it.

The large sander t0ok care of the floor. However, it only gets within 4″ of the walls. So you’ll need an edger as well. It is a beast, loud and a bit awkward to control at first, but it does the job quick. We also own a palm sander. I used it for touch up and for a finer sanding on the hallway.

That was a one day rental, however, since they were closed on Sundays, I was able to pick it up after 3pm on Friday and drop it off on Monday before noon. So, really it was 2.5 day rental for the price of 1.

I started around 6pm on Friday and finished a bedroom (9×13′) at 1am. Saturday I was up early and finished sanding 2 bedrooms and the hallway by around midnight. I fine sanded the hallway Sunday morning. Sanding entails using 3 different grits of sand paper, working from course to fine, on both sanders. (Start with 60 grit on the drum, then go around with 60 grit on the edger, vacuum, then change to 100 grit on the drum, then 100 on the edger, vacuum, etc.) I ended up only going up to 100 grit on the bedrooms, but did an additional pass with the palm sander and 120 grit on the hallway, since I felt that area would be seen the most.

Long story short, it took me about 5 hours for each bedroom. That’s one person doing 3 passes of sanding.

Stripped Floors
Floors with all finish removed

We were only going to stain the master bedroom, but as a last minute decided to do the entire floor. I’m glad we did. I love the results. I started staining about 6pm on Sunday night and finished around 2am Monday morning. That was after vacuuming EVERYTHING, twice. Including the downstairs, because sanding dust goes everywhere.

Stained Floors without finish
Stained Floors without finish

If we were to not stain the floor, I would have used an oil-based finish. It adds an amber color to the wood and it is very durable. You only need 2-3 coats. However, it stinks up the place and it takes about 8 hours for a coat to dry. Since we did stain the floor and I didn’t want to alter the color, we went with a water-based finish. It dries crystal clear in 2 hours. However, the can says a minimum of 4 coats. We put on 6. With both of us working, one to use a brush on the edges, and one with a mop-type applicator for broad floor strokes, it took us an hour to apply a coat, then 2 hours to dry. When we did a light sanding, it added a half hour. We put on 2 coats, comfortably, in a day. If we started really early, we could have done 3, but we opted to do it over two weekends. In the end, it needs at least a week without furniture for the coating to ‘cure’ (harden fully).

Finished Floors
Finished Floors

We were fortunate to not have to deal with any furniture for a least a few weeks.

$120 rental of two sanders, including the sandpaper
$22 2-quarts of pre-stain
$15 2-quarts of Minwax Dark Walnut Stain
$150 3-gallons of Varathane Diamond Semi-gloss Floor finish
$12 Water-based finish applicator+refill
$5 rags
$12 3-Dust Masks/Respirators

Total: $320

Previously owned materials:
Shop Vac
3″ Paint brush
extension pole (used for roller or sanding)
knee pads!!!
ear plugs
Window Box Fan

This link was helpful:
(I didn’t remove our trim)

And this video:

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