Hardwood Refinishing: How to Do it Yourself - Tamalpais Hardwood Floors

hardwood refinishing

Your new hardwood floor needs to be finished to protect against scratches, scuffs, and other surface blemishes. Also, the finish can provide extra shine and color to the surface. But, over time finish will wear off, so you will need hardwood refinishing. Hardwood refinishing involves sanding the surface of the floor to remove any excess finish. Sanding also helps smooth out any surface imperfections. Then, with a new finish, your hardwood floor will look as good as new.

Hardwood refinishing: DIY or hire a professional

A professional will charge $3 to $5 per square foot to refinish a hardwood floor depending on the size of the job and the nature of the space and the material. The process will generally require about one week with cleanup. Tamalpais Hardwood Floors not only offer the area’s wide selection of hardwood, but we also offer hardwood refinishing services. Whether you need hardwood refinishing of or other flooring services, contact us to find out how we can deliver a beautiful flooring solution. 

To restore your hardwood floor’s original beauty and richness, refinishing is the best option. When it comes to hardwood refinishing, you can enjoy the satisfaction of doing it yourself rather than hiring a professional. Hardwood refinishing is hard work and a time-consuming process. If you perform the work yourself, then you will have to rent a walk-behind, solid-wood sanding machine as well as hand sanding tools. Mistakes can also be made, which can irreparably damage the wood flooring surface, requiring costly repairs or a complete reinstallation. The good news is that the steps are simple and you should be able to rent the necessary equipment.

The following equipment will be needed:

1. Brushes, foam or lamb’s wool applicator
2. Buffer
3. Drum sander
4. Ear protection, dust masks, safety goggles
5. Edger
6. Floor wax or polyurethane finish
7. Putty knife and scraper
8. Rags
9. Sandpaper in coarse, medium and fine grits
10. Shop vacuum
11. Wide brooms
12. Wood stain



Start by removing everything from the room. Sweep the floor clean and check it thoroughly for any carpet staples or exposed nails. Remove carpet staples with pliers and sink nails with a nail set. Walk across the entire floor to check for squeaks, cracks or any other repairs that need to be undertaken before sanding.Sanding hardwood floors is a noisy and dusty job. So ensure you take adequate precautions by wearing ear protection, safety goggles, and a dust mask. To prevent dust from leaving the room, place rags or towels under doors and over vents, and hang plastic or damp sheets over doorways.

When sanding, remove as little of the surface as is absolutely necessary and sand in the direction of the grain. Never let the drum touch the floor when it is not moving. Practice this first with the machine switched off.

Ensure the area is well ventilated when finishing, though airflow should be reduced while sanding, as dust may be blown about. Plan your project considering that immediately after sanding is completed, finishing should commence.


Refinishing Your Hardwood Floor

1. The first pass of sanding

Load the drum sander with coarse grit sandpaper to remove the finish. Place the machine along the right-hand wall with about 2/3 of the length of the floor in front of you. With the drum raised off the floor, start the motor. Then walk slowly forward at an even pace while easing the drum to the floor. Follow the same process in reverse, gradually raising the drum off the floor, as you near the wall at the end of the pass.

2. Continuing Sanding

Cover the same path you made on the forward cut by pulling the machine backward and easing the drum to the floor as you begin the backward pass. When you reach your original starting point, raise the drum from the floor, move the machine about 3-4 inches left, and repeat the forward and backward passes. Continuing moving to the left after completing each set of passes. When 2/3 of the room has been sanded, turn the machine in the opposite direction and sand the remaining 1/3 in the same manner. To make sure the two areas are blended together, these sanding passes should overlap the first passes by 2-3 feet.

After completing the first cut with the drum sander, use the edger to sand along areas the drum sander could not reach, such as in baseboards, up to corners, in closets, and so on. Next, use medium grit sandpaper and repeat the drum sanding. Finally, fill any nail holes, blemishes or cracks, and do the final sanding cut with fine grit sandpaper. Be sure to use the buffer with fine grit sandpaper to improve the blending of the edged and drum sanded areas.

3. Scraping and cleaning

When drum sanding and edging is completed, hand scrape and then hand sand corners around perimeter edges, doors, and other cased openings. Finally, sweep and vacuum the floor and wipe up all of the dust.

4. Finishing the job

For a natural finish, use a penetrating seal. Using long, even strokes, going with the grain, apply your seal/stain of choice, but remember to apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the stain/penetrating sealer has dried completely, apply the finish with a brush or foam/lamb’s wool applicator, using smooth, even strokes. Apply a coat of good wax and buff to a satin sheen to protect the finish and add a final beautiful touch.

After these steps, the floor should look like smooth, untreated wood. If the floor still feels rough or lines from the sander are still visible, buff it using the sanding screen. This should remove any visible fine scratches left by the sander. After the whole floor feels smooth, clean the room again. This time use the vacuum and a damp mop to ensure no dust is left behind. Use a clean cotton rag to wipe the floor with mineral spirits to remove any trace of chemicals from the wood. Then, leave it to dry.



Getting all the dust off is more important than we can ever say. Pay particular attention to the dust in the cracks between the boards and at the very edges of the room, especially the gap under the baseboards. The finish has a way of finding little-hidden pockets of dust and pulling it up and spreading it along with your mop head. Try not to use the plastic wand on your shop vac – it can leave plastic residue marks where it scrapes on the floor. Find a vacuum wand with strong, soft bristles. Use a dry microfiber cloth or other clean, lint-free textile to remove all remaining dust from the floor.


Tamalpais Hardwood Floors has a large selection of hardwood floors and provides free estimates and installation services in the Bay Area. Contact us to get more information.