Hardwood Floor Refinishing: Cost & Best Tips

We discuss hardwood floor refinishing, cost, tools needed and tips for the best job possible. We compare a DIY job cost VS a professional one.

Hardwood floors are durable and have a natural aesthetic appeal that adds value to your treasured home. The wood in its natural form is still beautiful, but, with time it can attract moisture, get stained and scratches making it lose its appeal. To keep your hardwood floors beautiful and shiny, you need to maintain them properly through appropriate cleaning, sanding and refinishing.

The process of sanding and refinishing will leave your hardwood floors rejuvenated, free from scratches and scuffs. It will buff the floor out, and as a result, your hardwood floors will acquire a fantastic shine that gives your home a cozy, inviting feel. To avoid severely damaging your wood, you need to refinish your hardwood floors once in a while. Refinishing will also save you from the inconvenience of having to install a complete floor.

When to Refinish your Hardwood Floors

Sometimes the scratches, discolorations or the few dings you see on your floors do not necessarily mean that you need to refinish your floors. Also, a smooth and uniform surface does not mean that your floor is in a perfect condition; it might need some touching up.

You need to take a closer look at your floor to see the extent of damages. If all you see are light scratches on the surface and a fade finish, you probably need to do a screening. The process of screening involves sprucing up your existing floor coat by top- coating. All you need to do is a slight sanding before you apply the new coat of polyurethane. Screening is also referred to as buffing since it’s done using a buffer. The process of screening smoothes the floors and allows polyurethane to hold on to the surface better.

However, if the damage is beyond the minor wear and it seems that your floors are warped and sagging with some water damage and deep scratches, then you need to take care of your floors by refinishing them and doing some minor repairs.

Advantages of Hardwood Floor Refinishing Instead Of Replacing

If your floor is looking dull or has scratches and marks, do not render your floor as damaged. If you take time and refinish your floors, you will have refreshed floor with an entirely new facelift. In fact, it’s recommended that you should refinish your hardwood floors once every ten years or after every five years depending on the traffic on the floor.

Here are reasons why you should refinish your hardwood floors instead of replacing them.

Cost – The cost of refinishing floors is far much less as compared to that of replacing them. If you use a professional to refinish your floor, it will cost you around $ 2,000, and a DIY refinishing project will cost about $ 600. However, the cost of replacing floors will cost you roughly $4,000 which is $2000 more than what you spend on refinishing.

Duration of the floor after installation – if you just installed your hardwood you do not have to pull it out just because of a few minor scratches. You can continue enjoying your hardwood floors by revamping them with a refinish job instead of budgeting for a new floor.

Quality of the wood – hardwood is one of the best types of floors. This kind of flooring is a significant investment to any homeowner, and you should make sure it serves you the longest time possible. Therefore, refinishing the hardwood floors is more cost-effective, and the process ensures you get to maintain your good floor for years.

Cost of Tools and Materials Needed for A DIY Hardwood Floor Refinishing Job

You can save a lot of money when you refinish your hardwood floors. If you have time and are ready to set aside three to four days for the refinishing project, then you need to prepare and arm yourself with the right tools. The process of refinishing your hardwood floors may take longer than you might anticipate but the results will be astonishing, and the savings will be worth your sweat.

Commercial sander for rent

Yyou will need a sander to prep your floors before you refinish them. Sanding your floors by hands can be time-consuming and difficult. You will need a drum sander for sanding most of the floor, and you will also need the edger for sanding along baseboards. These two will make your work easier and efficient.

You only refinish once in ten years, so you do not need to buy a sander. Rental prices vary with stores, but the average cost of renting a sander ranges from $25 to $65 per day. Refinishing your hardwood floors can take three to four days which will total the cost to an average of $220.

Here are some rental essential rental tips for you:

1. Avoid renting commercial sanders from general stores; instead look for flooring specialty shop and rent from them. They will you give some knowledgeable information about the process without extra cost, and the rental prices are likely to be low.

2. Before you rent the sanders, carry out the prep work and purchase all the materials needed. This way you pick the sanders when you are ready to start the refinishing job and reduce the days that it will be in your possession. By doing this, you will have cut down the cost of rental days.

3. Avoid getting drums that need you to wrap a long strip around the drum which is a tedious process and can often lead to some chatter marks on your floor. Instead, look for a drum sander which uses a continuous sleeve or belt.

4. Even though the flat-pad sanders are easier to use, they are not forceful enough to remove the finishes and scratches on hardwoods.

5. It is easier to work with a sander that has a lever that will raise and lower your sanding drum. It makes the starting and stopping process smooth which reduces gouging.

Other Materials

You will need a list of various materials to get the refinishing job done. There are some materials you might be having at home, but for the majority of them, you will need to purchase them from your local home improvement store. These are materials that are specialized for the refinishing job.

Cost To Refinish Hardwood Floors Yourself

Materials /toolsCost
Belt sander-used for areas hard to reach$60-$100
Edger - rental $37 per day
Nail set$10
Hand scrapper$35
Extension pole, Paint roller, roller covers for varnish application$50
Water-based polyurethane clear vanish$165-$360 for four gallons ( will cover an area measuring $800 square feet)
Painter’s Rags ( used for dust cleanup) $13 ( five pounds)
Respirator for filter out any harmful fumes$30
Safety goggles$8
Mop $12
Stain$27 -$$40 per gallon
Shop vacuum $70-$170
Knee pads $10 per pair
Trash bags$25 ( a box of 50 bags)


To get the amount of material you will need for each room, you need to determine the surface area you will be refinishing. Measure the length and width of the flooring surface you want to refinish. For example, if the flooring surface is 8-feet wide and 10- feet long, your square footage will be 10 feet.

The number you get will help you determine the amount of finish or stain to get. You can add all the other costs and divide by the number of square feet to know how much the refinishing project will cost per square foot. For example, if your total cost is $120 and the surface area you are covering is 80 square feet, you will be spending $1.5 per square feet.

Prepping the rooms

After purchasing and gathering all the materials needed for the refinishing job you will need to do some tasks to prep the rooms for the refinishing job.
Remove all the furniture, decorative items, fixtures, rugs, etc. and cover the all the doorways with plastic materials. Remember sanding involves a lot of dust, and anything you leave inside your room will be exposed to all the dust and debris occurring due to sanding.

  • Ventilate the room by opening the windows to create an outlet for the dust and any residue that will be in the air during the process
  • You will need to plug or cover air grilles to be able to keep dust out of ducts. You should turn off the HVAC systems from the thermostat to minimize air movement which will return reduce the amount dust traveling in your house
  • Remove any art on the wall and the window covering to avoid the process of cleaning them later
  • To be able to sand under the doors, you will need to remove doors that open the rooms
  • To avoid pumping your head into the low hanging light fixtures, raise them a bit using a chain
  • If there are any loose boards, you can nail them down using finish nails
  • You will need to countersink all nails by 1/8 in to avoid the nail heads ripping the sanding belt or gouging the sanding drum during the sanding process
  • You can drag a shovel across your floors to detect nails. If it hits a nail, you will be able to hear the sound
  • Before starting the refinishing process, sweep the floor thoroughly and mop it clean

Sanding the floor

After clearing the room and making sure all the nails have been taken care of, you can start sanding. Use the belt sander with high grit (use 60 grit) sandpaper and start sanding your hardwood floor. Make sure you sand slowly and evenly with the grain. Keep moving the sander in straight and even strokes.

To make your work a bit easier, you can start around the middle of the room as you work across towards one half of the floor. Keep overlapping each of the passes by several inches and always keep the sander in motion when it’s on. Once done with one half of the room, move to the next half.

Important safety note: the sanding process produces a lot of dust, therefore make sure you wear a dust mask or a respirator to avoid breathing in dust, and safety glasses to protect your eyes from the dust.

Once you get closer to the walls, you can use the edge sander to avoid bumping into your walls and spoiling your baseboards. Continue sanding with edger with the same grit you were using with the belt sander to finish up the remaining part of the floor near the walls.

Use the shop vacuum to clean up the dust after sanding with the high grit sheet. You can now proceed to sand with a medium grit sheet and repeat the sanding process all across the room. Do not forget to use the edger again, this time with the medium grit sheet to sand the areas near the walls as well.

You will then change to a low grit sheet and make sure you repeat the same process with both sanders. Following the procedure with high, medium and low grit sheet will ensure you get smooth results. Use the shop vacuum to clean up all the dust, and you can finish the cleaning process with a tack cloth.

Apply Finish

Before you apply the finish, you will need a process called water popping. In this step, you wet the wood to be able to raise the grain and open the porous surface. This process allows the wood to be able to absorb the finish better. It will also make your hardwood floor have a deep, even and saturated finish. To do water popping, you will soak scrap rags, rinse them out and then proceed to wipe the floor evenly.

It’s now time to apply the finish. The polyurethane container has instructions on how to prepare and apply the finish on your hardwood floor. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully. You will need to apply the finish to your now bare floor using an extension pole or a roller applicator.

It’s essential to note that the tone of the finish will depend on the brand sometimes. Therefore, it’s crucial to do a small patch test in the corner of your room to see if the finish will acquire the look you want.

To avoid trapping yourself in a corner, paint from the farthest corner of your room moving towards the door. Apply the finish smoothly and make sure it is even with the grain. Make sure you have a small angular bristle brush to enable you to get to the spots that the roller cannot reach.

After you are done with the first coat, you will need to give it time to dry completely. Each type of finish and brand has different dry times that is usually indicated on the product label. However, most types take around three to eight hours. For best results follow the time indicated on the product’s instructions.

After the waiting time is up, the first coat should be dry. You can lightly sand the floor with a fine grit sandpaper to roughen the floor a bit. This will allow the next coat to stick on properly. Do not forget to clean up the dust from the sanding process using the shop vacuum.

Follow the same exact steps you used for the first coat to apply the second coat. There are some instances where you will need more than two coats, just make sure you follow the same procedure of application with all the coats.

You will need to give your hardwood floors around 24 hours to dry completely. However, you will have to wait for several days before moving the furniture and rugs back into the rooms. The wait is essential for it ensures your floors are dried. You will not have to worry about marks that could be left on the newly refinished floor by furniture legs or shoes when someone steps on the floor.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Refinishing Your Floors

Some of the common mistakes people often make when refinishing their floors can be avoided. Most people will be in a hurry to finish off the refinishing process, and they will end up skipping vital steps and fail to take time to use the appropriate materials required for each process.

Here are some of the refinishing mistakes you should avoid:

Not wearing the protective gear – You need to protect your skin, eyes, and ears when sanding and applying a finish. You need to wear protective gloves when you are handling refinishing products and paint strippers. Also, wear goggles and a respirator to protect your eyes and avoid inhaling harmful fumes. When working, make sure there are no open flames anywhere near your working area. Ventilate the room by opening the windows to allow the dust and any fumes in the air to get out instead of piling up in the room.

Not following instructions – some fail to follow the instructions given in the finish or paint products. The manufacturer always gives instructions on how the product is to be mixed and used. If you fail to heed the instructions the results might not come out as desired and chemical make up in the product might be harmful to you if it’s mishandled.

Not cleaning your working surface as required – some people skip the cleaning process which could save you hours of work. Sometimes you may clean and realize that the floor did not even need to refinished which might save you a lot of time and a good amount of money.

Failure to strip entirely – you need to make sure all the old finish or paint is stripped off completely. If you leave spots of the old finish or paint, you will have uneven surface once you start applying the new finish.

Not doing repairs – If the hardwood floor has any problems that need repairs, you need to make sure they are done before you start sanding. For an even finishing, the surface should be smooth, free of cracks and scratches, and it should not have structural issues.

Failure to sand properly – to achieve a smooth finish, you need to make sure your floor is adequately sanded for to accept the new finish. Make sure you use the right grit sheet for every step.

Applying a thick coat than necessary – do not be tempted to apply too much of the finish as this will end up creating a rough surface. Instead, apply just enough of the product and follow the waiting time indicated on the product till you finish with the final coat.


As time goes by, the once beautiful and shiny hardwood floor will lose its luster and acquire a dull appearance with scratches and dents. If that happens, the solution is not to haul the wood away, instead, refinishing the floor will revive its natural appeal and get rid of the unsightly marks and scratches.
You can refinish your hardwood floor through DIY and save a lot of money in the process. Make sure your you read the above guide to know the materials you will need for the job and the procedure to follow to be able to refinish your floors successfully.

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