Refinishing Hardwoods: The Process and Assessing Your Needs
If it’s time to refinish your hardwood floors, the next step is determining the extent of the project. Refinishing is not one-size-fits-all, and understanding what you need to get the most out of your home’s hardwoods ensures you don’t do — or spend — more than you must.
You May Just Need a Little Screening…
Refinishing before it’s needed can damage hardwood floors, as premature sanding can strip out the natural graining that makes it so appealing to homeowners in the first place. If your floors are plagued by light fading or scratching, you might be able to get by with screening instead of refinishing.
Screening involves roughing up your hardwoods’ finish, filling in scratches with wood filler products you can purchase from a local flooring expert or hardware store, then applying a new finish coat. The combination will help give your floors the like-new look you’re hoping to see.
…Or Maybe a Full Refinish
Refinishing, on the other hand, is a lot more involved. It requires completely clearing the room of furniture, decorations, window hangings, register covers and molding around the baseboards. After that, homeowners must ensure no nail heads or carpet staples are sticking up, as these can injure sanding machines. Next, all doors, windows, floor vents, and light fixtures must be covered in plastic and taped to lock in dust and debris.
Sanding hardwoods requires three complete sessions with varying grits — coarse 30-40 grit for the first pass, medium 50-60 grit for the second, and a fine 80-100 grit for the final round. A local flooring professional can help you understand what, exactly, you will need to complete the process. There are different sanders for different types of floors, and ensuring this step is done correctly is very important to the project’s results. You’ll also use a power hand sander on the edges of the floor, and a detail sander to handle corners. Each pass will need to be followed by vacuuming with a brush attachment and filling gouges with matching wood filler.
After sanding, vacuum the room thoroughly — including windows, walls, fans, fixtures, molding, etc. — and wipe the floor with a cloth and mineral spirits. Stain the floor if you want to change the color, then seal it from the farthest corner and working toward the other end. Let the sealer dry, sand with 320-grit sandpaper, vacuum, and clean with a soft cloth. Polyurethane comes next, applied in multiple coats over several days. Reattach the baseboards and move your furniture back into place, and your hardwood flooring restoration is complete.
When to Replace Instead
As with any product, the longer hardwood floors are exposed to both the elements and the usual wear and tear of life, the more likely they are to approach the end of their lifecycle. While refinishing can help keep the product looking like new — and help homeowners avoid the costly expenditure involved in purchasing new flooring — it can only do so much for so long. Here are a few signs it might be time to consider replacing your hardwoods:
- Extensive damage from water, insects, rot, or other environmental concerns
- Breaks, including weakening or splitting of the planks
- Signs of structural issues, such as warping or sagging
- Neglect over many decades, often seen in older or fixer-upper homes
- Other issues like holes, damage from items being dropped, rodent infestations, drainage problems, etc.
It’s essential to ensure your floors need to be replaced entirely before you undertake the process, expense, and the necessary displacement required to complete the project. Because hardwood is durable, homeowners often only need to replace a few boards. Be sure this much-less-expensive option is completely off the table before planning a full hardwood replacement.
Your Go-To for Flooring Questions, Concerns, and More
At District Floor Depot, our team of highly trained and expert staff is here to help you understand all the elements of your flooring project. If you think your home might need its hardwoods refinished or replaced, call 703-321-8522 to speak with a representative.