December 23, 2009

Hardwood Floor Refinishing

The oak hardwood floor in our house was old and looked dirty, with many scratches that showed the traffic pattern of the people before us. There were places where the protective coating had worn out and the wood turned gray and black, which didn't look nice. We wanted to resurface the floor before we move in to make it look new again. Since sanding the floor will create tons of dust, we wanted to do it before we move things in. We began on Veteran's Day, Nov. 11 and rented a floor sander from The Home Depot. These sanders are very heavy and uses a very large sheet of sand paper. The base moves in a small circular motion to sand the floor and we started with 24 grit to remove the old finish, followed by 60 grit and 100 grit. I pushed the sander around for 10 hours that day and returned the sander the next morning. It didn't come out perfect because there are some deep swirl marks that we couldn't get rid of. For the most part, the floor is a lot better than when we started. From a standing height, I can't tell where the swirls are anyway; only when I am crawling on the floor and look carefully can I see them.

We cleaned all the sanding dust off everything, then tried to fill gaps and holes in the floor, but it turned out to be unnecessary for the most part. The gaps between strips change with temperature and humidity, so the filling comes out one day after we filled it, but there were a few places where deep dents and nail holes were filled and stayed. It turns out that polyurethane is a good filler for small gaps between strips.

When everything was clean and we can't feel dust on the floor with hands, we stained the floor with an oil-based stain from ZAR. We tried a total of 8 or 9 stains from both ZAR and Minwax and found that we liked the ZAR products better because the Minwax made the grains black regardless of which color we chose. The consistency of the two brands is distinctly different with the ZAR stains being thick and opaque whereas the Minwax is semi-clear.

To apply the stain, we used a sponge staining pad from Lowe's to put it on the floor, and a white cotton rag to wipe off the excess. Each room took us about 2 hours.

After staining, we applied polyurethane. We didn't compare oil vs. water based poly, but we did try out different shininess levels. We found that 3 coats of gloss followed by 1 coat of satin looks best. We went with the ZAR UltraMax water-based polyurethane. I think it will provide sufficient protection on the floor; I can't scratch or dent it with my fingernails after it has dried for more than 2 weeks.

The way we applied the polyurethane is to use a 4" brush to do the edges along the walls and in the closets, then use the applicator that screws on a pole for the rest. It goes a lot faster with the pole. Between each coat, we sand the rough spots with 220 grit sand paper. There are dust particles, hair, and fiber forming bumps, so the sanding gets rid of those imperfections.

After all this work, the floor is looking much nicer, and even though there are still deep scratch marks covered up by polyurethane, overall the floor looks new. The marks give the floor a "distressed" look, but it's not bad.


  1. Nice refinishing of the floor i can even see reflection of the person on the floor.I need oil refinishing to be done in my hardwood staircase from some Woodsmith Hardwood. is it advisable because i have heard that it can make stairs more slippery.

  2. If your staircase wood is exposed or has been worn out unevenly, refinishing with a protection layer such as polyurethane would make it look nicer and last longer. Exposed wood is especially susceptible to water damage and can turn gray or black in color after some time.

    Our newly refinished wood floor is a bit slippery, and that is because the surface has been repeatedly sanded smooth and filled in with polyurethane, so the whole surface is relatively smooth. I walk barefoot so I don't think the smooth floor and staircase is an issue.

    I have heard about some people who strip the wood to bare wood and just use linseed oil to protect the wood and this would not make the surface very smooth but prevent water damage or discoloration. I have not tried or seen this in person, so I am not sure how well this works. Perhaps it attracts more dust? I think this is how people used to do it for wood floors in the old days.

  3. Nice post guys! I really appreciate your post. but we haven't got our blog up and running quite. But, we're a vancouver hardwood stair refinishing company.

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  5. Hello i love your floors! Great job. Im staining mine today and don't like my choice of minwax golden pecan...what did you use?

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