Refinishing Hardwood Floors: What’s Involved?

Refinishing hardwood floors can seem like a daunting task that just is not worth the effort. However, if you have enough time and patience, you can achieve the beautiful floor of your dreams at a fraction of the cost.

This post will cover the time commitment it takes as well as the various steps that are involved in overhauling your hardwood flooring.

Before you go any further, keep in mind that remodeling your floors is the very last thing you want to do when you’re working on your house. It’s too easy to ruin all of your hard work with paint drips or accidental bumps and scratches from other projects.

What to Expect

First, it’s important to have a detailed plan to follow before you start on anything.

Step One: Refinishing Method

Step one should be deciding which refinishing route you want to take. If your floors are very worn, deeply scratched or damaged in any way, you should do a complete refinish. This requires more time and effort because you must sand all the way down to the bare wood, but the end result is worth the extra work.

If your floors have scratches, worn finish or dullness that is only cosmetic, you should be able to opt for the simpler process of screening. Screening only strips off the topmost layer of polyurethane coating, which should remove any unsightly wear and tear.

Step Two: Choosing a Polyurethane

Regardless of which option you take, you will need to decide whether you want an oil-based or water-based polyurethane.

Oil-based polyurethane does take longer, but it also lasts longer. Generally speaking, it will take about three to five days plus drying time to refinish a hardwood floor with this method. Expect to do one coat per day, because an oil-based product will need at least a full 24 hours to dry.

For water-based polyurethane, the entire process usually takes about two days. These products take far less time to dry, and in most cases, you can move furniture back into the room closer to the 48-hour mark.

These timelines are general estimates, though, so you will want to take into account things like square footage, how dark you want the initial stain to be and even the weather. Because wood is porous, things like dampness and humidity can affect absorption and dry time.

Step Three: Plan-Ahead Prep Tips

Many experts recommend that you remove your baseboards prior to staining and sanding your floors because they will inevitably get dinged and stained no matter how careful you are. If this isn’t possible, just keep in mind that you will need to go back through and touch up the baseboards once your flooring project is done.

It’s extremely important to seal off the room as much as you can to keep dust contained. It’s also easiest on you to plan this project during a time where the weather will be nice so you can open the windows to ventilate and speed the drying process.

Overall Time Commitment and Final Thoughts

While it depends on how dark you plan to stain your floors, which polyurethane you choose and other factors like the weather, you can still make at least a general estimate of how long the process will take from beginning to end.

For a beautiful finish that will last for many years to come, plan for the project to take five to seven days from beginning to end.

Keep in mind that, even though the floors are dry, you still need to take precautions. Furniture should have felt pads installed, pets should have their nails trimmed and no area rugs should be laid down for three to four weeks to allow the wood to “breathe” and cure properly.

Refinishing hardwood floors is a process that’s not overly complicated, but it is time-consuming. However, the end result will last for many years with proper care, so it is a wise investment of your time.

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