How To Refinish Your Hardwood Floors

Perhaps you’ve just bought a house with older floors that have seen better days and need some loving care. Maybe you have been inwardly cringing at your scratched or faded hardwood floors for years and finally have the time to do something about them.

Whatever the reason for your motivation, you should know that you can refinish your own hardwood floors – and we can help. It would be impractical and prohibitively expensive to buy the heavy-duty sanders (not to mention the shop vacuum) that you’ll need to refinish your hardwood floors; however, we have all of the equipment you need for this job available for rent at Northside Tool Rental.



Just to be clear: these are instructions for refinishing actual solid hardwood floors. You should not attempt to sand laminate or engineered wood.

  1. Clear everything out of the room, including curtains and base shoe moldings. If the floorboards you will be refinishing run under a doorway, remove the door.
  2. Cover windows, floor registers, electrical outlets, and any HVAC vents with plastic sheeting. Use painter’s tape to cover smaller areas like the spaces between doors and their frames. You don’t want dust to be able to get into the rest of the house.
  3. Vacuum and wet mop the floors. Make sure no nails or carpet staples are sticking up; if you find any nails, pound them flat; if you find carpet staples, pull them out.
  4. Now it is time to use the drum style floor sander or square style orbital sander, but before you do, make sure to don eye protection, ear protection, and a respirator-type mask.
  • You can ask the professionals at Northside Tool Rental to demonstrate the sander before you use it at your house, or you can take a couple of passes with it (without sandpaper) just to get the feel of how it handles before you start the actual job. We won’t lie – this is a heavy piece of equipment, so be clear on your plan before you turn it on.
  • Many YouTube tutorials suggest using fine grade sandpaper, like 100 or 120 grit, for a couple of passes on the floor to get the feel for how it all works before putting on the 30-40 grit sandpaper you will be using for Round #1.
  • Remember, the lower the number of the sandpaper, the more abrasive it is and the more surface it will sand away.
  1. Install a rough grit sanding belt on the drum sander. Keep the drum of the sander raised as you turn it on and have some forward momentum before you lower the drum. Once you turn on the sander, keep moving forward steadily in the direction of the wood’s grain. Think of it as like mowing a lawn, but overlap your passes by 3-5 inches each time. Don’t try to get to the edges of the room; that will come next. When you have sanded the area, turn the sander off. Make sure never to let the bag catching the dust get more than halfway full before emptying it.
  2. Now use the handheld edge sander to get to the edges and corners of the room that the drum sander couldn’t get to. For this, you will use the same rough grit as the drum sander: 30-40.
  3. Use the shop vacuum to thoroughly vacuum up all of the dust. Fill in any small holes or gouges you notice with wood putty. This needs to dry overnight.
  4. Next, you will repeat the entire sanding process, including the edges and corners, but with medium-grit sandpaper (50-60 grit). Vacuum thoroughly as you did the first time.
  5. Finally, you will repeat the sanding process with fine-grit sandpaper (80-100 grit). Vacuum again. This is the end of the sanding, so use a damp mop or damp microfiber to make sure that every single speck of dust is gone. This may be a good time to remove the plastic sheets so that you can vacuum anything underneath them as well.
  6. When everything is completely clean and dry, you can seal the floor (some people stain the wood before sealing it, but that isn’t necessary unless you are trying to change the color of the wood).
  • If you use oil-based polyurethane, it will dry a little more amber-colored than water-based polyurethane. It takes longer to dry between coats as well. You will probably need 2 coats of oil-based polyurethane but 3 coats of water-based polyurethane. Water-based polyurethane dries more quickly in between coats but is more expensive.
  • Apply whichever polyurethane you choose with a wool applicator for most of the space and with a good quality brush for the edges and corners. Don’t rush this part; you want to seal steadily and avoid causing any bubbles. By the way, this is where those knee pads come in!

You are finished! Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for dry time (and for properly disposing of oily rags that could start a fire). Generally, you should wait a couple of days before reapplying your molding and putting your room back together.

There is nothing like the sight of a newly refinished hardwood floor, especially one you refinished yourself, to get your heart pounding with pride. Just be warned, you may now find yourself yearning for new furniture worthy of your room’s beautiful floor!

At Northside Tool Rental, we are more than happy to demonstrate equipment and answer any questions you may have about refinishing your hardwood floors. We work hands-on with our customers, and our flexible rental solutions and loyalty program mean we’re there to help you see the job through ‘til the end. Contact one of our experts today to discuss what tools you need and how we can fully equip you to get the job done. We have convenient locations in Marietta, Gwinnett, Doraville, and Buckhead. Call us at 404-233-6722 to get your project started.