Advice on Refinishing Hardwood Floors

Find out if refinishing hardwood floors is really a do-it-yourself project or if you should call on the pros.

One of the great things about hardwood floors is that they can be refinished to restore their original luster or to change their color. Although hardwood floors can be pricey, this ability to refinish makes them a good long-term investment.

If you've been thinking about getting your own floors refinished, you may be mulling over the decision of whether to hire a professional or tackle the project yourself. After all, how hard can it be? The home improvement whizzes on television seem to be able to steamroll through it in a day. While it is true that professionals can strip and refinish a floor in a day or two (depending upon the size of the room), that's because they have years of experience.

Refinishing hardwood floors can be a do-it-yourself (DIY) project, but it's not an easy job. DIY-ers and pros agree - it is a dirty, messy, sweaty job. It will literally knock you to your knees - because you will need to spend quite of bit of time kneeling, bending, and stretching. If it still sounds like something you might want to do yourself, consider a few other factors before you make your decision.


Special equipment is needed to refinish the floors. Chances are you don't have a professional sander parked next to your toolbox, so you'll need to rent equipment from a local home improvement store. You will also need to buy protective gear such as a face mask to protect yourself from the flying dust and chemicals.


Professionals can strip and refinish a floor in a day or two, depending upon the size of the room. Unless you have experience - a lot of experience - with refinishing, it is going to take you a lot longer. Combine that with the fact that you probably do most of your home improvement projects on the weekend, and you can expect to have a mess on your hands for several weekends.


You will need to cover or remove window treatments and remove all furniture from the room you are refinishing. If you aren't already cramped for space, this might not be a big deal, but if you are trying to relocate the piano, sofas, armchairs, coffee table, end tables, etc. it may be a project unto itself. While you can probably navigate around the extra furniture in the hallways and other rooms for the day or two, it may become a problem if the room is off-limits for a week or two while you complete the project in your free time. In addition to the actual work time, floors need to "cure" before furniture can be replaced. Depending on the wood and the finish, this cure time can be anywhere from a few days to two weeks.


Now I'm certain that you are a DIY warrior - conquering home projects with ease and perfection, but in the off chance that you make a tiny little mistake once every few years, you need to know that a sanding or refinishing slipup can end up costing you a lot - in money, time, and frustration. Errors are most common during the sanding phase. The floor sander you'll rent will be lighter and less powerful than the equipment that professionals use. Their additional weight and power make it easier to keep the machines steady and achieve a smooth surface. A floor sander is difficult to operate, and it only takes a second to leave a gouge, groove or divot. There is an additional danger when sanding old wood floors which may have been refinished several times over the years. These floors are thinner (due to multiple sandings), and the margin of error is small. If you haven't already picked up the phone and scheduled an appointment with a professional, you should probably do so now. After all, you probably have plenty of other DIY projects on your to-do list, and you can get started on those while the experts are taking care of your floors. 

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