Refinishing Your Hardwood Floor – The Prep

For the DIY, take the advice and tips from this article for preparing your floor.

Some people truly need to tackle projects themselves in order to save money on important home improvement projects, and others are just serial DIYers who love to learn new skills and try new things. But be warned – refinishing a hardwood floor is fairly unforgiving work, and it may be in your best interest to hire an experienced professional to make sure that it’s done properly.


In this article, we’ll cover the basic things you need to know about prepping for the job. If it sounds like something that you can handle, you could easily cut your investment in half by tackling the project on your own. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you if anything goes wrong!


Beautiful home interior living room with hard wood flooring


Assess the Damage

The first thing you need to do is decide if your floor needs a complete stripping and refinishing or just a touch-up. If you’re just dealing with some scuffs and scratches that don’t go all the way down to the bare wood, you may be able to simply scuff-sand with a buffer and add a fresh coat or two of finish. This will dramatically cut down the time it takes to get your floor looking as good as new, and you’ll maintain the thickness of your floor in case a complete refinishing needs to be done in the future. One helpful method for assessing the situation is to put a tiny droplet of water on the floor. If it soaks up fast, your wood fibers may already be completely exposed; if it beads or soaks in slowly, you may be able to get away with a touch-up.


Scratched wood


Grab a Partner

You may need to a hand to load and unload your rented equipment and to move heavy furniture. Promise your buddy some pizza and a few cold ones, or sell your kids on some quality time and a great learning experience. Your back will thank you.


If you do pull the “best buddy” card, make sure you’re ready to return the favor on some future Saturday.


Two guys talking


Gather Your Equipment

If you’re refinishing the room completely, you’re going to need to choose and rent a sander. This is an important decision, because one of the most common mistakes people make in the refinishing process is gouging the wood while stripping the finish, and it only takes a couple seconds to do some serious damage.


Red new belt sander


A drum sander is the fastest and most efficient option, but it will take some getting used to. If you decide on this type of tool, practice on a sheet of wood or plywood until you get a feel for the machine, and even then, you may want to start in a “practice area” of the room that you know will be covered by a rug or a large piece of furniture.


A more DIY-friendly sander that takes less experience and finesse is a random orbital sander. It will take a little longer than the drum sander, but it may be well worth the added safety. A random orbital sander can definitely still get away from you and leave serious marks, so practice up and don’t be reckless. For successful refinishing, you’re going to need three types of sandpaper: coarse, medium and fine. A great rule of thumb is to start with 60-, move to 80- and finish with a 100- or 120-grit abrasive for the smoothest finish. If you go any coarser (lower) than 60-grit, you’ll risk damaging your floor.


Random Orbit Sander



You’re also going to want protective eyewear, ear protection, a dust mask, tape for your outlets and a trash bag to cover up your light fixtures before you get started.


  Zapisz Podgląd pobierania Working protection set including pair of gloves glasses respirator and ear plugs


Now that you’re ready to tackle the job, check out our next article for the details on room prep, sanding, staining and finishing. Have any tips of your own on gearing up for a refinish? Be sure to comment below and let us know!

DISCLAIMER: Readers should keep in mind that any accounts of renovation presented in this article are written accounts of events taking place at individual homes, and are not necessarily endorsements of do-it-yourself home improvement. You proceed at your own risk if you attempt to replicate any activities described here. 

Images used with permission, courtesy of and

Next: Refinishing Your Hardwood Floor – Getting the Job Done