The greater part of refinishing hardwood floors involves preparation. But even before you start preparing, it is essential that you find out the extent of the scratches on the floor. If you are lucky, the scratches are just on the top and this will be a much easier task. On the other hand, if the scratches have gone deep into the wood, then you need to prepare to do a lot of sanding. 

For scratches that are just on the surface, a simple reapplication of polyurethane coating on the old finishing will do the trick. But if the scratches run deep into the wood, then you need to sand it right to the bare wood and for this, I would recommend you find a good belt sander so that you do not take too much time and the sanding is done evenly.

Types of finishing

There are 3 main finishes you can choose from and these are

Polyurethane: This is preferred by many because it lasts longer and is best for high traffic areas. You can choose between oil based or water based poly finishing. It has a plastic look about it and you can choose between different degrees of luster.  I have noticed that the newer ranges of Polyurethane finishing do not darken wood so much. One thing you should know though is that poly finishing is not easy to spot repair.

Varnish: if you want to be able to make spot repairs, choosing varnish is a good idea. It comes in different varieties of luster and the more glossy variety is durable. It tends to darken with time, but you can always do a quick repair when that starts to happen. 

Penetrating sealer: if you would like to maintain a more natural wood look, this is what you can use. You, however, need to know that it is not as durable as the other 2 but it is much easier to repair. It is also a cheaper option. 

Step by Step Guide 

Step 1

Remove the old finishing and then sand the wood to remove all the scratches. It is important that before you start this, you have the necessary protection. This will include eye protection as well as a dust mask. Ensure that the surface is smooth and even. 

Step 2

Clean the surface, ensure that all the dust is removed from not just the floor but also the walls because you do not want particles falling onto the finishing as it dries because this will create rough patches. You can then use a vacuum to remove any more dust that may have settled after the initial cleaning. You then can use a tack cloth to pick up further residue from the surface. I would advise you have a number of tack clothes to prevent you from exceeding a single cloth’s capacity. 

Step 3

Apply the sealer. I prefer to apply sealer immediately after getting rid of all the dust, it prevents any other particles from settling so it is a good idea to plan your time so that at least on the same day you do the sanding, you are able to do the sealer application. The sealer needs to be applied evenly and generously but it should not be too much since the wood will not absorb excess sealer and it will dry and look terrible. Now let the sealer dry.

Step 4

When the sealer has dried, it is time to buff the floor. You can do this with a number 2 fine steel wool. Go over each area once or twice, starting from the wall and moving backwards in a left to right swing movement. It is important that you do not over do it and end up cutting through the finishing. 

Step 5

Once again, get out your vacuum and tack cloth and clean the surface just to be sure there are no particles that have settled again as you prepare to add a layer of coating. A smooth surface is important for a great look and feel.

Step 6

Hoping you have already made a choice of finishing coating, you are now ready to apply the first layer. They usually come with directions on how to apply and especially how long to wait for it to dry before you can apply the next layer.

Step 7

Apply the second coat of finishing and then let it dry for at least 24 hours before you can return the furniture or allow people to walk over the surface. 

To ensure you do this job perfectly, I would recommend you try it out first on a small patch of the floor just to ensure you have understood the entire procedure and if it looks good, then you can proceed to do the rest of the floor. Also make sure you have all the tools and protection you will need before you get started, from experience, I have learned that having to run to the hardware store midway through the task can ruin your progress and you may have to start over again.