Hardwood floors are extremely durable, however, they do experience wear and tear. They develop scratches and travel paths, and simply lose their shine. Doing a full refinish can be an expensive and difficult project, fortunately, there's several ways to refinish your hardwood floors without sanding them down.
If you're looking for a low-cost way to bring back the pristine look of your hardwood floors, and you don't want to deal with the hassle of sanding, this article will give you three different ways. In most cases, you should be able to do the work yourself, especially if you enjoy a DIY project. However, if you want to hire a professional to save you time and hassle, that's always an option.
Hardwood floors require periodic maintenance in order to keep their shine, but that doesn't mean you need to sand, stain and reseal them to bring them back to life. Since the majority of scratches are at the surface level, the three methods listed below can get you a close-to-new finished look, without the hassle of a full refinish.
Pro Tip: For best results, before starting a DIY refinishing project, do a thorough cleaning of your hardwood floors. Read our article to learn how.
Hardwood floor abrasion kits are a great way to bring back the shine and luster to your floors, and there's a lot of great ones on the market today. They may be called by a different name, but whatever the manufacturer calls their product, they all basically do the same thing.
An abrasion kit uses chemicals to etch (scratch up) the existing finish on your floor so the new finish will properly bond.
Our favorite store bought abrasion kit is the Rust-Oleum Transformations Wood and Laminate Floor Renewal Kit. Although, not particularly difficult, the process is going to take some time, and it's best to plan for at least 24 hours before you can use your floors again.
Watch the Video
This video gives your step-by-step directions on how to use the Rust-Oleum Transformations product.
Note: If you use a different product, be sure to follow the manufacturers directions.
Pros and Cons of Using a Store Bought Abrasion Kit
- The kit includes all the major components needed to refinish your floors
- Since there isn't a need to sand, there won't be any dust
- Best if done with two people
- Finish dries fast, so you'll need to work quickly when you're applying it
Re-coating your hardwood floors with polyurethane is similar to using a chemical abrasion kit. However, instead of using chemicals to etch your flooring, you'll use a buffer to assist the new finish with bonding.
Using a buffer is not the same as fully removing the finish with a sander. And it won't remove the scratches from your floor, so it's not an ideal choice if you have deep scratches and dents.
This method of hardwood floor refinishing can be a hassle since you'll need to rent a floor buffer, and since it is similar to sanding, it'll produce a lot more dust than the chemical abrasion kit option.
Watch the Video
This video shows you how to use a floor buffer (or hand sand) to prepare your hardwood floors for a polyurethane coating.
Pros and Cons of Recoating with a Polyurethane Solution
- Near professional results
- Best way to prep hardwood floors
- Messy. Requires more clean-up due to the dust
- Requires the rental of a floor buffer
- More work involved
If you're looking for a quick way to bring back the shine to your hardwood floors and your floors are only showing minor signs of wear, then you may want to apply a revitalizer.
Revitalizers require the least amount of effort which makes them very DIY friendly. They'll fill in scratches and add a glossy finish to your dull floor.
After cleaning your floors, you simply apply the revitalizer using a special mop. Wait a few minutes and your floor will be looking shiny and new again.
Watch the Video
This video shows how to use the Bona Hardwood Floor Revitalizer:
Pros and Cons of Using a Revitalizer
- Inexpensive and easy
- No help needed (do it by yourself)
- No equipment rentals or expensive materials required
- Not a great choice for floors showing wear
- Should be applied frequently for best results
If you enjoy DIY projects and have the time, you can definitely save some money by doing the job yourself. To be realistic, you should probably plan on spending the weekend. Even if you're just applying a revitalizer you'll need to move all your furniture, thoroughly clean your floors, and wait until the product has completely set.
You'll also want to budget $60 to $300 for supplies and the rental of equipment, which is definitely less than hiring a professional. But when you consider that a professional will do a better job and their results will last longer, it might be worth putting that money towards a long-term fix.
On average, depending upon your floor's condition and where you're located, hardwood floors can be refinished for around $700 to $1200.
Sometimes it's best to call a professional to do the job for you. It might be that the job is bigger than you thought and you simply don't have time, or maybe your skill set isn't up to tackling the challenge.
It's also not uncommon to discover that your hardwood floors simply need more than a surface-level revitalization. When this is the case, calling a professional to do a full refinish is usually your best option.
Before starting any DIY project you're likely to have a lot of questions. Here are a few things to consider before starting to make your project a success.
Know your Floor Type
When it comes to these kinds of projects, you'll definitely want to know the type of flooring you have installed. There's a number of different materials on the market when it comes to hardwood floors, and the method and product you'll need varies with each.
Pro Tip: If you're unsure what type of hardwood floors you have, you might want to look around in your garage or basement. Many times builders leave extra pieces for future repairs.
Traditional hardwoods can be sanded and refinished. However, pre-finished and laminated wood isn't really designed to be sanded (although, you might be able to do it once or twice before exposing the plywood).
Knowing your floor type will allow you to select the proper method and the right product to bring your floors back to life.
Hard Floors that Have Been Waxed
Before polyurethane was used to seal hardwood floors, wax was often the go-to sealant. This means that if you live in an older home (1970s or earlier) your floor were either sealed with a coat of wax, shellac, or varnish. And if wax was used, the new finish won't bond.
Pro Tip: To check if your floor was sealed with wax, find a corner with little wear. Apply some mineral spirits directly onto the floor and let it set for a few minutes. Then use a clean white cloth to wipe up the mineral spirits. If you see a shiny or brown residue on the cloth, you have wax.
Having wax doesn't mean you have to sand your floors, but it does mean that you won't be able to use any of the products listed above. The best way to get the shine back is to buff on a fresh coat of wax.
If you want to remove the wax entirely, you'll want to do a full refinish. Although, this can be a DIY project, we recommend hiring a professional.
What if the Finish Doesn't Bond?
It's a good idea to test a small area to ensure that the new finish bonds to the floor. There's nothing worse than investing time, energy and money only to discover that the new finish flakes or doesn't properly bond.
Take a small section and roughen it up with your buffer, then test your new polyurethane finish. After it dries, use a coin to lightly scrap the area. If it flakes or the texture is bumpy (think orange peel), your time and money will be better spent in doing a full refinish complete with sanding.
When Sanding is Your Best Option
Refinishing your hardwood floors without sanding is a great alternative to doing a full refinish, but sometimes it's not in your best interest. Sanding your old finish off so you can apply a totally new finish is a good choice when:
- Your floor has deep scratches and dings that penetrate the finish and wood
- High-traffic areas are showing extreme wear (finish worn or flaking off)
- The new finish isn't bonding in your test area
- You want to remove your hardwood floor's wax finish
- Water damage has penetrated through your floor's finish
Although sanding may be your best option, in many cases, adding a new finish without sanding will at least buy you some time and protect your floors until you can get the job done right.
If you're not sure what your next move should be, it's a good idea to consult with a flooring professional who can give you some advise and provide you with an accurate quote.
Sanding vs. Not Sanding
Keep in mind that if you want your floors to look new again they'll need to be sanded and refinished. Most hardwood flooring can be sanded and refinished several times before they become too thin and need to be be replaced.
If your floors have deep scratches and discoloration, it may be time to do a refinish.
However, if they're simply fading and have lost their shine, you can try doing a deep cleaning. A thorough cleaning is inexpensive, easily performed, and can often bring the shine back to your floor.
If after cleaning, you're still disappointed, and you don't want to do a full refinish, your best bet is to try one of the three hardwood refinishing methods listed above that don't require sanding. Each method has a good track record of bringing hardwood floors back to life.