Introduction

man with booties on his shoes applies a coat of polyurethane finish on a wooden floor
Photo: Reena Bammi
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Q: My oak floors are covered in scratches. Do I have to sand down to bare wood to get rid of them?
—Susan Bankhead, Meridian, Idaho

A: Steve Dubuque of Hunt Hardwood Floors replies: Not necessarily. If the scratches don't go all the way through to the wood, you can scuff-sand your floors with a buffer and apply a fresh coat or two of finish. The process is easier and less expensive than sanding down to bare wood and takes less time. In a few hours your floors will look as good as new.

The job requires using a buffer, which you can rent at a home center, and a vacuum to suck up dust. If you've never used a buffer before, practice in the middle of the room until you get a feel for how to maneuver it.

Once the finish is roughed up, I put on a water-based polyurethane, which can be recoated in 3 hours. Oil-based polys are cheaper, but each coat takes about 8 hours to dry. With either finish, I recommend a fresh coat every two years or whenever the floor looks worn. Stick to that routine and your floors will never wear out.

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    Tools List

    • terry cloth mop
      flat mop with terrycloth cover and microfiber cover
    • buffer
      floor buffer fitted with maroon buffing pad
    • shop vacuum
      vacuum fitted with clean filter
    • respirator
      respirator fitted with organic vapor canisters
    • watering can
      plastic watering can with sprinkler head removed
    • drywall bucket
      small plastic container
    • 3-inch wide paint brush
      3-inch wide paint brush
    • extension pole
      roller frame and extension pole

    Shopping List

    water-based polyurethane

    hardwood flooring cleaner

    180-grit sandpaper

    disposable booties

    cone filter