How to Refinish Wood Floors
You can clean and refinish a scratched wood floor without having to sand down to bare wood
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: The Editors of This Old House reply: 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 hardwood floor refinishing 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. Buffing hardwood floors can be tricky, so 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, we 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, we recommend a fresh coat every two years or whenever the floor looks worn. Stick to that routine and your floors will never wear out.
Clean the Floor
Remove all the furniture, and spray the floor with a hardwood flooring cleaner or your own mix of 10 parts water to 1 part white vinegar. Gently wipe the floor with a terry-cloth mop or a towel wrapped around a mop head. Close the windows and doors to keep dust contained in the room you're sanding.