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 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, 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.