Finishing Hardwood Floors DIY - How To Hardwood FloorsFinishing hardwood floors is the process of applying a protective coating over stained or new raw wood. There are many types of finishes including water-based and oil-based polyurethanes.

These instructions cover the steps for coating, or finishing, a hardwood floor with an oil-based polyurethane.

Refinishing hardwood floors means that you have buffed, or completely sanded, an existing hardwood floor, and cleaned up all the dust and other particles before applying the new finish.

This is the coating that protects the raw wood from things like water or other liquids, scratches and scrapes and general wear and tear. But remember that it’s not fool-proof.

Take proactive steps to protect your hardwood flooring and plan to refinish your floors every 4 to 7 years to keep them looking great.

Recommended Tools for Finishing Hardwood Floors

  • China bristle brush, 3 – 4″ wide
  • 10-14″ lambs wool with a block
  • Throw-away 2-quart pitcher
  • 1 gallon paint can or other throw-away container for the brush
  • Tack Cloth
  • 5″ broom handle
  • Non-marking Knee pads
  • Respirator
  • A good shop vacuum with attachments including a wand and crevice device
  • Fine grit sanding sponges for edges
  • Buffer – A buffer with a 16″ to 17″ wheel that spins a sanding screen with grit on it. Make sure to get the pad (often in white or maroon) to hold the screen on.
  • Fine grit screens, 150 to 220
    -Pole Sander generally used for sheetrock walls with 100 to 200 grit.

Buff only WITH the grain.

Hardwood Floor Finishing DIY Instructions

Step 1: Apply sanding sealer coat

Remove loose fibers from lambs wool with a comb and tape. Concentrate especially on the ends. You don’t want these fibers in your finish.

Stir the polyurethane or sanding sealer and fill the 2-quart pitcher. The leftover sealer can be used for brushing edges. Thread the broom handle into the lambs wool. Work in 3 foot rectangles, parallel to the grain. Brush edges in that section 4 to 6 inches from the wall. Pull the poly with the grain to smooth it.

Pour some of the polyurethane out of the pitcher onto the floor in the center of this 3 foot section only. Use the mop to wet the entire section; then, make sure the mop head isn’t too wet and pull the finish from one wall toward the opposite wall, and vice versa, to smooth the polyurethane and eliminate puddles.

If you have too much polyurethane, pull it out of the area with the mop, to be used in the next section of floor. Watch where you step! Keep working across the floor in this fashion. When working out of a room or in long hallways, you’ll have to keep the mop a bit drier. Push it smoothly and away from you; at the end of a stroke, lift the mop head off the area, avoiding drips. If you throw drips, you can step in them. Just make sure to mop up your footprints, and then step onto a rug or towel.

When the entire floor is coated, let it dry overnight. To re-use your lambs wool and brushes, wrap them in plastic and store them in the freezer.

Step 2: Buff the floor smooth

After the floor is dry, buff the edges with a vibe sander, sanding sponge, or even a folded over piece of sand paper to sand out any bumps in the finish and smooth it. Buff the remainder of the floor with a buffer or pole sander or vibe sander or by hand, if you like. Just get it smooth! Thoroughly vacuum the floor with wand and crevice device. Tack cloth the floor to remove any leftover fibers or dust.

Step 3: Apply a coat of polyurethane

Follow the same procedure as Step 1.

Step 4: Apply second coat of polyurethane

Repeat Step 2 and Step 3.

Congratulations! The floor is finished. Wait one day to walk on the floor, and two days to move furnishings into the room. It is highly recommended that furniture pads are applied to the bottom of all furniture and other items that come in contact with the floor.

Finishing hardwood floors with a water-based polyurethane may be a better option for the DIYer. It dries faster, is low VOC and easier to apply. But it’s not as durable as an oil base and it’s more expensive.

There are many other variables to consider before choosing the proper hardwood floor finish so do your research thoroughly and get the advice of a pro.