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A worn finish on a hardwood floor can be tough on the eyes over time. In many cases, refinishing hardwood floors is a tough job. Like many other DIY jobs around the house, taking care of the task yourself is often cheaper than hiring someone else.
Let’s take a quick look at the best method to refinish hardwood floors without a sander.
Screen-and-coat is the best, simplest, and safest way to refinish hardwood floors without sanding. This technique involves scuffing and smoothing the wood finish with a buffer, then applying a refresher coat.
Recommended Hardwood Floor Buffer: Oreck Commercial Orbiter
It’s important to get your hardwood floors as clean as a whistle before refinishing them. For that, you need a great hardwood floor buffer, like the Oreck Commercial Orbiter. Featuring a 13-inch cleaning path and 50-foot power cord, this buffer can cover most rooms with ease. This particular model can clean plenty of different surfaces, including wood, tile, and other hard floors. It can even loosen dirt in carpet! For an all-in-one buffer for current and future projects, Oreck Commercial Orbiter is the way to go.
Before You Begin…
Unfortunately, not all floors will benefit from this method. If your floor has been waxed or has any kind of wax residue on it, then you’ll need to do a full sanding. Wax reacts directly with the old polyurethane finish so the newly applied finish won’t bond and you’ll end up with ugly bubbles trapped on the surface.
To check for wax, find a low-traffic spot that doesn’t have a lot of wear – like behind a door or near the corners. Place a few drops on the floor and let it stand for about two to three minutes. Wipe the solution off using a clean white rag. If any brown or shiny residue comes off, you have waxed floors. If it comes out clean, then you’re all set to start refinishing.
Long story short, if your hardwood floors have a wax coating, you’ll need a sander.
Recommended Hardwood Floor Sander: Astro Orbital Sander
If you’ve already looked into hardwood floor sanders, sticker shock probably wasn’t far behind. Full commercial-grade sanders aren’t cheap. On the bright side, there are smaller, more affordable, handheld sanders on the market, like the Astro Orbital Sander. This bad boy might not look like much, but it’s a great pick for sanding down flat surfaces, like hardwood floors. Featuring a balanced ball bearing construction, there’s no vibration during use. To refinish your floors on a budget, the Astro Orbital Sander is our top pick.
Clear the Room
Creating a smooth and clear base is the first step to refinishing your hardwood floors.
To get started, remove all furniture as well as any partial furnishings that will get in the way, like floor length curtains and built-in shelves.
If there are nails protruding from the floorboards, make sure you pound them in and fill in the holes with wood putty. When dry, lightly buff to make sure the floor is truly flat.
Control the Dust
Tiny dust particles in the air can stick to the wet finish and create whisker-like patterns once the newly laid finish hardens.
To limit the spread of dust, block air flow in and out of the room as best you can. Close windows and doors and block heating ducts and floor vents. Make sure all fans and air conditioners are turned off.
Remember to also keep the curtains or blinds closed to prevent sunlight from coming through and creating hot spots on the floor that dry faster. If some spots dry faster than others, it can create an uneven finish.
Clean the Room
Before you get started, you’ll want to make sure that your floor is in the best shape for adhesion.
Completely vacuum the floor, curtains, and other horizontal surfaces that accumulate dust. Follow through by wiping them down with a damp towel wrapped around a mop head or a terry-cloth.
Pro Tip: Steer clear of harsh chemical cleaners. Instead, use specialized hardwood cleaners likely available at your local hardware store. Alternatively, you can make your own solution by mixing 10 parts water to one part white vinegar.
Prepare the Floor’s Perimeter
Unfortunately, your hardwood floor buffer is probably round which makes reaching corners difficult. Sand the edges and corners of the room with 180-grit sandpaper to prepare the perimeter. Work gently without applying too much pressure.
Pro Tip: Always wear a dust mask when buffing floors. Old finish turns to dust and cause health problems down the road if it gets into your nose and mouth.
Start With the Hardwood Floor Buffer
Gently scuffing the floor will remove scratches and other imperfections in the existing finish, ensuring the new coat sticks and bonds well. This is where your floor buffing machine comes into play.
Make sure you use a 120-grit pad on the buffer unless the manufacturer says otherwise. Anything coarser will dig too deep into the base floor. Start by moving side to side, following the grain of the wood. Overlap each course by around six inches.
Remember to keep the machine moving at all times, and stop only to vacuum the pad every 10 minutes or so.
Pro Tip: You can easily track the areas you’ve covered because buffed floors tend to turn a dull color and a powder starts to form.
Once the powder has settled onto the floor, start vacuuming the entire area thoroughly. Make sure to reach into the cracks between the floorboards.
Pro Tip: Don’t sweep with a broom. Doing so will only push the powder into the cracks and corners of the room.
Apply the Oil or Lacquer Finish
Make sure you cover your shoes with booties or a makeshift plastic cover and wear a respirator to prevent inhalation of toxins from the finish of your choice.
Start by hand brushing a three-inch-wide stripe along the edges and corners of the room. Next, use a long handled roller to brush the center of the room, going across the grain. Pour just the right amount of finish to make sure that you keep the edge wet at all times.
Overlap each pass and work quickly for a more even coat. Wait three hours before applying a second coat.
Make sure that the first coat is significantly dry before applying the second one. When recoating, remember to follow the same rolling direction you used on the first coat.
Allow Finish to Dry Completely
Normally, it takes at least a week for oil or lacquer finish to completely dry. Double check the manufacturer-recommended drying time on the bottle.
Refinishing Hardwood Floors Without Sanding
At the end of the day, refinishing hardwood floors without sanding isn’t difficult. It just takes time and a little elbow grease, figuratively speaking. With that in mind, make sure you do it right the first time to make it time well spent!