Adventures in refinishing a wood floor

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a date this weekend with my hallway floor. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it, but as it turns out, refinishing a floor isn’t half as painful as I imagined! Of course, I did manage to break just about every rule there is for refinishing floors…big surprise there. If this house has taught me anything, it’s that there is more than one way to skin a cat (not that you would actually want to skin a cat. eew!). 


I had thought that the varnish had just worn off this floor over time, but a closer inspection proved otherwise. There is tons of tack marks, nails along the perimeter, a tuft of red carpet here and there, and scatter marks from a drum sander. They must have had carpet down at some point, and then removed it and sanded the floor. That’s a job I’m quite thankful I wasn’t around for! So here is my floor as it began. Not too bad, if you ignore the reddish hue and the mystery spots all over it.

DIY refinishing wood floors

If somebody hadn’t made such a mess with paint splatters, sanding would have been even faster than it was. It only took me about 3 hours using a palm sander to sand it all down. I broke the wood sanding rule and only did one go over with 60 grit sandpaper. I skipped the recommended second go over with a finer grit, and I’m not sorry. It turned out just fine. Feel free to laugh, but this is how I kept the dust down while I was working.

how to keep dust down while sanding a hardwood floor

I threw an old towel over top of the sander while I sanded! Mmmm yes, it looks funny, but it did help. If you have an aversion to getting sawdust all over your freshly painted white walls, you might try it. I sanded between the stair balusters and along the trim by hand using a scrap of sandpaper. I used a flat head screw driver to clean up the edges here and there around trim and balusters. It makes a perfect mini scraper for tiny spots.

how to clean up paint around trim

My plan was to stain the wood dark, but once I got it sanded down a bit…I found I really, really liked the imperfect look of the old wood. I liked the varying wood grain. I liked the different tones and colors. I liked the gouges and scrapes from long use. I left it for a day and stared at it trying to make up my mind. In the end, I decided I just couldn’t stain over it. It was too pretty, and it contrasted so warmly with the white walls and black details of the stairs.

refinishing wood floors by hand

So, I skipped straight to the varnish. I used the same polyurethane that I used on my kitchen counters. It’s a floor grade poly that is water based. It’s easy to use and easy clean up. It dries fairly quickly as well, only about an hour and half dry time. I like to use a sponge brush when applying poly, I think it makes a nice smooth finish.

what varnish to use on a hardwood floor

I did two thin coats, but I’ll be doing a third when I get the chance. It’s amazing how varnish really brings out the details of wood. I think it’s really fun to apply personally…it’s instant gratification for us impatient types.

applying varnish to a hardwood floor

It’s kind of amazing how a finished floor can really sharpen up a space. It makes it look finished and clean. I like it.

how to refinish a floorThis floor runs into the bedrooms, and I’ll be doing the same thing to them once I get paint on the walls. This brings me to the last major section of the house that needs to be addressed. A bathroom that needs to be completely scraped out to the bare bones, the master bedroom where random stuff is piled high, and the office which is still waist deep in moving boxes. It’s a sad sight really.

refinishing hardwood floors by chapter37

All in good time. In the mean time, the Mister may now proceed with the bookcases for my hall library, my part of the action is officially done.

My take away lesson I learned from this project was, it’s important to do what you love in your own house. A sanded down floor with uneven color may not appeal to anyone else… it doesn’t really matter. Go with your gut, you’re the one that has to live with it.

Total cost for this project was $1.80 for sandpaper. It took me about 4 hours total. Not too bad for a “new” floor…totally worth it, don’t you think?

Isaiah 40:28   Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?there is no searching of his understanding. 

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I'm a mom and blogger. I love all things creative! Follow along at
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21 Responses to Adventures in refinishing a wood floor

  1. Mary says:

    Beautiful! I love old wood!

  2. Your floor is gorgeous! We have wood floors that need to be stripped and stained. I love how your floor looks without stain!

  3. Katie says:

    I love your statement “do what you love in your own home”. Too often people don’t make it their home. They only think of the next owner. The next owner needs to make it be their home when they live there

  4. Abby, your floor looks great! In our last home I pulled up all the carpet to expose the wood floors, and then we paid (I hate to say how much!) to have them refinished. I always have thought to myself, “I could do this myself.” Now I KNOW I can. We’re looking for our next home and if I’m fortunate enough to have wood floors again and they need refinishing, I’m using your method. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve pinned this. :)

  5. I’m amazed you did this for just $1.80! It pays off to do the hard work yourself! Your floors turned out beautiful!

  6. Coming over from Work It Wednesday. Love how your floors came out. I’ve been debating doing something similar. Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. Turned out beautifully! Great job!

  8. Your floor turned out looking awesome!! I think you did a great job!!

  9. I seriously love you.

    Don’t be creeped out.

    Featuring this tonight on Trash 2 Treasure Tuesday. I reeeeeeeeally tried hard not to feature you for the 10th time in a row… but you just make it impossible.

  10. Talia says:

    Looks gorgeous!! I love it all! We have hardwood floors that are a honey yellow… gag! I want to refinish them with a darker stain sooooo bad! You may have just inspired me to tackle it. :)

  11. alana says:

    sounds like the story of my upstairs floor. Really old, really worn, used too have carpet that were took up, someone painted and never bothered to wipe up the splatters, and someone refinished it along time ago, but its very uneven AND there are spots from where the carpet was shampooed and guess what it did to the finish…all reptile looking, but no discoloration, a good thing. I have to do the stairs too, which are partially carpeted and 2 shades of finish. It’ll be so worth it when its all done, I love old homes :)

    • Abby says:

      Your comment just made a light come on for me! I bet carpet shampoo is what all those weird spots are all over those floors! Sounds like you have your work cut out for you for sure! It will be so worth it when it is done though! Thanks so much for stopping by, I so appreciate it!

  12. Pingback: The Master Bedroom Challenge - Chapter37

  13. Pingback: Transform a room with paint and polyurethane - Chapter37

  14. Your floor is so beautiful! We have got wooden flooring that require being stripped and stained. I really like however your floor appearance while not stain!

  15. JT says:

    Hey . . . so did the “mystery spots” come out? How deep were they?

  16. Well, its a amazing post about refinishing a wood floor. I really enjoyed your post. Continue with this kind of great work experience…

  17. istonz says:

    Great Job My Friend..Your wood floor is really looking great. I love the Tittle that “adventures in refinishing a wood floor”. Well, some people likes concrete flooring and some people likes wood floors for their home according to their choice.

  18. Awesome work. Wood floorings are really classy. And so with bamboo floorings.

    All Flooring Solutions
    floor sanding brisbane

  19. Meg says:

    Question: What sand orbiter did you use? And how did you clean the floor of any dust? Did you vacumn or mop?
    I am tempted to try to do my daughter’s room which is about 10×10. I like the idea of using a hand held orbiter as opposed to a machine. I feel I would have more control over the sanding process. What other things did you use (like a dust mask?) and how in the world did you hold that sander with the towel over it? Great job!!

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