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Refinishing Hardwood Flooring: Should You DIY or Hire a Professional – Part 1

Refinishing a hardwood floor is a great way to revitalize the look of a room without having to go to the trouble and expense of installing brand-new flooring. The process involves removing the top layer of the covering material using a sander, which digs down past any scratches, stains, or imperfections that might exist, leaving you with a fresh surface to be stained, painted, or treated with whatever protective coating you prefer.

A professional will charge $3 to $5 per square foot to refinish a hardwood floor depending on the size of the job and the nature of the space and the material. The process will generally require about one week including cleanup.

If you perform the work yourself, then you will have to rent a walk-behind, solid-wood sanding machine as well as hand sanding tools, which will cost roughly $200 per day. Mistakes can also be made, which can irreparably damage the wood flooring surface, requiring costly repairs or a complete reinstallation.

The first step is to completely clean the surface of the floor. It should be swept or vacuumed to thoroughly remove any dust or debris that may be present. A slightly damp mopping, preferably by hand with a cloth rag, may also be useful to get rid of loose particles.

To begin the process of removing the damaged surface layer, use a large walk-behind sander, which can be pushed over the floor using a slow, even pace, to gently grind the wood down to a level that is below any finish treatments or damage. These machines are large ​and difficult to direct, and it is very important that you employ them in an even motion so that you do not get uneven surfaces, dips, or rises in the installation. The attached vacuum should suck up most of the dust that is generated.

Note: It is often a good idea to practice this process in an out-of-the-way area of the room, so you can get the hang of handling the machine.

Large machines will not be able to fit in corners or small spaces, so small hand grinders will be necessary to refinish these areas. While much lighter and easier to maneuver, these can be tricky as you have more control and can make more mistakes. Again, try to practice in areas that will not be highly visible in the finished space, so you can get used to this equipment.

Important Note: Hardwood flooring is often coated in chemical protective layers, which will be removed during the refinishing process. In older houses, these may contain harmful chemicals. Make sure that the environment is properly ventilated before you begin, and wear protective breathing gear and goggles to protect yourself throughout the entire process.

Once you have completed sanding the floor using power tools, you can work on any areas that remain using medium-grade sandpaper. This can also help to smooth out any rough patches that may have occurred during the process. If gouges are present, they can be filled using wood putty, which should be left to dry for at least 24 hours and then sanded with soft-grade sandpaper.

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