How to restore hardwood floors

Man using a handheld sander to restore herringbone hardwood floors
(Image credit: Getty)

Knowing how to restore hardwood floors is important if your floors have seen better days. Before you start the process, knowing what you can and can’t restore yourself is important. Problems such as scuffs, scratches and fading can be easily repaired at home, but if the issue is more serious such as rot or woodworm then it’s important to contact a professional who can assess the situation for you. One of the best sand

Restoring hardwood floors is surprisingly easy, and can be done with minimal experience. This guide will walk you through the process so your floors look shiny and new with minimal wear. A big part of hardwood floor restoration is preventative maintenance which can be aided by the best shop vacuums. If you haven’t cleaned a hardwood floor before, learning how to clean hardwood floors with vinegar can make the process quick and easy. If you want to complete the maintenance and restoration yourself, then knowing how to sand and refinish hardwood floors will allow you to finish the job quickly and easily. 

Why should you restore hardwood floors? 

What the expert says...

Zak Fleming, Remodeling Expert from Express Handyman and 2016 Remodeler of the Year says: “Restoring hardwood floors can be a labor-intensive process, but the results are often well worth the effort. With proper care and maintenance, your beautifully restored hardwood floors can last for many years to come.” 

Restoring hardwood floors is important if you want to keep your floors in good condition so that they don’t become damaged. Hardwood floors with scratches or gouges can be susceptible to rot or water damage, a problem that can be avoided with careful restoration. 

Besides the risk of rot and water damage, hardwood floors can start to look dry and uninviting after long periods of time. When hardwood dries, there can be a risk of splintering and cracking - this can damage your floor permanently and may require a full replacement in serious cases. 

Once the restoration process is complete, maintenance of hardwood floors is much easier, with regular cleaning being enough to keep them in great condition. Restored hardwood floors will look as good as new, eliminating the need to buy replacement planks or undertake heavy-duty management.

When shouldn’t you restore hardwood floors? 

There are a few cases when you shouldn’t restore hardwood floors. If your floors have serious damage, such as cracking or bad splintering then it’s best not to undertake a full restoration as this may further the damage. Similarly, if you have a bad case of rot or woodworm in your floorboards then you should contact a professional to assess the problem and give the green light before any work begins. 

How to restore hardwood floors: 

What the expert says...

Carolina Hansson, Head of Design at Luxury Flooring & Furnishings says, “Laying brand new solid wood floors can be considerably more pricey than undertaking a restoration job - so if you find yourself with existing wood floors, restoring them is a great way to save money when looking to transform your home.”

Restoring hardwood floors is a relatively easy but laborious process, but in the long run, it will keep your floors shiny, inviting, and prevent a number of potential problems. If you're ready to restore your own hardwood floors, follow the steps below for the most effective result.

1. Clean your floor

It’s important to clean your floors before beginning the restoration process to get rid of any potentially abrasive material on the surface. If you don’t know how to clean hardwood floors then it's worth doing some research into the topic before undertaking restoration. If you try to restore dirty hardwood floors, then the dust and grime will cause a sticky residue on the surface that’s hard to clean.  

2.  Be careful when removing carpets 

If you’re removing an old carpet from the surface of a hardwood floor, then you need to be extra careful not to damage the floor in the process. Remove any carpet strips that are screwed under doorways, and use a pair of pliers and a pocket knife to slowly and carefully lift a corner of the carpet. Underneath the carpet, you will most likely have underlay - when removing this be careful not to yank it or peel it too quickly as you risk damaging the floorboards. 

3.  Sand the top layer 

Once you have a bare floor, use coarse sandpaper to sand in the direction of the wood grain. This process can be sped up considerably with a sanding machine, but be careful not to cause any dents or dips in the flooring. Once you have sanded the entire floor with coarse sandpaper, repeat the whole process with lighter-grain sandpaper to make the floor nice and smooth.  

4.  Apply a stain 

If you want a darker, richer finish to your floors then you can apply a layer of wood stain to tint it. Be sure to remove any dust left over after the sanding process, and clean your floor thoroughly before staining. The best vacuum cleaners will help to remove any dust or debris from your floor before staining. 

4.  Apply a stain

If you want a darker, richer finish to your floors then you can apply a layer of wood stain to tint it. Be sure to remove any dust left over after the sanding process, and clean your floor thoroughly before staining. The best vacuum cleaners will help to remove any dust or debris from your floor before staining.

5. The finishing process

After completing the above steps, use a soft brush or roller to apply a layer of polyurethane finish to the floor. This step will protect the wood from wear and tear and will give you an even, shiny finish. After applying the finish you need to leave it to dry for around four hours before applying a second coating. After applying the second coating, simply leave it to dry overnight.  

Top tips for restoring hardwood floors 

Be careful of carpets

As mentioned, be extra careful when removing carpets. If you are using tools to remove a carpet there is a risk of damaging the flooring underneath. When peeling the carpet back, do it slowly and gently.  

Think carefully when choosing a stain

You’ll want to make sure you research stains before buying one. Stains can come in different colors and saturations. If you want a richer look then you may want to go for a darker stain, but if you’re looking for a more natural-looking floor then a lighter stain will be best. 

Don’t use any hard bristles  

A hard-bristled brush or roller can scratch or gouge your floor, which can increase the chance of rot or water damage. Always use a soft-bristled brush when restoring hardwood floors to keep the floorboards in good condition. 

How to care for a hardwood floor

There are a few easy rules and tips to follow to keep your hardwood floor in good condition. 

Be careful with rugs or mats

While they have their benefits, rough rugs or welcome mats risk scratching your floor. It's best to stick to softer rugs or soft welcome mats to eliminate the risk of scratching.  

Don't wear hard-soled shoes inside

While you may be tempted to wear boots or high heels on your hardwood floor, there’s a risk of scuffing or scratching the floor if you do so. 

Don't place heavy metal objects on the floor

While this may seem like common sense, it’s best to avoid putting any heavy metal objects such as trash cans on your hardwood floor. This can gouge the floorboards which in turn will cause a lot of problems such as an increased risk of rot. 

Regularly clean the floor

Frequently vacuuming and mopping your hardwood floors will keep them in good condition and will prevent the build-up of potentially abrasive dust on the surface. It’s best not to over-mop your floor, as too much water can cause fruiting bodies to form and rot your floorboards.  

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Monib Zahdeh
TTR Staff Writer

Monib is a former staff writer for Top Ten Reviews. He has a degree in journalism and over four years of experience in the home and garden industry as a Digital Content Specialist for the made-to-measure marketplace Britannia Rose. When he is not reading or writing, Monib enjoys cooking, going on walks, and visiting different historical sites.  

With contributions from