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refinishing wood floor


Flooring Maintenance - Refinishing a Solid Wood Floor

Solid wood flooring is beautiful and durable, but does require careful maintenance and cleaning in order to stay in great condition and last for many years. Sometimes, however, wood floors can become scuffed, grimy or scratched and it they can be a far cry from the original look they once possessed. However, one of the advantages of buying solid wood floors is that they are made with a generous depth which allows for two or three ‘refinishes’ during the lifetime of the floor (which can be, with care and no disasters, as lifetime).

Refinishing a wooden floor can remove superficial scratches and stains and the residue of years of use. It is possible for your average homeowner with no specific training in wooden floors to refinish a solid wood floor to a very high standard, just go at it with the right tools and some enthusiasm! Essentially refinishing a wooden floor means cleaning off as much of the old grime and dirt as possible, and then carefully sanding off a few millimetres from the old surface to reveal clean, unstained wood underneath. This newly exposed surface must then be carefully protected with one of a range of treatments that include varnish, waxes and oils.


Beginning the process starts with thoroughly cleaning the floor. Do not be tempted to leave the surface as it is, reasoning that you are going to be scraping away all that ground in dirt and grime. If you leave it uncleaned all the muck and debris will fall onto the fresh surface and may get trampled or pressed in, leaving your new floor looking grubby before you have had a chance to apply any protective coatings! Go over the entire floor with a stiff bristled brush, paying particular care to corners and otherwise hard to reach nooks and crannies. Once all the loose and friable dirt has been removed, use a damp (not wet) mop in conjunction with a wood-friendly (this usually means pH-neutral) detergent to work off some of the ground-in grime.

Sweep & Sand

Allow the barely dampened floor to dry completely, and sweep once more, this time with a softer brush to make sure that any light pieces of dust and dirt are whisked away. Next you will need a sander. These can be hired fairly economically from plant and equipment hire firms, some of which will give customers a quick lesson in how to use the equipment (which is perfect if you do not want the expense of buying a sander of your own). There are liquid sandpaper products on the market, but these are perhaps not ideal for real wood floors as they work by deglossingthe top surface and essentially working as a primer for whatever the top coat would be. If you want to enhance the natural gleam and grain of the wood, it is best to avoid anything that works a chemical reaction on the wood. Slowly and methodically work your way over the floor, aiming to remove as little of the top surface as possible, while making sure that the worst scratches and stains are completely erased.

Very deep scratches or stains may not disappear and do not be tempted to keep going until they are gone; this can ruin the floor by thinning it too much and can result in an uneven floor surface. Any remaining scratches can be filled in with wood putty and stains (which should be considerably lighter after sanding) can be obscured with wood stain or varnish. 

Sweep & Wipe

Once you are happy with the look and evenness of the floor sweep and vacuum the room, making sure that you remove every trace of wood dust. Once all the loose dust is removed wipe over the floor with a tack cloth or barely dampened cleaning rag. Tack cloths are impregnated with wax that makes them tacky to touch, and they will pick up any particles of dust or dirt safely. You may need more than one to get the whole floor wiped down. If you are using a damp cloth it is vital that the floor does not get wet; the aim is to only dampen the cloth enough so that it will pick up the dust, not affect the wood in anyway.

Protective Finish

Once the surface of the floor is clean and dry, you can apply whichever protective coating that you prefer (check out our flooring essentials page for wood cleaning items and oil). Oils soak into the wood, giving it a great lustre, but leaving the grain open to absorbing dirt and spills so perhaps should be avoided if the floor is in a high-traffic area or if you have young children. Varnishes come in a huge variety of shades from clear to darkest walnut, enabling you to match the floor to your decor scheme and to cover over any leftover stains. There are also wax-based finishes that enhance the natural grain of the wood while preventing spills and dirt from penetrating the wood. These look great, but do need to be reapplied fairly often.

Your wooden floor will soon be looking fabulous again, giving your home an air of genuine luxury. You will need to take care of the floor, sweeping often to prevent small abrasive pieces of dirt from scratching the floor and asking that high-heels be removed as they can gouge into the soft wooden surface. But, with a little TLC and a regular cleaning and care routine, your floor will look fantastic for many years to come!