Q: I have an old house that I just bought and I was hoping to refinish the floors before I moved in to look like new. I called some flooring companies and a full refinish was too expensive. They also said the floors have been refinished too many times already and the process can’t be done again, I’d have to pay to have it all replaced. What can I do?
A: Wood floors, especially hardwood such as oak, are one of the most durable flooring you can have. It’s common to see houses well over 100 years old with beautiful original wood floors. Wood floors do require some extra care to help keep them looking new, and refinishing is usually what people think of first. This requires sanding down through the finish into the wood itself, and may remove as much as 1/16 of an inch of the wood. At some point, the top layer of wood is simply too thin to be sanded again.
Fortunately for many in your situation, there are other options other than a full refinish or replacement. Doing nothing but cleaning is certainly one way. Being OK with some patina will make your floors more livable, especially if you have kiddos and pets. Rustic looks are popular, but it all depends on what you like. It is your house.
You mentioned wanting your floors to look like new, so let’s go back to what you discussed with the contractors. Did they mention a process called screening? This is a very light sanding to remove part of the finish, not down into the wood itself. If most of your finish is in good condition, screening can be done on just a section of flooring, such as a high-traffic pattern, or the whole floor. A new finish coat is then applied over the top of that.
If your floors are too damaged, a polishing might help you prolong the life and looks of your existing flooring until you can afford to do something else. You’ll need to know what is currently on your floor. Whatever is on there now might need to be removed. That can be done with cleaning products and techniques other than sanding, just be sure to use products designed for wood floors. Other products may be too harsh or may create residue or buildup. There are plenty of products to choose from, including liquid or paste wax to silicone-based products, and each have their benefits. Check out the article “How to Wax Hardwood Floors” on the Better Homes and Gardens website for more information.
The best part of polishing your wood floors is that it’s likely you can do it on your own. (Sanding your floors even lightly with anything more than a damp cloth or very soft scrub brush is a very difficult DIY project.) From there, keep the floors clean by vacuuming and very lightly damp-mopping with just water or a product designed for wood floors. Polish again as necessary for a great looking wood floor.