Ask Anthony: Tips for DIY Refinishing Hardwood Floors

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anthony gilardi


Have a home repair or home improvement question? Ask Anthony your questions in the comments below.

Anthony Gilardi stars on HGTV's Myles of Style, and he answers home repair and home improvement questions for us on CafeMom every other week.

This week, Anthony answers a CafeMom's question about how to DIY refinish hardwood flooring. If you're looking to take on old wood floors, you're going to love Anthony's helpful tips.


Hello CafeMoms,

Hope you had a cool and romantic Valentine’s Day. Anthony TIP: You don’t have you eat the entire box of chocolates in one sitting. LOL.

Before I answer this week's question, I would like to note: If you have written into “Ask Anthony” in the past, and I have not answered your question, please ask again below. I DO read every question, and if I see the same question asked twice, it will certainly catch my attention.

Also, as you might have noticed, I like to tease you guys with some humor. That’s how Italians show their love. Please don’t take it personally. I love you all.

Okay, let’s get to this week’s question:


Q: My question is... our home has beautiful Douglas Fir floors (they are original... 90 years old) that are unfortunately very old and tired. They need to be sanded and then refinished. What's the best way to do this ourselves? My husband and I are both handy around the house and have done most of the work ourselves so far, so we're hoping to not have to hire professionals for the floors.

ToddlerBrain82

A: Thanks for writing in, ToddlerBrain… ToddlerBrain? Hmm.

This question is right up my alley. 90-year old original Douglas Fir flooring! You’ve heard of the seven deadly sins? Well to me, the eighth is covering a beautiful original wood floor with wall-to-wall carpeting.

I love the fact that you want to refinish this hardwood floor, and I love even more that you’re interested in doing it yourself. Believe me, if I could come to your home and do it myself, just to see the joy it will bring you, I would. Nevertheless, today I will give you the next best thing: Let’s run through this step by step.

NOTE: This is not an easy job, and it’s not something you want to do halfway. Doing it incorrectly can damage or even ruin your floor.

Anthony TIP: I strongly suggest using VISUAL step by steps. I found a cool website that offers easy-to-follow step-by-step illustrations for refinishing hardwood flooring. USE THIS SITE ALONG WITH MY TIPS BELOW!

TIP 1: Use the proper equipment. DO NOT skimp or cut corners. At large Home/Hardware Stores (Home Depot or its equivalent), you can rent the heavy equipment and purchase the accessories at the same time. The heavy equipment rentals usually cost anywhere from $60 to $90 a day (24 hours). You can probably bang out one or two rooms in that time.

Among the items you will need:

  • drum sander
  • floor edger
  • buffer
  • orbital/ palm sander
  • putty knife and scraper
  • shop vacuum
  • ear protection
  • dust masks (with hypo-allergenic respiratory filters)
  • safety goggles
  • lamb's wool and natural bristle brush or foam applicators
  • tack cloths
  • plastic drop cloths
  • blue painters tape

Anthony TIP: When you get there, find a knowledgeable clerk/assistant, inform them about your project, and shop for the best/affordable prices. Most importantly, have them walk you through the proper way to use each piece of equipment. They are all slightly different in use. 

TIP 2: Tackle one room at a time and SAFETY FIRST. Completely clear out the entire room and close off all pass ways (doors, windows, openings) to all other rooms with plastic drop cloths (use blue painters tape on the walls). This job gets messy, so make sure you’re wearing old clothes. WARNING: If you have dust allergies or respiratory problems, take the proper precautions—wear dust masks with hypo-allergenic respiratory filters or maybe even sit this one out. Even though we are containing the room, you do not want to build an air-free zone. Make sure you can breathe oxygen.

TIP 3: Prep floor. If you have to fill cracks, holes, and/or imperfections, do so with wood putty that matches your floor color. If there are any nails or metal fasteners sticking out, make sure to drive them at least 1/4 inch below the surface and then putty the hole.

TIP 4: Begin sanding using the manufacturer's technique that the store clerk has walked you through. Anthony TIP: Use the equipment with no sandpaper first to get a feel for it, then start with the finest grade and pay close attention to the results. Use the “GRADUAL SYSTEM” until you are confident that YOU are in control and not the machine.

TIP 5: Clean the area properly. Then take a ten minute break to get some fresh air and to let the dust completely settle. Then clean the area properly again before applying any conditioner or finish.

TIP 6. Condition and/or seal your floor before finishing. This is a lot like priming your walls before painting. It helps provide a clean, uniform, sealed surface so that your finish can go on evenly. 

TIP 7: Research the perfect finish for the look you desire. There are a lot of different types and shades. They are applied pretty much the same way; however, always read the manufacturer's suggestions before application.

TIP 8: Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the proper dry time before returning furniture into the room. NOTE: Pay close attention to the temperature mandate.

It’s a ton to swallow, I know, but I also know you can do it. Just take your time, make sure you and everybody in your home is SAFE, and follow the TIPS and instructions closely.

Please stay in touch. If you need to contact me for emergency questions, you can email me at contact@anthonygilardi.com. We’ll walk through it again and again until you feel ready.

Good luck. I would love to see before and after pictures as well.

—Anthony     


Thanks for the great tips, Anthony. It's great to have such thorough professional advice before taking on a big DIY project like refinishing hardwood floors.

And p.s.—a little late on your advice about the Valentine chocolates. That was four whole days ago. Thanks anyway. :)

:: previous Ask Anthony posts ::


+++ Ask Anthony your home repair or home improvement questions in the comments below. He'll be back in two weeks with an answer for at least one lucky person!


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Toddl... ToddlerBrain82

Wow, thank you! I really appreciate you taking the time to give me such thoughtful and detailed instructions. The winters are long and cold here in Maine so we'll probably wait until the summer when we can open all the windows before taking this project on. I will definitely send you pictures! Thank you so much!

Janie Graham

Hey, thanks for the information about floor transitioning. That's very important in laying down floors. Also, thanks for making a list of the things you need to do the project. That could be very helpful. - Janie

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