Drawbacks of Sanding
Sanding hardwood floors creates a large amount of dust, making it difficult to clean the floors before applying a finish. Sanding equipment is also expensive and tricky to use. If you are not familiar with how to use a power sander, you could cause damage to your hardwood floors. Hardwood floors can only be resanded a few times before the wood is worn down too far to sand again.
Prepping Your Hardwood Floors
A good alternative to sanding is buffing your hardwood floors. Buffing is much quicker, cleaner and less expensive than sanding. Start by removing all furniture in the room and thoroughly vacuuming. Once the room is vacuumed, mop the floor with an ammonia solution to remove any dust or grime buildup. For the solution, mix ½ cup of ammonia with one gallon of warm water. After mopping, ensure that the area is completely free of moisture by wiping with dry cotton towels.
You are now ready to begin buffing your floor. You can rent an electric buffer for around $25 per day from most home centers and larger hardware stores. If you've never used an electric buffer, ask for instruction when picking up the device. Make sure you have spare buffing pads. When you begin buffing, start in the middle of the room and work your way to the edges. Buff in a large circular pattern. After buffing the room, wipe up any excess dust with clean tack cloths. Tack cloths can be purchased in any hardware store for around $15 for a pack of 10 cloths, which should be plenty for your buffing project.
Applying a Quality Finish
Once the floor has been buffed, apply a polyurethane finish to protect the wood surface. Before applying the polyurethane, ensure that there is plenty of ventilation in your room by opening all the windows. You may also choose to wear a breathing mask for added protection. Begin by pouring a 12-inch puddle of polyurethane near the wall furthest from the door. Using a foam or lambs wool applicator, apply the polyurethane evenly throughout the room, working your way towards the door. Be sure not to step on areas where you have just applied the polyurethane. Once the entire area is coated, wait 12 to 24 hours before walking on the hardwood. Drying times vary; read the instructions on your polyurethane container for an accurate drying time.
If your finish is heavily worn or scratched, you may want to consider screening your hardwood floors. This can only be done if your floors have a polyurathane finish that has not been waxed.
Screening is similar to sanding, but produces far less dust and does not wear down the floor. Screening will remove the hardwood floor's polyurathane finish without cutting into the wood. Screening does create dust, so you'll want to remove any furniture from the room and seal off any areas where dust could escape.
Screening requires the use of a floor polisher and special pads that can be purchased at many home centers or larger hardware stores.