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How to Recoat Hardwood Floors

Hardwood Floor Edge Sander

Recoating in its simplest definition is applying a fresh coat of finish to your hardwood floors. Recoating is often confused with refinishing a hardwood floor. Unlike refinishing, you are not removing the original finish on the floor. You may recoat a floor to completely change the color of the finish, to retexture, or to simply reapply the same finish that was already on the floor. It’s normal for hardwood floors to be recoated more than once during the life of the hardwood floor.

There are a number of reasons to recoat a hardwood floor. Over time general wear and tear of hardwood floors is normal. Scratches and worn patches in your hardwood floors can leave them looking old and unattractive. If you’ve moved into a home that has had carpeting covering the hardwood floors you may want to consider recoating. Recoating a floor is also an option if any repairs were made to the floor. Home improvements or upgrades to a room with hardwood floors can also result in the need for recoating; especially in the event that you need to match coat the floor’s finish.

Beyond being more affordable than refinishing a hardwood floor, recoating a hardwood floor can restore the look of the floor the same as refinishing can without the cost. Recoating can also extend the life of a floor. It can also reduce the number of times a floor may need refinished. Of course proper care and cleaning of your hardwood floor will help reduce the number of times you need to refinish your floors as well.

As mentioned, recoating a hardwood floor is not as time consuming as refinishing. However there is still a process to be followed. Should you happen to miss a step or make a mistake, you could end up refinishing your floor anyway.

Before recoating a hardwood floor, you must know what kind of a finish is on the floor to begin with. As long as the floor has no wax finish on it and you’re working with a polyurethane finish, you can avoid refinishing the floor and simply move on towards recoating the floor. If you don’t know the type of finish you have; polyurethane or wax, you can perform a simple spot test in a less visible area of the floor, such as a corner.

To perform a spot test, dip a piece of extra fine steel wool in water or mineral spirits and rub the floor with it. Should wax be present, it will show up on the steel wool as a grey smudge or dirty looking film. Wax can be a more difficult process to remove, especially if there is excessive wax build up from years of cleaning with soaps or products with wax in it. Further, if a floor has a wax finish and you attempt to recoat with a polyurethane finish, it may not adhere to the wood properly.

Once you’re certain that you do not have any type of wax finish on your floors, you can begin preparing to recoat your floor. The first step in recoating a hardwood floor is to lightly sand (also called screening, scuffing or buffing) the floor. You don’t want to go all the way down to the bare wood; you only want to sand to the last finish. You’ll want to end with a smooth surface once you’re finished sanding.

The next step is to thoroughly clean the floor. You can begin by vacuuming up as much dust and dirt possible and then go over the hardwood floor with a rag that has been wet down with pure mineral spirits. Other cleaners or materials may leave a residue behind or result in the finish not setting properly or peeling once you’ve recoated the floor. Allow the floor to dry before continuing on to the next step. Unless you know the color of finish that was used prior on the floor, you will have to match coat the floor. Match coating can be difficult but you can test the color in a hidden area before completely coating the floor. Usually the only time you will need to match coat a hardwood floor is if you are repairing a portion of the floor, such as board that is warped, cracked, or has deep scratches that can’t be repaired with wood filler.

Begin by applying the finish to the edges of the floor along the wall first. Using a long handled foam or lamb’s wool applicator, similar to a paint roller, you can begin applying the rest of the finish to the entire floor. Remember to go with the grain, use long even strokes in order to get a proper and complete layer of finish. Once your floor is dried, you can then apply a clear polyurethane coating. During the process of recoating a hardwood floor, remember to keep the room properly ventilated at all times.

If done properly, no one will ever be the wiser that your hardwood floors have been recoated. Having a hardwood floor that has been recoated can save considerable time in future cleaning and maintenance as well as keep your hardwood floors looking new and in beautiful condition.

(10) Comments

    • Hi Arthur,

      Refinishing hardwood flooring can be an involved process. Always make sure to read the instructions carefully on the specific products you’re working with, which you’ve probably already done. Otherwise, there are always instructional videos and resources beyond our Learning Center that can give you some tips. Here’s a selection of videos to consider.

      I hope this helps!

  1. we stripped ,and cleaned the wooden floors.a wood finish was applied.we let the finish set for a day and it is still wet. I have a feeling that too much finish was applied?

    • If you are referring to stain, excess stain should be removed shortly after application with a dry cloth, towel, or mop. If you didn’t, then I’m sure it would take a while to dry, and also have a blotchy looking appearance.

  2. I have Noble House natural finish oak and I believe it was said to have an aluminum oxide finish.

    What is an aluminum oxide finish? Do I need to strip this completely off to refinish with Polyurethane finish?

  3. My hardwood floor has a few spots quarter size that are starting to peel,can I repair treat them without having to refinish the entire floors???help!!

  4. What is the finish?? You mentioned applying the finish and letting that dry then doing the clear polyurethane. I thought you only had to do the clear polyurethane??

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