Staining and Varnishing Wood Floors

This story shows how to stain or varnish a wood floor.


Finishing a wood floor requires a number of preparation steps, but the result is a wood floor with all its warmth and richness.

If you're planning to refinish an existing floor, pull up a floor register to make sure you have enough wood for another sanding. Standard hardwood strip flooring can be sanded several times, but if your floor is only slightly more than 1/2 inch thick, consult a professional. The same goes for engineered flooring. It can be refinished, but its top layer is quite thin.

Take inventory of the existing floor and mark and repair popped nails and damaged areas. Because depressions in an old floor are inevitable, they'll show up as you're sanding them. Mark them so you can resand them if necessary.

Even if your floor is brand new and unfinished, it will require sanding and preparation. In almost all cases it's easier to use a pad sander rather than a drum sander.

Prestart Checklist

2 to 4 days, depending on conditions and size of the floor and your skills and experience

Pry bar, putty knife, hammer, pad sander, random orbit sander, vacuum, finish applicator, paintbrush

Preparing, sanding, and finishing wood

Finishing nails, wood putty, stain, sandpaper, varnish

Step 1

Remove shoe molding and baseboard (if desired). Rough-sand the floor with a heavy-grit paper, keeping the sander moving and working with the grain. Change sandpaper often to keep the cutting surface fresh. A sander equipped with a dust-removal system will speed the work.

Step 2

When the floor is sanded to a rough-cut smoothness, fill the entire surface with a wood filler as recommended by your floor products retailer. Let the filler dry.

Step 3

Rough-cutting the floor will leave the edges slightly higher than the main body of the floor. To even out this difference in floor levels, scrape down the edges so they're level with the sanded surface. Change blades often and pull the scraper toward you with firm pressure on the wood.

Step 4

Buff the floor with a 100-grit screen to remove any remaining imperfections and to bring the floor to a consistent level from edges to center, leaving the surface at its finished smoothness. Vacuum thoroughly and remove dust with a tack cloth.

Using a Drum Sander

Drum sanders require a specific technique to produce a smooth surface. Start about two-thirds of the way along the length of one wall and sand with the grain, pulling the sander towards you. Then, push the sander forward and overlap its next path slightly. After sanding the section turn the sander around and repeat the process.

Step 5

Stain the floor (optional) with a rag or the applicator recommended, removing the excess if required. Let the stain dry. Using a lamb's wool or other suitable applicator, apply the finish coats, letting each coat dry. Scuff-sand and vacuum each dry coat before applying the next one.

Comments (8)
sgfsd wrote:

Download over 16,000 WOODWORKING PLANS at here Woodworking guide offers anyone of any skill level the ability to build amazing projects. The guide is extra helpful because it offers more detailed explanations, videos and blueprints then your typical woodworker magazine . Hope it will help you next time !

6/9/2016 01:37:55 PM Report Abuse
rsmutny1 wrote:

Can I apply a sealer to my engineered wood floor? If so, what is recommended?

9/22/2010 01:04:33 PM Report Abuse
elsiejg1208 wrote:

Do you have to complete the staining of the hardwood floor in one day. or can you finish one room at a time.? The harewood floor is continuous.

2/18/2010 05:19:40 PM Report Abuse
whoopzdaisy wrote:

Ssaft you should check out for ideas on replacning flooring. Pretty much you canay another ceramic tile floor over the current one.

1/2/2010 01:35:17 PM Report Abuse
ssaft wrote:

what kind of floor can I cover over ceramic tile without ripping it up?

12/5/2009 06:21:00 PM Report Abuse
Add your comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Register | Log In
Wish-list Projects

Making these dreams come true is simpler than you thought -- print these instructions to begin!