How to Restore Wood Floors without Sanding

  • Wood floors can be the most exciting part of your house or apartment. Hardwood floors are elegant. They bring to mind a unique coziness and can last a lifetime. 
  • Of all the wooden flooring options, ebony, cherry, live oak, and bamboo are the most durable. They are also the most resistant to minor damage, so you won’t have to engage in restoration practices often. 
  • Yet, in some cases, replacing hardwood floors may become a necessity. Other times, you won’t require a replacement, but deep scratches may force you to refinish hardwood floors. This article explores restoring floors without sanding.

Signs that hardwood needs restoration

To ensure your wood keeps looking good at all times, it’s crucial to pay attention to various signs that it got worn off. 

So, how to recognize that your hardwood floor needs an update?

As a rule of thumb, experts recommend refinishing hardwood floors every ten years. 

It’s not a universal number, though. It depends on 

  • foot traffic in your house, 
  • how well you maintain your wood floor, or simply, 
  • how well you want it to look (newer and better is always an option!)

—suggests Dave’s Floor Sanding

Let’s look at the following three indicators that it’s time to restore your hardwood floor.

Just look at it

Is your wood flooring still attractive to the eye?

It’s a straightforward but essential question—how your hardwood floor looks well describes its condition.

If your wood flooring looks worn out or has multiple or extensive or deeper scratches or dents, reach out to the professional for an expert opinion. 

If your floor’s surface is severely damaged, professionals will likely suggest sand and finish.

Tip: If you have the time for upkeep, you’ll get away with a simple recoating every 3-5 years in low traffic areas and every year in high traffic areas. This way, complete sand, and finish won’t be necessary for many years!

Do a water test

Take a tablespoon of water and pour it on your floor’s surface. Then, wait to see what happens. 

If the water gets absorbed into the floorboard, it’s time to reach out to a professional. 

Water is the enemy of hardwood flooring because of the porous nature of wood. Your hardwood floor will be prone to water damage from common household appliances or a simple spill if you don’t sand and finish it in time. 

It’s time to sand and finish

With your hardwood floors installed come responsibilities. 

Pay some time to understand the maintenance your chosen wood species require at the beginning of your hardwood floor adventure. 

This preparation phase will help you determine the best time to get sand and finish. 

Yet, even if you don’t know your hardwood well, there are some universal truths. 

It’s recommended to sand and finish the wood floor every 10-15 years—depending on your wood floor quality and how well it has been maintained.  

You can perform sand and finish independently, but it’s pretty risky, so it’s better to reach out to professionals. 

Ways to refinish hardwood without sanding

Let’s say all signs on heaven and Earth show that your hardwood floor needs an update. 

Yet, you prefer to restore hardwood floors without sanding.

Is it even possible? How to tackle restoring hardwood floors without sanding?

Keep reading to discover what your options are!

Screen and recoat method

What does “to screen and recoat” mean? 

This phase describes sprucing up an existing coat of polyurethane finish by top-coating it. 

You can also hear it called “to buff and recoat floors with polyurethane”—the screen is often driven across the floor by a buffer.

If your wood floor has marks only on the surface and no significantly deep scratches or deep gouges, you can use a floor buffing machine to scuff-sand your floors and enhance the floor’s appearance. Then, apply a fresh coat or two of finish. 

Compared to sanding down to bare wood, the hardwood floor refinishing process

  • takes less time, 
  • is less expensive, and
  • is easier

—advises This Old House.

Tip: Rent a floor buffing machine at a home center, and equip yourself with a vacuum to suck up dust. 

Once the finish is roughed up, put on a water-based polyurethane (it will take about three hours. 

Oil-based urethane is cheaper, but water-based urethane takes less to dry. 

Important: High-gloss finishes tend to show scratches easily due to the amount of light reflected.

Apply a fresh coat every two years or whenever the floor looks worn. 

Pros of this technique?

It’s the long-lasting and most effective way to prepare your floor for a new finish. 

Its effects also look highly professional as for the DIY method. 

However, this method requires a material rental and hands-on effort. 

It also causes more dust and requires a more significant cleanup afterward. 

Buffing is a little messier than using a chemical kit (we write about it in the next paragraph). It may even resemble sanding, which we wanted to avoid. 

Yet, the point of buffing is roughing up the existing finish so the new finish could bond. So you’re not thoroughly sanding to remove the finish and scratches entirely. Instead, you’re just roughing it through screening to repair surface scratches and marks.

Chemical abrasion kit

The first method—using a buffing machine and recoating—is similar to using a chemical abrasion kit.

Find the chemical abrasion DIY kit at your local hardware or home improvement store. Such kits give you all the major materials needed for the process.

You’ll use a chemical solution to prepare the flooring and etch the old finish. Then, you’ll need to apply a new coat of finish to restore your floor. 

This method doesn’t create any dust and produces minimal fumes. Yet, it requires more than one person to do the job effectively, and you’ll have a short amount of time to apply the finish before etching compound dries.

So let’s tackle the steps to follow. 

Clean your place

The first step is to clean the room with hardwood floors. 

Make sure the floor is clear of all the furniture; remove any partial furnishings or fixtures, such as 

  • floor-length curtains, 
  • old carpet,
  • built-in shelves, etc.
  • take the doors off the hinges (closet and entry doors quickly get in the way);

Tip: Clean floor with a vacuum and damp cloth. Don’t use chemical cleaners. 

Ensure you get rid of dust and grime particles from window sills, blinds, curtains, and baseboards. They would be deadly for the wet finish, creating severe imperfections when the finish hardens.

Wait until the floor dries after cleaning. 

Prepare the space by closing windows, turning fans off, and plugging any heating ducts or vents with old towels to stop the airflow (we want to avoid the spread of dust).

Apply the liquid abrasive and scrub the floor

There’s an abrasive pad in your kit—it will be helpful to scrub the liquid with the grain of the floor. 

Attach the pad to the block and then screw it to the handle of your broom.

Tip: Wear gloves, a dust mask, and protective clothing if you do it on your knees instead.

Pour the chemical abrasive into a plastic-lined shallow cardboard box. Apply a fair amount of pressure to roughen the surface of your hardwood floors with the product. 

Instead of just mopping with a damp mop, scrub firmly several times over each small section.

Important: Remember that the solution shouldn’t be left on the floor for longer than five minutes because it can seep into the cracks between the flooring strips and damage the core beneath the laminate. 

So, wipe up any extra liquid with an old towel before starting the next area. On the other hand, the floor shouldn’t be completely dry—go for a thin liquid film.

After you’ve etched the entire floor, let it dry for 30 minutes. 

Clean the floor again

You’ll be using the mop and water, but make sure your mop is only slightly damp and not wet. You don’t want to cause any water damage to the floor. If you see puddles forming, clean them instantly. 

Pour two tablespoons of dishwashing liquid into a gallon of warm water. 

Slightly dampen the mop to clean the floor, neutralize the etcher and clean up any remaining residue. 

You may wear shoe covers to keep your floor free from any dust or particles along the way. 

Again, wait 30 minutes until your wood floors dry.

Focus on the deep scratches

Now, we’re getting closer to the details. 

Apply some stain that matches the floor’s stain using a tiny artist paintbrush or a cotton swab. 

Feather the stain out to make sure it blends with the floor and blot it with a rag or microfiber cloth. 

Coat the floor in a new finish

At this point, a helper will come in handy. 

Put the finish applicator pad on the block and pour some finish into a paint tray. 

Tip: Don’t squeeze out the excess of the floor finish solution as it could create bubbles. 

As you spread the finish on the floor, instruct your helper to coat the edges against the walls and baseboards with a paint pad and/or brush when you follow behind with the applicator. 

Important: Moistening your tools with water before spreading the finish will make them more pliable. 

Evenly apply the finish in as few strokes as possible for the best results. Keep the pad wet at all times to not create the dreaded dry-brush look on the surface. 

Important: Don’t worry when you notice the milky and streaky color of the finish—it dries clear.

Plan your application strategy carefully—you’ll have about five to ten minutes before the finish gets tacky and impossible to smooth out. 

With every drip that leaves a bump, don’t panic. Just let it dry and carefully remove it later with a razor blade.

Applying one coat of finish is usually ideal, but adding a second coat for an extra layer to protect the underlying wood and hide the deeper scratches won’t harm. 

Tip: Wait a minimum of three hours before applying another coat. 

Let the finish dry

After eight hours, you should be able to walk on the floor with clean socks but wait: 

  • 24 hours for moving your furniture back in,
  • two weeks before laying down an area rug;

Water-based polyurethane revitalizer gloss

This technique will work excellent if your floors have the least amount of wear and you just want to refresh them.

To restore tired and dull wood floors, just pick up a revitalizer from your local home improvement store.

It is designed to fill in scratches and add a glossy finish with minimal effort.

This option is perfect for those who:

  • have a small budget,
  • have a limited amount of time, and 
  • are looking to spruce up a place for incoming tenants;

Related articles

Frequently Asked Questions

Laminate is made from pressed wood, making it more durable and resistant to moisture, scratches, and wear and tear. Laminate flooring is also easier to clean.
Laminate may be more durable, but it's not as visually appealing (not to mention worn-out laminate floor). Moreover, lower qualities of laminate may even have wood grain textures that look artificial.
Leave a Comment