What To Expect When You Get Your Wood Floors Refinished

We’re back with more floor refinishing details as promised. First a reminder about why we refinished 600 square feet of our home’s 50-year-old yellowed wood flooring (to match the new prefinished mocha hardwood that we installed in the kitchen, den, laundry nook and half bathroom):


Here’s the yummy after. So much better, right?



When it comes to matching prefinished oak with refinished oak it doesn’t get much closer than that. In fact our wonderful floor guy mixed three batches of stain to come up with the perfect color. The main difference between factory prefinished oak flooring and refinished-on-site oak flooring is that the knots and veins in the wood are a bit more distinct in the sanded and stained refinished floors. But we’re absolutely thrilled with the match-job, it really looks a million times more cohesive and consistent from the moment you step in the door.


But how did those delicious mocha floors come about? Here’s the play by play.

First we asked practically everyone in town for a recommendation– we really wanted a pre-screened floor refinisher since it was sure to be a serious challenge because we wanted to closely match our new flooring. More than one friend recommended the same person so we felt good going with our floor guy (although we did get another estimate just to be sure we were getting the best deal in town).

Then we negotiated a killer deal (saving $300 and coming in at just $900 for 600 square feet by asking our refinisher to sand and restain the existing shoe molding instead of replacing it with costly new wood molding).

Then it was time to completely clear each room– the living room, our three bedrooms and each and every closet within those spaces. We also removed the window treatments in each area, although we did keep the art work on the walls (knowing we’d have to dust it all) since we didn’t have a safe place to store all those fragile glass frames because we already had all of our furniture crammed into the kitchen and the den. We knew that we’d have to clean the sanding dust from the closet shelving and above each door frame and windowsill anyway, so dusting off the pictures in each room seemed doable while we were at it.


We were also sure to tape plastic bags over our heating vents to keep our air filters free of dust during the sanding process that would commence in the the morning. And we hung an old sheet to block renovation dust from invading our kitchen and den where we were storing all of our furniture.


Next our refinisher spent all day sanding the floors (it was actually the longest amount of time a contractor had ever spent in our house- including masons, window guys, kitchen installers, etc). He used one of those professional sanders with a dust bag attached to suck in as much excess dust as possible (but of course we still found some sanding dust atop door frames windowsills and on our closet shelves). He then thoroughly dusted and vacuumed the floors to be sure they were free of dust and shavings.


Then we removed the plastic from our vents and fired up the heat to a toasty 75 degrees before our floor refinisher laid down any stain since we wouldn’t be able to walk on the floors for  20 hours after the stain was applied (heat helps to speed up the drying process).


Our refinisher mixed a few different stain concoctions and applied each one to our stripped flooring (right near the new kitchen hardwood so we could easily identify a match). We all agreed which one was the closest and he went to work applying it throughout the 600 square feet, working towards the front door where he “painted himself out of the house.”


The next morning he arrived to apply the first coat of polyurethane, which only took about 45 minutes but smelled to high heaven so we cracked a few windows before he “painted himself” out of the front door again. Being sensitive to the toxins, we actually arranged to stay with John’s sister for the duration of the polying process due to the nasty smell (and the fear that all the fumes couldn’t be good for us or our tiny pooch). We would definitely recommend arranging to stay with a friend or even at a hotel from the first coat of poly on (we actually didn’t sleep in our house for a full week to ensure that the air was clear)- and would especially caution that anyone who is pregnant or has small children or pets should make it their main goal to stay far far away for as long as possible.

The following morning our floor guy arrived again to apply the second coat of poly (he lightly sanded the first coat before laying it down just as all the experts recommend). This entire process took about an hour and forty five minutes and he again “painted himself” out of the house when he was done. At this point the house was even stinkier (if that’s possible) so we cracked all the windows that we could access (in the den and the kitchen) and although the heat was cranked to 75 degrees to aid in the drying time, we were happy to overwork our heating system a bit in return for some much needed ventilation.

On day four our floor guy returned to apply the third and final coat of poly (and get paid of course!). Apparently three coats of polyurethane are far superior to two- so always check how many coats your refinisher intends to apply (three probably means that you’ve got an expert on your hands).


We then were instructed not to walk on the floors for 48 hours at which point we had the ok to move all of our furniture back into the rooms. Thanks to the holidays we easily stayed clear of our house for three days (extra insurance that everything was dry and the fumes were even more dissipated). And truth be told we actually still smelled some lingering poly chemicals in the air, so we continued to steer clear of our house for a few more days and keep our windows cracked to further vent the fumes (although we lowered the heat back to our normal not-home temp of 64 degrees).

And once we finally got around to putting everything back in it’s place we were beyond thrilled with how our furnishings seemed to pop a little more and look a bit more luxe thanks to the rich mocha flooring underfoot:


And not only in the living/dining room, check out the newly spiffed floor in the third bedroom:


And the guest bedroom:


And our master bedroom:


Even our closets look sleeker with their newly mocha-fied floors. Mmmm.


So there you have it. A step by step breakdown of what to expect when you’re refinishing your floors. Whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring it out, we wish you all the luck in the world… and some glossy and fabulous floors that make all the dust, smell, and chaos totally worth it in the end!

Psst- For more info on the guy we hired to redo our floors (and the entire process) click here.


  1. Pamela says

    Your floors came out absolutely stunning! Looks like it was well worth storing all your belonging, stinking up the house and leaving town for a few days!

  2. says

    I like the after a lot. But I gotta say I like the before too. I think floor color really is just a preference thing. I think it certainly matches the kitchen more so now than it did before and if that was just driving you bonkers I understand. I just can’t say that the before was horrific…it wasn’t. *shrugs*

  3. sarah says

    i gotta agree with kristy. your floors looked like they were in great condition before. they are similar to what we have in our house, and I think the lighter color is nice in a small house b/c it makes the room seem larger. however, i can def. see how the conflicting wood floor would bother you and hey, if you have the money and means, why not? they DO look great!

  4. says

    I recenlty discovered you blog (Homies 2008). I really love the way you floor turned out. It is beautiful. But then again I love wood. I have a french oak floor, I chose it because of the knots and veins.
    Have a nice weekend!

  5. says

    Nice work. Looks like the grade of your flooring is different from one room to the next… Perhaps you used select grade in the kitchen while the adjacent room is builders grade? Todd’s right – matching stains perfectly is nearly impossible, and you guys did a fantastic job! Love the floors, love your blog… Keep it up.

  6. says

    They look great.
    I’m a little surprised by Fred’s comment – does he not understand that the livingroom floor was original to the house?

    And that’s the difference between new wood and old wood.
    50 years ago, the trees cut down for wood floors were old, accounting for beautiful variations, knots and veins. Today we’re cutting down young trees that don’t have the time develop the same character.

    Your whole house looks beautiful.

  7. corinna says

    could you please share where you got your coffee table and storage cube? thank you for sharing your lovely home!

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Corinna,

      We got our coffee table at a thrift store (an amazing $35 score) and the storage cube from Michael’s for 50% off (maybe $25?). But they do sell similar coffee tables at potterybarn.com. Hope it helps! Happy shopping…


  8. Kelly says

    I’m so glad to have found your blog. Holly Mathis Interiors mentioned it in her blog and showed some pictures of your bedrooms she liked. Anyway, my husband is planning on refinishing our pine floors in our kitchen and foyer sometime this year. We’re probably going to do it ourselves, to save money. I’ll be sure to have him see your floor refinishing tutorial. I want him to see what to expect. Your floors look fantastic! I really like the darker color since you have so much light colored upholstery.

  9. beatriz says

    hi kiddos!

    i’m new to your blog and am trying to get up to speed (lot’s of info to cover!)

    i have a couple of questions for you, number one, where did you get the sofa for your living room? i like it a LOT and found one somewhat similar (manchester) at ballard design (but i’m scared to death of purchasing a sofa online without the benefit of ‘trying it out’) and would you consider doing a segment on the direction to lay your hardwood floors? the reason i ask is we are getting ready to lay hardwood in our condo, and from what i’ve read, you are supposed to lay it perpendicular to your floor joists…i have living/dining combination room that is 33′ long and 12’…..perpendicular would be fine for the room itself, but the transition into the 2 bedrooms have 2 very small hallways that would need to be layed ‘crosswise’ (creating a ladder effect)….would love to hear your ideas about how to approach this…


    and congrats on a superb design blog!

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