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What To Do When Refinishing Your Floors Isn't an Option

By Brett Freeman
What To Do When Refinishing Your Floors Isn't an Option

Hardwood floors that have lost their sheen and are in need of refinishing can cause anxiety for a couple of reasons. The first is that your floors don't look good. The second is that, with their finish worn thin, your floors are more susceptible to damage. If you're in a position where refinishing needs to be put off for a year or two, relax. There are plenty of things you can do to improve the look of hardwood floors and protect them against damage.

Fixing Your Floors Where They Need Fixing
The polyurethane finish that protects your floors is extremely durable, but it doesn't last forever. Over time, the dirt and grit tracked in by people walking on the floors can wear away the finish, which results in a dull finish and, often, scratches. Because it's traffic, not time, that is doing the damage, your floor's finish can wear out unevenly, which you've probably already noticed. In hallways and around entryways, the floors look dull. Right up against the wall, the finish might look practically new. The answer, then, is to address the tired-looking areas of your floors and leave the rest alone.

Is the Finish Thin or Just Scratched?
Sometimes your floor finish is still relatively good but there are a few trouble spots, usually around entryways. If this is the case, take a closer look at those areas. Has the finish worn away or is the surface just scratched? Often it's the latter. If that's the case, you might be able to repair the scratches with a touch-up kit, which you can find at most home improvement stores. If not, continue to the next step.

Adding a Coat of Urethane
If your floor finish is beyond a simple touch up, you can restore their shine and add a layer of protection by putting a fresh coat of polyurethane over the worn or damaged areas, provided the old finish hasn't been completely worn down to expose the wood. Begin by thoroughly cleaning your floors--sweep and then vacuum. Use a buffing machine to lightly scuff the top of the floors. You are not trying to remove the existing finish. Instead, you just want to smooth out light imperfections and scuff the finish so the new coat of polyurethane adheres. Remove any dust by vacuuming and then wiping down the floors with a rag soaked in mineral spirits. Use a lamb's wool pad to apply the new layer of urethane (practice on a scrap of butcher's block or a hardwood floor remnant if you're not sure how to do this), and let it dry at least 24 hours before walking on it. Allow the new finish to cure for three days before resuming normal traffic.

Protect Your Investment
To keep your floors looking nice--now, and when/if you refinish them in the future--keep them clean. Make sure you have door mats to collect most of the dirt and grit from people's shoes as they enter and sweep regularly to keep your floors free of the particles that wear out your floor's finish.

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