Can You Use a Buffer Machine to Wax a Wood Floor?

Written by chuck ayers
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Can You Use a Buffer Machine to Wax a Wood Floor?

Wood floors--from flooring in farmhouses to the gleaming parquet basketball floor at the Boston Garden--have been buffered mechanically since the 1940s. All depends on the wood and the current condition. Even soft woods like pine have been nurtured, treated and buffed with rotary buffer machines to this day. Hardwoods love buffing. The key is to do it is on low speed and take your time.

In What Condition Is the Wood Floor?

Is the floor new or old; is it made of hard wood or soft wood? Does it have an existing wax coat and, if so, in what condition is the wax job? There may be a lot or a little preparation needed before getting to the buffing. These are the most important considerations before you start waxing away. The condition of the floor will dictate what steps to take before buffing.

If the Floor Is in Bad Condition

If the wood flooring is splintered, cracked, dry and otherwise in poor condition, the project becomes one of restoration as much as finishing. If the floor is in good condition, it may just need to be cleaned and prepared before waxing. If restoration work is needed with wood putty or there are many layers of wax build-up, a light sanding with a drum sander is usually recommended before starting the waxing project.

Assuming the Floor is Hardwood and in Good Condition

If it's old flooring, prior to the 1930s, it's a safe bet that it was originally finished with tung oil and has many coats of paste wax on it. If it is the first time you're waxing the floor, remove the years of built-up paste wax with white spirit. Give the floor a good dusting and sweeping beforehand. After you've removed the old wax, let it dry for 24 hours before putting on a new wax finish. There are several liquid paste waxes available at most hardware stores. This is what you will want to use both for ease of application and final finish.


Using the instructions on the bottle, apply the recommended amount of wax in a localised area and buff using an electric buffer on low speed. It is preferable to use a buffer pad with natural bristles. Work in small areas at a time, moving in a circular motion from one defined space to the next, adding the liquid wax as you go. This works for both hardwood and softwood flooring that is in good condition. You know you are done with one area and ready to move to the next when there is a satin sheen on the wood.

Split or Cracked Wood

Over the years, hardwood floors may develop small splits or cracks in the surface of the wood. These can be spot-repaired using nails hammered in at an angle to tie the two pieces together. Use wood putty of a matching colour to hide any blemishes. If there are large cracks, consider refinishing the floor; if a split is highly pronounced you may want to replace the plank. If you apply wood putty, use a putty knife of sufficient width so it can be applied uniformly. After the putty dries, lightly sand the areas before waxing. More serious problems like sagging or buckling of the wood may require a professional to more properly attach the wood to the subfloor.

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