How to Restore Oak Floors

Updated April 17, 2017

Hardwood floors add elegance to a house. Oak has graced homes for generations. Even though it is a hard wood, oak can become stained, scratched or damaged. Restoring oak floors takes some work---it won't be done overnight.

Doing it yourself not only will you save time, but you will also have a beautiful floor to show for your efforts. Whether you already have hard wood showing or have had it covered through the years, restoring your oak floor is worth the time it takes.

Sand the floor with the drum sander. If your floor has many problems, start with 36-grit sandpaper. For floors usually covered with carpet, 60-grit sandpaper will do the job.

Sand by going with the wood grain. Go smoothly from one end of the room to the other, stopping when you reach about 5 feet away from the wall. Keep the sander constantly moving on the floor while it is running. Otherwise, it will gouge the floor. Turn the sander around to finish the rest of the section of floor, getting as close to the wall as possible.

Finish sanding the sections around the wall with a hand-held disc sander, or rent an edging machine. Vacuum the dust with a shop vac.

Sand the floor again with 80-grit sandpaper if you started with 60-grit. If you started with 36-grit, change the paper to 60-grit. Sand the section close to the wall again. Vacuum thoroughly.

Sand the floor again with 100-grit sandpaper. Vacuum thoroughly, including any cracks. Use a tack cloth to remove any dust that your vacuum could not pick up.

Apply stain using a paintbrush or clean rags, following the wood grain. Leave stain on for 30 seconds to 15 minutes depending on how dark you want your floors to be. Allow the stain to dry completely.

Stir the polyurethane carefully. To avoid unwanted air bubbles, do not shake the can or mix its contents briskly.

Apply the polyurethane with a brush. Do not scrape the side of the brush against the side of the can, since doing so causes air bubbles. Work in 4-foot-wide sections and apply in the direction of the grain. Allow to dry for three hours.

Sand the floor lightly with an orbital sander. Vacuum and use a tack cloth to pick up all the dust.

Apply the second coat. Leave this to dry thoroughly before moving furniture back into the room.


Wear protective goggles and a face mask when sanding. Open windows to allow good ventilation. To find out how long to leave the stain on, first experiment with a scrap piece of oak wood.

Things You'll Need

  • Drum sander
  • 36-, 60-, 80- and 100-grit sandpapers
  • Edging sander or hand-held disc sander
  • Shop vac
  • Tack cloth
  • Stain
  • Paintbrush or clean rags
  • Orbital sander
  • Polyurethane
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About the Author

Gail Delaney is a writer in South Dakota and has articles published online at various websites. She is the garden editor for BellaOnline, with years of gardening experience. Being the caretaker of her parents led her in the direction of medical issues, especially natural remedies.