Buff and coat of an old, formerly carpeted over wood floor

Q: I’m in the process of tearing out the carpet of a 55 year old house. There are original hardwood floors underneath in very good condition. I don’t know the last time they were uncovered. They don’t need to be sanded and stained, but I was wondering if I should put some kind of a protection coat of something on them before treading on them.


A: If the floors were waxed you could give them a good cleaning and re-wax. Dura Seal makes a good product for this called Renovator. If it is varnish the floors could be screened with a polisher and a coat of polyurethane applied. I would still clean them in the latter case to remove possible contaminants which may interfere with adhesion of the finish. A simple way to know if it is a wax finish or not is to place a drop of water on the floor and wait several minutes. If a mark is left, it is wax.

Follow-up Q: Thanks for the quick response! I know nothing about hardwood floors! I put a drop of water on the floor for 5 minutes; no spot. Varnish then? So, reading from what you wrote I would: 1) clean floors, 2) “screen them with a polisher”, and 3) put a coat of polyurethane on them? Buff and coat? Right? Would all the products I would need be available at a place like Lowes? Instructions/work easy enough to figure out? Is this a lot of work? Would this take a long time? How about time between the above to dry, etc? What would happen if I just left the floors the way they were? Thanks so much for your help!

A: You can wipe it down first with any number of things:denatured alcohol, TSP (a weak solution), any approved floor cleaner such as the one offered by Poloplaz, etc. Don’t soak the floor. This is just to help remove any oily contaminants that may have found their way onto the floor surface. You don’t have to use a polisher, and you likely don’t have one available. You can use fine grit sandpaper, say 120 grit or finer and rub with the grain making sure to thoroughly scuff up the finish. Vacuum and tac well to remove fine dust. Apply polyurethane. Some finishes apply well with a short pile roller. I would try a small spot first in some inconspicuous spot to make sure it adheres. Strap on the knee pads!

Also see our recommendation to hire a pro.

Also see DIY Refinish Hardwood Floors.

Similar Q: We just purchased a home built in 1964 that has beautiful, finished hardwoods, under carpet. We are pulling out the carpet, and the only flaws on the floor appear to be the staple holes from the carpet pad and the nail holes from the tack strips, and a few small scratches that must have come from installer’s equipment. Nothing noticeable.

Because of their age, is there anything other than basic hardwood care that we need to do to the floors before we move in?

A: You could give the floors a cleaning with a polyurethane cleaner which you can purchase from your local flooring retailer. If the floors needed to be freshened up you could have someone buff and coat them at which time they could fill the nail holes and install quarter round.

Related Q: Can I apply a water base polyurethane over a ten year old oil polyurethane urethane finish, on a hardwood floor, after lightly sanding the floor?

A: Yes, but you will have to be sure there are no contaminants on the existing finish that could cause adhesion issues. I would wipe the floor down with a TSP solution first, or use any products such as Tie Tac from Poloplaz to first clean the floor. Then abrade the finish well and clean it well before applying the water borne finish.