Hardwood floor refinishing is back-breaking work, and it requires expensive equipment to do it right, so hiring a contractor to do your floor is usually an expensive proposition. You can save the contractors' fees by doing the work yourself, but you'll probably end up losing those savings to equipment rentals, supplies and the expenditure of your own valuable time. You can realize some actual savings, however, by cutting some corners and using a few tricks.
Sand with an Orbital Sander
Sanding a floor with a drum sander and edger is the most difficult and time-consuming procedure in floor refinishing, and it often takes the trained hand of a professional to do it right. You can get comparable sanding results with much less effort by using a flooring orbital sander, which is easier to operate and safer for your floor. It isn't the best machine for removing extra hard finishes or for wearing down buckled floorboards, but it's one you can confidently use yourself, thereby saving you the expense and bother of hiring a refinishing contractor. For places where the flooring meets the wall, doorways or molding, use a rotary tool and a sanding drum attachment to remove the finish in these hard to reach areas.
Screen the Floor
If the finish on your floor is dull, yellowed or cracked, but the flooring is in otherwise good condition, you may be able to avoid sanding by simply restoring the finish. The only equipment you need besides the tools for cleaning the floor and spreading the new finish is a floor buffer. Fit the buffer with a sanding screen attachment and a 120-grit sanding screen and use it to scuff down the old finish, then vacuum up the dust and spread a new finish coat. In this way, you can have the floor looking like new with a minimum of effort.
Use a Chemical Sanding Product
If you only want to restore the finish, you can do it without even the expense and trouble of renting a floor buffer by using a chemical sanding product. Spread it with a mop and allow it to work for the time specified on the container. It will eat into the existing finish just enough to roughen it up so it will accept a new finish. This method is often called dustless sanding, and it requires no special tools. Be sure to give the floor a good cleaning to remove wax and grime before you use it.
Stain the Floor Darker
Avoid extensive sanding to remove stains and discolorations in the floorboards by staining the floor with a dark stain. You can sand the floor with an orbital sander, screen it with a floor buffer or use a chemical sander, then apply the stain without further ado. It's an effective way to mask water spots and other imperfections without going to the trouble of removing them. If your floor has developed gaps, fill them with a filler that matches the existing floor, then sand. When you stain and finish the floor, the filler will blend with the rest of the wood.