When do my wood floors need sanding?

Our wood flooring expert, Russell O’Halloran from RH Floors is taking us through his guides to your home flooring. This week, a simple guide to repairing your existing solid wood floors.


Introducing Russell O’Halloran, our new wood floor expert. Russell will be bringing us tips about upkeep, repair and replacing or installing high quality wood flooring. He is one of Ireland’s leading experts in the craft having trained at the world centre of wood floor excellence – the NWFA in the US – and worked on some of Ireland’s most prestigious addresses including the Áras an Uachtaráin and the Sky Bar at the Guinness brewery. Find out more about Russell at WoodFlooringDublin.com.rh wood floors

How do I know when my Wood Floors need to be sanded?

Wood Texture

The good news is that not all wood floors need to be sanded. If the varnish is still intact i.e. the wood itself has not been exposed, then it may be possible to re-coat the floor. Re-coating the floor is less than half the price of sanding it back to bare wood and does not affect the “life” of the floor. Let’s consider both options:


Sittingroom - Before Sanding
Sitting Room – Before Sanding

There are three steps to this process. Firstly, the floor is cleaned with a de-greasing agent to remove all oils/fats/grease/etc. Then the floor is very lightly abraded with a buffing machine and very fine sandpaper. This step of the process does not actually remove any varnish but imprints micro scratches so the new varnish can get a grip and stick to the floor. The third stage is to apply two coats of varnish.

To avoid reaction it is critical that the new varnish has the same chemical basis as the existing. It will be either oil, water, solvent or hard-wax oil based.

The advantages of re-coating is that the process is quick (usually a day) and does not affect the life of the floor. The disadvantage is that it does not remove the dirty in deep scratches in the floor or sun-bleaching.

Sanding and Sealing

Sittingroom - After Sanding
Sitting Room – After Sanding

When a floor is sanded and sealed, all the varnish is removed and three coats of new varnish are applied. This is a much longer process and may involve dust unless your professional contractor has dust-free machinery. There are usually three different stages of sanding and always three coats of varnish.

The advantage is that all scratches are removed (the floor comes up as new) and any sun-bleaching will be gone. The disadvantage is that it takes longer, costs more money and reduces the life of the floor.

Note: A solid wood floor can only be sanded 3-4 times, so each time it is sanded, the life expectancy is reduced.

How do I know which process is right for my floor?

Doorways are particular high wear areas
Doorways are particular high wear areas

If your floor has wear areas that have turned grey then it’s too late for re-coating as the varnish has already worn away. It’s a bit like suntan lotion – it needs to go on before you get burned as afterwards is just too late.

It’s a bit like suntan lotion – it needs to go on before you get burned as afterwards is just too late.

Ideally as you notice the floor beginning to fade in the doorways, high traffic areas and under tables/chairs/etc. then call a professional contractor immediately to assess the floor.

Generally, if you only have light surface scratches and no real deep damage, stains and dents etc. then you could be the perfect candidate for a recoat.

It’s important to ask the professional coming out to look at your floors exactly what to expect and what will be possible. Make sure the business is 100% confident the new finish will adhere as this is the single biggest failure when re-coating floors. Ask all about their procedure – will they be using a chemical scrub, how will they deal with wax, what will and won’t come out etc.

The Final Word…

If you have wood floors that are down a few years you should consider a re-coat to help extend the life of your floors. Ideally re-coating occurs every two to three years.

On the other hand… if you have dents, deep scratches, pot-plant water damage, UV discoloration from rugs and furniture and greyed, worn out areas in your floors, then you are into sanding and sealing.

You can find out more about Russell at WoodFlooringDublin.com. Next week he tells us about the 7 Questions You Must Ask Your Wood Flooring Professional.rh wood floors