What Is the Most Effective Way to Refinish Hardwood Floors?

A newly finished floor instantly freshens up your home’s interiors. But getting your worn hardwood back to its original condition can get messy. When it comes to sanding and refinishing, there are many options, including sanding and refinishing, dustless sanding and sandless refinishing. However, customers get confused by all these terms.

In our previous blogs, we explained floor screening and the benefits of sanding. But how effective is each process in replenishing hardwood flooring? Keep reading to find out.

Full Sand Refinishing for Hardwood Flooring

How Effective Is Full Sand Refinishing, Dustless Sanding and Sandless Refinishing?

The truth is flooring companies use these flashy terms to attract and confuse customers about their services. As a result, people often mix them up. Here we will try to explain these three terms in the simplest way possible.

1. Full Sanding and Refinishing

This is the standard method of refinishing hardwood floors. Sanding and refinishing go hand in hand, as your floors needs to be sanded each time you get them refinished. Full sanding requires successive grit sequences. The process begins with abrasive grit and then finer grits (up to three times) are applied. The primary grit takes off the previous finish, the second one smooths the surface, and the third gives it a finishing touch. Keeping this sequence in mind is essential, as the wrong order will not produce the same smooth transition. We do not want to leave any grit line behind now, do we? After a successful transition to finer grits, your floor ends up looking even and you get the raw look of hardwood back.

Afterwards, you can either go for a natural colour with no stains or choose stain colours. In stain colours there is a broad spectrum available, from light to dark, red and brown.

From there, two to three layers of polyurethane are applied. After the first two coats, we need to do a full floor screening to smooth the surface and scuff up the top layer. This ensures that the polyurethane sticks to the floor.

Fun Fact:

Unless your floor is in a bad way, you do not need to fully sand and refinish it. Unfortunately, by the time most customers call, a full sanding is necessary.

A major drawback of sanding is that it requires us to sand down through the finish to the core of the wood itself. Because of this, as much as 1/16” of the wood may be removed. If this process is repeated, the top layer of the flooring becomes too thin to sand any further. This is why award-winning designer and TV personality Jennifer Adams advises against it:

“Fortunately for many in your situation, there are other options other than a full refinish or replacement. Doing nothing but cleaning is certainly one way. Being OK with some patina will make your floors more livable, especially if you have kiddos and pets. Rustic looks are popular, but it all depends on what you like. It is your house.”

2. Dustless Sanding and Refinishing

The main issue you face with full sanding is that it leaves the floor messy, with a lot of dust left behind. Dustless sanding is similar to traditional refinishing but is more efficient in restoring old, stained or damaged hardwood.

With traditional sanding methods, the dust left behind creates a lot of mess long after the project has been completed. To counter this, the “dustless” method was invented.

In this process, a special machine sands your floors. It has a vacuum suction tube on one end and is connected to a dust containment system. The dust is sucked in by negative pressure to make sure little of it is left behind. This technique is great for those with dust allergies or asthma.


Do not be misled by the term “dustless” or “dust free.” No flooring process is 100% dustless.

3. Sandless Refinishing

Sandless refinishing is an entirely different process that involves lightly scoffing the floor. This is done by etching the surface with a chemical and then applying clear finishing coats. There is no need for major sanding with this method. In a way, it is similar to the final step of the conventional sanding and refinishing method.

Instead of sanding, a technician uses a machine with abrasive pads and a liquid solution that removes any traces of dust or debris from the floor. As the hardwood is scuffed gently, the liquid keeps etching away the residue. Simultaneously, very little dust is produced since there is no sanding involved. Furthermore, whatever dust accumulates gets absorbed in the solution.

With this process, nothing ends up on your furniture or in the air. Once the project is complete, your floor is washed and the technician details the floor. This involves applying a protective sealer to enhance your hardwood’s strength and shine.

Effectiveness of Sandless Refinishing

When it is simply about removing old floor wax, polish and paint splatters, sandless refinishing can be very effective. However, it cannot remove dents or scratches or fix your sun-faded floor. It is also not a very effective method against oxidation or most pet stains. So why consider it?

Sandless refinishing will not remove your floor’s polyurethane finish. This makes it effective for a floor that is relatively new but starting to show signs of wear and tear. Applying this method on a regular basis can prolong the life of your floor without requiring any major sanding. In this way, you can delay complete refinishing for at least half a decade. People with dust allergies, of course, want to put off sanding as long as possible.

How do you decide which method is best for you? If your hardwood floor is in good condition and only requires a quick touch-up, sandless refinishing is the way to go. However, to fully restore your damaged hardwood floor to its previous glory or to change the colour of your stain, you require a full traditional or dust free sanding and refinishing.