Easy How to Refinish Hardwood Floors Without Sanding

May 18, 2023

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DIY Hardwood Floor Refinishing Without Sanding

Is your hardwood flooring tired and worn out? Are your wooden floors ready for a refresh? While hardwood floors are super durable and tough, they do lose their shine and luster over time. And then there’s the knicks, scratches and abuse they go through in the day to day. So, how do you restore that natural wood beauty and bring them back to life?

What if I told you there’s a way to refinish your hardwood floors WITHOUT sanding? It’s true! And It really works! I have floors that I did this exact technique to 7 years ago and they still look as good as new!

Header Image: DIY hardwood floor refinishing without sanding

When it comes to refinishing hardwood floors, if you’re like me, you dread the thought of sanding them all down. It’s not only time consuming, but it can also be very expensive. Especially, if you hire someone else to do this oh so messy job.

But as I mentioned, there is a way to achieve a beautiful refinished floor without sanding. So, what’s the secret? Gel stain. By using gel stain, you can avoid the sanding process and still achieve a professional looking finish. It is the easiest and best way to bring new life to your hardwood floors.

Ready to give that old finish on your hardwood floors a new finish look?

Bring new life to your tired floors without the dust and debris. Let’s get started with my easy step by step guide to “DIY Hardwood Floor Refinishing Without Sanding”.

“Gel staining is a great option for those who want to update their hardwood floors without the mess and expense of sanding”.- HGTV

How to DIY Hardwood Floor Refinishing Without Sanding

Materials needed for DIY hardwood floor refinishing without sanding:

Step 1: Preparing the floors for hardwood floor refinishing

Before diving into the gel staining process, we need to first prepare the floors. We want to make sure the gel stain adheres properly and that the flooring looks its best when we’re finished. Therefore, our first steps include:

  • Removing items off the floors
  • Cleaning the floors
  • Repairing any damages
  • Taping off the area

Removing items off the floors

First and foremost, we need an empty slate to start with. Be sure to remove all furniture, accessories, etc.

Here’s a quick look at the before pic of the hardwood floors I recently did this treatment on. They were definitely in need of a refresh…

Hardwood floors ready for gel stain

Cleaning the floors

While cleaning is never fun, it is a very important step in the process of preparing the floors for the gel stain finish. After thoroughly vacuuming the area, wipe down the floors with a tack cloth. And then again, with a damp mop or damp cloth.

Now that the surface is free of all debris, you’re ready to clean the space using mineral spirits or a chemical abrasion kit.

Cleaning floors before diy hardwood floor refinishing without sanding

Repairing any damages

Last but certainly not least, it’s a good idea to fill any deep scratches and/or deep gouges with wood filler. You’ll then want to gently sand these spots down with a 220-grit sandpaper block. I promise this is the only sanding you’ll need to do. 🙂

Once again, sweep up any debris, and you’re ready for the good stuff!

“Gel staining your hardwood floors is a quick and easy way to give them a fresh new look without the hassle of sanding.” – The Spruce

Taping off the area

It’s Important to tape off any areas you don’t want touched by the gel stain. That includes baseboards…

Hardwood floors worn and ready for stain

and any fixed objects you may need to work around…

Painters tape and gel stain around toilet base for diy hardwood floor refinishing without sanding

Step 2: Applying the gel stain for refinishing without sanding

Now that our entire floor is properly prepared, we’re ready to apply the gel stain. Once again, I’ll walk you through the step by step process:

  • Choosing the right gel stain color
  • How to apply each coat
  • Applying the top coat

Choosing the right gel stain color

My go to for all of my gel stain products is General Finishes. I love the quality and beautiful wood grain finish of this product. It’s thick enough to make it durable and easy to apply, but yet thin enough to still allow the grain of the wood to show through. It’s the perfect balance.

General finishes has a wide selection of gel stain colors to choose from. A few of my favorites that I have used in the past are:

A couple others that I would really like to try are American Oak and New Pine.

Of course, choosing the right color comes down to personal preference. But keep in mind, whatever color you choose will appear darker on the floor than it does in the can. For this reason, it’s a good idea to test a small area before going all in on a specific color.

Once you’ve chosen the right color, you’re ready to move onto the next step.

“Refinishing hardwood floors can be a daunting task, but with the right method, it can be done without sanding.” – DIY Network

How to apply each coat

As with any painting or staining job, you’ll need to do all of your cutting out first. Apply gel stain, with foam brush, along all of the baseboards and any fixed objects…

Honey colored hardwood floors in a foyer area

Now you’re ready to knock out the rest of the floor with a foam roller. Be sure to work in small sections, making sure you’re not boxing yourself into a corner. The last thing you want is to be stuck in the middle of the room with no where to go. 🙁

You’ll be amazed at how quickly the gel stain application goes. So fast and easy. And the best part, you can still see that beautiful wood grain….

Oftentimes, one coat is all you need. But again, this is personal preference. If you want your floors to be darker, add another coat. Or if the finish appears to be a little spotty, add another coat. For this foyer area, I applied two coats.

Dark hardwood floors stained after diy hardwood floor refinishing without sanding

I wanted my guest bathroom floor to be very dark, so I applied 3 coats in this area…

Hardwood floors in a guest bathroom with dark java gel stain finish

Gel stain does take a while to dry. Be sure to give it 12-24 hours in between each coat. After 12 hours of your first coat, if it feels tacky at all, give it more time.

“With gel staining, you can refinish your hardwood floors in a fraction of the time it takes to sand and refinish, and still achieve a beautiful, professional-looking finish.” – Bob Vila

Applying the top coat

Now you’re ready to add the protective layer that will keep your floors looking good for a very long time.

After 24 hours, you’re ready to apply the top coat. Although this post is not sponsored by General Finishes, I LOVE their products and can’t recommend them enough! My go to poly when I want a super hard and durable finish, is this one here.

High performance satin polyurethane quart

Apply the top coat the same way you did the gel stain. Cut out the edges with a foam brush first. Then roll the rest of the floor with a foam roller. Allow 30 minutes for the whole floor to dry before adding a second coat.

For flooring, I like to apply 3-4 coats of Polyurethane.

Things to consider for DIY hardwood floor refinishing without sanding

Some of the important things to consider are:

  • Always use a clean brush
  • Apply thin coats

Always use a clean brush

Pro tip: This is especially important when it comes to the poly stage of the process. If your roller or brush has any lint or dirt between stages, be sure to switch out to a clean roller. You’ve worked too hard on this project to have blemishes in your top coat.

Apply thin coats

Gel stain has a much thicker consistency than regular stain. Keep in mind, the thicker you apply it, the longer it will take to dry. But also, the thicker you apply it, the darker it will be. To stay on the safe side, you may want to start out with a thin layer. You can always do more applications, if you’re wanting it darker.

Unlike regular stain, you don’t have to wipe off excess stain. Unless you want to, once again to make it lighter. Usually when I’m applying gel stain, I choose not to wipe off the excess, but instead I let it dry.

If you do choose to wipe off the excess stain, be sure to:

  • work in sections (about 10 feet by 10 feet)
  • Allow enough time for the floor to soak up the stain, before wiping it off (usually 8-10 minutes is good)
  • use a clean rag

“If you’re looking for a fast and affordable way to refinish your hardwood floors, gel staining is the way to go.” – This Old House

    Maintaining and caring for your floors

    Three important things to consider before you take your first step on your new floors are:

    • Cure time
    • How to clean your newly finished floors
    • Preventing scratches and damage

    Cure time

    Now that your floors are finished and you have that beautiful shine, you’ll be tempted to never let anyone walk on them ever again. 🙂 But obviously, that’s not an option. So, instead, you’ll want to wait the full cure time before you allow any foot traffic on them. After 12 hours, I’m usually able to walk on them with clean socks.

    After 48 hours, if there’s no tackiness whatsoever, I’m ready to add my furniture back on. However, if I’m just not confident, it’s completely cured, I’ll wait 72 hours before adding back the furniture. Especially chairs that will be sliding across the floor.

    Sometimes, you have to get creative on how to get from one room to another, while the floors are drying. 🙂

    Creative way to get from one room to another. Board balanced between 2 ladders during diy hardwood floor refinishing without sanding

    Are you ready to take on this home improvement project? It’s amazing what beautiful hardwood floors will do for a space. It is truly a low-cost way without a lot of hard work to completely revamp and change the surface of your floor. Your guests will be asking if you just got new flooring.

    How to clean your newly finished floors

    Cleaning your newly finished floors, is as easy as sweeping with a vacuum or broom. When mopping, be sure to avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners. Stick with products that are specific to hardwood surfaces.

    Preventing scratches and damage for DIY hardwood floor refinishing without sanding

    The best thing you can do to avoid scratching your new floor, is to add felt pads under furniture legs. Especially chairs that will be moved often.

    Another idea, is to add a rug in high-traffic areas. For example: entryways and walkways that are used often.

    However, it is amazing how well gel stain holds up. Here’s a look at my bathroom I completed over 5 years ago. Good as new…

    Hardwood floors in a guest bathroom with dark java gel stain finish

    FAQ’s Refinish Hardwood Floors Without Sanding

    Can I apply gel stain to floors that have previously been stained?

    Yes! That’s the beauty of gel stain. It can go over any stain, even if it has a top coat. Other than cleaning the surface, there’s really nothing else you need to do. Just apply the gel stain and add the polyurethane finish. It is truly the easiest way to refinish old hardwood floors! And the best part–you guessed it! No sanding!!

    What surfaces can I use gel stain on?

    Another beauty of gel stain and why I love this product. It can go on virtually any hard surface. Wood, metal, laminate, and even painted surfaces.

    Can I use gel stain to change the color of my hardwood floors?

    Yes! Maybe your current floors are in good condition but you’re just looking for a change in the look of them. Are you wanting your hardwood floors to be darker? Use a dark shade of gel stain. Wanting lighter hardwood floors than what you currently have? Go with a lighter shade of gel stain.

    How costly is it to gel stain my floors?

    Much cheaper than the alternatives. Gel stain will cost you between 50 cents to two dollars per square foot. Compare that to all new flooring and I think the answer is pretty clear. Haha! A much less costly route, for sure!

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