Sanding with a big drum sander is tricky work. Tempting as it may be to fire up a giant piece of machinery and saw those old scuff marks off your tired hardwood floors, it's a job best left to professionals. You can calculate about how much the work will cost by assessing how much preparation and sanding will be needed and choosing a type of finish.
Measure the area for refinishing with a tape measure to get the square footage -- the length of room times the width, for those of you who skipped the sixth grade. Estimate how much floor trim will have to be removed and how many vents or other openings need to be sealed against sanding dust.
Determine how much refinishing the floor will need. Test the floor with drops of water. If drops stand on the surface, you can get by with light sanding. If it soaks into the wood, you'll need deep sanding and a wood sealer. You can figure from $1 to $5 a square foot, depending on how much preparation is needed.
Compare prices and types of finish. Use an oil-based varnish or a polyurethane for the hardest, most durable finish, and a water-based varnish for a cheaper coating. Check the coverage per gallon of each type of finish and figure on at least two but preferably three coats. You can expect to pay $50 to $75 for material for 200 square feet
Get estimates from at least three contractors. Have estimates broken down by cost to remove the trim boards on the floor and for covering the vents, sanding, removing dust and debris, staining and finishing and replacing trim. Include variables in the estimates, like different types of finish or options if you remove and replace the trim yourself.
Compare the estimates to make sure you're pricing the same work. One contractor might apply three coats of finish while another proposes only two. Be suspicious of wide variations in prices, such as one contractor estimating $2.50 a square foot while another proposal is $4. Choose the contractor in whom you have the most confidence.
- Expect the work to take two or three days, depending on how much sanding and sealing is needed. Prepare for a lot of dust, even if the contractor uses a vacuum to collect it.
Bob Haring has been a news writer and editor for more than 50 years, mostly with the Associated Press and then as executive editor of the Tulsa, Okla. "World." Since retiring he has written freelance stories and a weekly computer security column. Haring holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri.