Best way to rehab a wood floor on a rental-to-be

19 Replies

Hi -- I'm working on a house that will be in a lower-income rental area. I pulled up the carpets (which had 30 years of dirt and dust under them) and found good hardwood floors. There are many imperfections due to the carpet pad practically decomposing on them and also many worn areas. The floor needs a cleaning -- but next - should I sand the floors and then put a varnish on them? I want to do the most cost-effective plan for the house. I have 3 family members with me who are going to help -- but we've never done anything like that before - is it hard? Can beginners figure out how to do this? Should I just pay someone to? Should I just carpet (1000 sqft)? Someone in another forum mentioned just PAINTING the floors -- but I just can't bring myself to paint hardwood...especially the nice old kind.

Any advice is apprecitated!


It is actually not that hard... Especially since you have so much help.

A rented sander and supplies will cost you about $300... all the rest is labor. Once you do it, the floors will be good for years.

In a rental you are not looking for perfection anyways... Probably a light sanding, a coat of stain, and about 3 coats of clear will make them shine!

When they move out and the next tenant moves in, another clear coat for $20 will make them shine once again.

It would costs you a couple thousand to have a professional do it for you... It is not that bad of a do it yourself project.

Go to one of the big home centers and ask a bunch of questions... It is not that hard. They also rent the big professional sanding machines for about $75 for the day, and about $25 for an edge sander.

It took me about 3 hours of sanding, a couple hours of detail sanding around the edges, 1 hour of clean up, 1 hour to stain, and about another 3 hours to put on 3 clear coats.

They charge so much since they have to come out to the house 3 or 4 times since there is drying time in between steps.

Also check You Tube... bet you can find a video showing you how to do it!

Beats buying carpet all the time!

Go for it!

Hey Jennifer, I would go with the sanding and poly throughout. Eric is correct on the minimal cost with above average durability.

Depending on the condition of the floors, you can use a large pad sander or a barrel (tube type sander). The barrel is for more sanding ability but becareful not to leave it in one spot to long, it will sand "ripples" in the floor.

Several coats of clear poly (fast drying) Minwax seems the best value, Walmart has the best price as well.

I usually give a floor a minimum of five coats as well. Use a "tack" cloth between. Also availabel at Walmart, cheap.

Durability is the key in rentals! And for upkeep between renter, a lite sanding of the current top coat will be enough of a prep for a new top coat.

Good luck and remember to wear a face mask !!!!!!!


I have one now that had carpet throughout the house. This is also a lower income rental. We are going to allow pets, so we did nothing but several good coats of wax on the hardwoods. You are not rehabbing to sell, so I would not refinish them. I have painted hardwood and it is holding up well. It was a upstairs bedroom and the stairway.

You will be very disappointed when you see your new hardwood floors all scratched up after spending countless hours refinishing them.

just my humble opinion, in a low income area I would throw carpet down, $0.69/sq ft at Lowes. Save the time and money on beautiful floors for when you go to sell.


The floors would look great refinished but you did state that this is a low income prop, with that said i would go with the cheapest carpet i can find. Having pets will almost definately mean another refinishing before trying to sale and that's not what you want after hours of work.

Best of luck

When you guys throw down the cheep carpet do you also put padding underneath it?



Put down carpet, Its gonna be cheeper (than professional refinish) and much faster. Let the buyer down the road pull up the carpets. I dis- agree with TC tho --- Dont ever paint the hardwood floors, its some times very tough to get all the paint back off the floor.

never paint the floors - I wouldn't anyhow.

I agree with eric, not too big of a deal.

Carpet is pretty easy though.

I always use renters pad - just ask for it when you buy the carpet. It's a bit cheaper and you will be replacing it in a few years anyway.

Whatever you decide will be best for you - BUT - if you do re-finish the floors....MAKE SURE you do the prep & clean work....after sanding - sweep at least twice.....then tack cloth (you can make them yourself - basically a rag with mineral spirits - VERY easy) - I went over the entire floor twice - I might even suggest three gets the "crap" out of the pores of the wood & lets the wood take the stain much better....and the more coats of poly, the better - but take your time - as they ALL have to dry...MAKE SURE they are dry...& Good Luck! Ken

I would suggest putting carpet back. If the tack strips are still there that should save a little bit for you. Hardwoods are beautiful if well maintained, but I have yet to meet a tenant who really cares about the maintenance aspect of wood floors.

Hardwood floors are by far the least expensive and easiest to maintain between tenants. I use dark walnut stain for easy touch-up when required. My longest running rental with hardwood floors also happens to be the first one I bought in 1987. It's getting to be about time to add more urethane.

Regarding carpet, I buy the best quality for the money that I can find when I need it and then I glue it down real good so it becomes almost watertight. After that, you won't have anymore problems with the odors and mold and dirt and bugs and stuff that love to hide out in the padding.

I had one house that went through a flood. The tenants got FEMA money and bought a new car. I got nothing. So I literally power washed the carpets along with a wet or dry vacuum to get the mud out and re-rented the house. I could never have done that if there had been padding.

Carpets that are glued down last up to 15 years. That's why they do it that way for commercial applications.

I never buy the cheap junk they sell at Home Depot or anywhere else. You get what you pay for.

P.S. The browner the color, the longer it lasts.

As an owner of many properties I can tell you that carpet is the only way to go. Use a reasonable priced pad and lower priced carpet and you will be good to go.

Best of luck1

We've had the same opportunity in 1 of our Investment Properties to refinish the floor....we ended up putting in a 7mm Laminate Floor that was cheaper to install than to refinish the old. It looks awesome, its bullet proof, dropped tools off a ladder on it and no damage. Also had a second floor leak with pools of water on it, soaked it up with a towel and still good to go.

Tenants can throw a rug and take their stains and smells with them when they move out...

It looks classy and is our go to move when rehabbing a rental.

Lumber Liquidators has good stuff for under a $1/SF and I install it myself, which is easy.

Originally posted by Wes S.:

Tenants can throw a rug and take their stains and smells with them when they move out...


Ha!! Ha,Ha!!!!! You just got a vote. First belly laugh of the day.

Just finished up one, and am waiting on a good tenant.
I bought flooring from Ollie's Bargain Outlet, a chain store we have around here that buys lots of name brand goods.
We put down laminate over some beautiful hardwood from 1927. My train of thought was I wanted the original hardwood to be in decent shape when/if I sell this place.



If you are going to refinish, what I'd do is sand, clean, and put down multiple layers of oil based polyurethane.

I would not stain the wood. Light color makes the rooms seem larger and natural wood looks good.

It's tricky to get a really good even stain. Bypass that step.

Then every couple of tenants, I'd scuff the top and put another layer of polyurethane over it to hide the scratches.

I will have you know that painting wood floors is not "just painting them".

It's a European style wood floor. :wink:

Jennifer, it's a rental. You're going to recoup your costs slowly. The material costs for painting a wood floor will be under $100.

Bottom line it's low income. Clean the floors to the best of your ability with some murphy's oil soap and be done with it. If your going to paint, use rustic colors to go along with the worn floor. If you look at many newer homes, people have payed to have their floors worn and beaten, you have it for free. So just go the easiest route and clean them up and correspond to the look with the right paint.

Will the area or could the area improve? If yes, put down a tough berber (or even outdoor) carpet with carpet padding. Remember, that padding will help to protect the floors in addition to the carpeting!

Too ghetto and no chance? Clean them up and be done with it.


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