Saving $4,000 by Refinishing the Rental Floors Myself


The hardwood floors in this rental house are everywhere: the living room, dining room, hallway, main bedroom, the stairwell, the two upstairs bedrooms, and even the kitchen! Most of these beautiful old floors were hidden under ugly carpet and were just begging to be refinished.

The big question then became….Who was going to refinish them? 

Saving $4,000 by Refinishing the Floors Myself

Well based on the title, it’s pretty obvious that I decided to throw away the $4,000 quote that I got from my floor guy and opted to tackle these hardwood floors myself.

Weekend #1

The sanding began last weekend. I rented a heavy duty drum sander from my local equipment rental shop and started in the upstairs bedroom (in case I seriously messed them up – at least it wouldn’t be plainly visible to everyone this way). That bedroom had been stained and varnished so many times, it took me 7 solid passes with a course grit sandpaper to get down to the hardwood! This took approximately 5 hours… Not a great start for this DIY project.


Nasty dark floors

After the first couple passes...

After the first couple passes…

A million passes later...

A million passes later…

The next bedroom was super simple. The floors were completely natural and just needed a quick sand. BOOM! I felt much better after this second upstairs bedroom was done.

Then it was onto the kitchen and hallway! Back in the 1930’s, some moron decided to lay laminate down directly on top of the hardwood floors. When I pulled it all up, the black adhesive stayed stuck to the wood. Ugh… But, with 20 grit paper on the drum sander, that black mastic never stood a chance (let’s ignore the fact that this may have taken a few years off my life, okay?? Okay, Great.).

Kitchen floors, black with adhesive

Kitchen floors, black with adhesive

After I breathed in too much of that black stuff...

After I breathed in too much of that black stuff…

Well crap… The weekend ended and the rental sander was due back to the store. Apparently this job will take two weekends instead of one…

Weekend #2

Alright! It’s time to tackle these floors again! Just like last weekend, I rented the heavy-duty sander Friday night and hoped to finish all the sanding by Saturday evening. My fingers were crossed!

Based on how long it took me last weekend, I started tackling these floors immediately on Friday at 5pm. I started in dining room and living room. Thankfully, even though the floors are a combination of hardwood and softwood, they really started started looking great, even after only the first pass!



After the first pass...

After the first pass…

The main bedroom was next on the list for the initial sand. Thankfully, it too was super simple and didn’t take more than an hour! SaWEEET!

Main bedroom after first pass

Main bedroom after first pass

At this point, Friday was over and my Saturday to-do list was still pretty long:

  1. Sand water stains off of kitchen floor, then sand with the medium and fine-grit paper
  2. Take three more swipes at the living room, dining room, hallway, and bedroom
  3. Sand all the edges and corners of each room
  4. Possibly sand the front porch if there’s time

Here’s what I actually got done:

  1. Sanded most of the water stains away. Some are there to stay forever apparently. It’s okay though – most spots will be hidden under appliances
  2. Got the third (fine grit) swipe done in every room!
  3. Pretty much never got to this and will have to sand the edges carefully so I don’t mess up the middle of the floor that’s finely sanded
  4. Yeah…the front porch never happened unfortunately – maybe I’ll end up hand sanding it?
Dining room fully sanded

Dining room fully sanded

Main bedroom fully sanded

Main bedroom fully sanded

Upper bedroom fully sanded

Upper bedroom fully sanded

Efforts Worth the $4,000 Savings?

Let me tell you, I slept pretty hard Saturday night. My back hurt, my legs ached, and I had a headache – probably from inhaling all of those crazy fumes I sanded off the floors. So was it all worth the $4,000 savings? At this point, I still say 100% yes! Granted, I still have to sand quite a few edges and put the poly on the floors, but that shouldn’t take more than 2-3 evenings of work.

When inspected closely, many of the floors definitely won’t look professional, but for the prospective renter I think they’ll still be a huge draw! The rooms are already brighter, and the house as a whole feels so much more elegant!

For all of you that told me to have a professional do the work, I now understand why….it’s a ton of work. BUT, the cost of the materials are really pretty minimal. In total, I’ll only spend about $250! $150 for the sander and the paper, and another $100 for the floor polyurethane. I don’t mind a little bit of labor, especially when it saves me four grand! 🙂

Total Renovation Expense So Far

Liz and I estimated that this renovation would cost about $7,500, and I actually think that estimate is still good. Here’s a brief summary of our expenses to date:

  • Home insurance: $500
  • Plumbing work: $1,450
  • Furnace inspection/repair: $212
  • Paint (we painted every single room in this house): $600
  • Baseboard trim: $200
  • Energy bills: $200
  • New doors: $175
  • Floor repair and step sanding: $550
  • Sander rental, paper, and poly: $250
  • Heavy duty shop vac: $90
  • Miscellaneous: $223
  • Total: $4,450

We still need to install the baseboard trim and buy some appliances, but we should stay well within our $7,500 budget!

Wish us luck on the rest of the renovation! I hope you’re enjoying the updates!

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