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Can you lighten dark wood Floors?

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Are you thinking to lighten dark wood floors? The floor of your home is often an overlooked part, but it is something that completely changes the mood, look, and feel of your home. Just like your taste might change in terms of furniture or colors, the same can happen with your flooring.

Can you lighten dark wood Floors?

Maybe you loved the idea of dark wood floors when you moved into your home, but your mind has changed. Or maybe you want to redecorate and have decided that light wood floors don’t go with your new vision. Either way, it is possible. 

Can you lighten dark wood floors?

You can lighten your dark wood floors. To do so, you have to thoroughly sand and clean the floor, then apply your stain. After your stain is completely dry, you must apply three coats of Polyurethane Coating for preservation and protection. 

If you are sick of your dark wood floors, and have a new idea for a design and dark wood does not fit that aesthetic, we have some good news! Those floors can be lightened and we are going to tell you how to do it in this article.

How to lighten dark wood floors?

We are going to walk you through the steps you will need to lighten your dark wood floors to a lighter look.

Before you begin, it is important to assess what color the wood of your floors is underneath the finish. 

In most cases, the lightest color you can go with your flooring is the natural color of the wood underneath the finish. Otherwise, you will need to bleach the wood or whitewash it.  

Step 1: Preparation 

It is important to clear the room completely before you begin. Take out all furniture, all carpeting, rugs and decoration. Remove any curtains if you have any to provide maximum light exposure in the room, and open all windows to get as much ventilation as possible.

While doing this, make sure there are no nails or staples sticking out of the floor. You can either push these in further or remove them, but leaving them poking out can damage your sander machine.

More on how to remove staples fast in my post: How to remove old carpet padding from wood floors?

After you clear all the furniture and other items out of the room, give the floor a good sweep or vacuum to be sure there isn’t any dust laying around. 

Step 2: Sanding

This is the most important step to make sure you complete fully. For best results, it is recommended that you use a sander machine. If you try to do it by hand, you will not have as great of results and you may be left with unevenly sanded wood, causing an issue when you go to stain the wood.

We recommend Black+Decker Random Orbit Sander from Amazon. It is inexpensive and gets job done. You will need to do some hand work or use Palm Sander on the corners but it’s perfect for this project.

This tool will come in handy not only in this project, but with many other DIY projects as well. 

Steps needed to follow, when sanding your floor

We recommend using these three grit levels: 60, 80, and 100 grit. If you use a grit level that is much lower than these, you risk scratching or permanently denting the wood.

How to lighten dark wood floors? - Step 2: Sanding
  1. Start with the lowest grit level and start in the back corner of the room, furthest from the door.
  2. Go over the entire floor with the 60 grit.
  3. Repeat step with the 80 grit.
  4. After use a palm sander to get into the corners and hard-to-reach places on the floor.
  5. Go again over the entire floor Using 100 grit sand paper.

When done ,you will have a perfectly smooth surface. Since you are taking the finish off, this step alone may make your floors look drastically lighter.

Step 3: Dusting / Vacuuming 

When you are finished with the sanding, your room is going to look like a mess. To really see the progress you have made, give the room a good sweep and vacuum.

To get the stubborn dust that might be left behind or forgotten in a corner, use a cloth to get it all up. 

Step 4: Staining / Coloring

After you sand off your old finish and sweep up the debris, your floors are definitely going to be looking significantly lighter.

If you’re happy with the way your wood floors look, then there may be no need to stain. If, you you have some color in mind , search for appropriate stain to go with. I LOVE Miniwax brand. You should check it out.

Step 4: Staining / Coloring hardwood floors

Steps How to Stain your floors:

  1. When applying the stain, be sure to work along the grain of the wood. This will ensure that you are left with a smooth and even surface.
  2. Like you did when you sanded the floor, start in the furthest corner from the door and work your way out of the room. This way, you won’t ruin your new stain by stepping all over it.
  3. Leave it to Dry properly. Most stains require 4 hours to dry, but it is a great idea to leave it overnight if you can. This will give it plenty of time to dry before your next step. 

We are now ready for our final step to lighten dark wood floors and bring different kind of mood and overall feeling to our space.

Step 5: Polyurethane Coating

After you are sure that your stain is completely dry, it is time for the last step. You should apply a polyurethane coating. This will protect both the wood flooring and its new stain.

This is an easy step, however it is very time consuming. Each coat takes 24 hours to dry and you must apply three coats.

There are two kinds of polyurethane coating that you can choose:

Oil-based coating  – Tends to change color overtime, so if you are in love with the exact color you have on your wooden floors, then this may not be the best choice for you.

Water-based coating – This one remains clear and maintains the wood color over a long period of time. Though more expensive, this may be the better choice if you are happy with the exact color you have achieved on your wood flooring.

Is it cheaper to refinish or replace hardwood floors?

It is almost always cheaper to refinish your floor than to replace it. When you calculate the cost of replacing your hardwood floors, you have to not only think about the cost of the wood, but the cost of installation, and even transportation.

The cost of refinishing your floor comes out to be $2-$5 per square foot, compared to replacement which comes out to be around $2 per square foot for the materials and then an additional $3-$5 for installation. 

All this being said, if your wood flooring has water damage or extremely deep scratches or dents, you are going to need to replace it. You are not going to be able to sand out those dents and cover them up with a new finish, unfortunately. 

Should I remove baseboards before refinishing hardwood floors?

Most professionals do not recommend removing baseboards before refinishing hardwood floors. Sometimes it can cause more damage than it saves in hassle. Especially if your baseboards are painted and depending on how they’ve been installed, you can damage them when you remove or reinstall.

Does refinishing hardwood floors remove scratches?

Overall you will be able to remove most of the scratches from your hardwood floors. That said, it also depends on how bad the scratches on your floor are. If they are very deep or the boards are damaged, then you will need to replace the flooring.

How much does it cost to pay a professional to lighten your hardwood floors?

The average cost of hiring a professional to lighten your hardwood floors comes out to be $1,500.00 but could be more depending on the size of the area that requires refinishing. This may seem like a daunting project but it is achievable to do yourself! All it takes is hard work and time!

Is it safe to sleep in your house after staining the floors?

You should not sleep in the same room you have stained. You do not want to be constantly breathing the fumes, which are going to be really strong just after you complete staining your floors .
Also you will not be able to put furniture back into the room until the floors are completely dry and one reason more why sleeping is not possible after.

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