6 Ways to Save Money When Refinishing Wood Floors Yourself

stack of sandpaper for a random orbital floor sander

How to Save Even More Money on DIY Wood Floors Refinishing

Having recently refinished the wood floors in my 1950s cape, I learned a thing or two about this DIY process, from the best technique, avoidable big-time mistakes, and how to save even more money.

I’m all about efficiency and getting the best deal possible. Sanding wood floors was no different. As I worked, I couldn’t help but keep track of all the ways I could have come in under budget if I had known these things first. 

Refinishing Hardwood Floors

sanding hardwood floors

Before I get into how to save money, I’ll quickly share these few important things. 

When starting, I had no idea how involved this entire process would be. I learned so much and put together several posts to help you save money, avoid mistakes, and get lasting results you are proud of.

Make sure you check these out before you start!

Just a friendly reminder: This tutorial and any opinions or recommendations are genuinely mine, but this is not a substitute for consulting a professional. I also use affiliate links to earn a commission.

How to Save Money When Refinishing Wood Floors

Don’t buy sandpaper instore

Buy it online! Amazon was waaay cheaper than what I paid in the store. But not all grits were available here, so I did have to buy some from Home Depot. 

I purchased my sandpaper in the store and paid almost $5 A SHEET!!! 

random orbital floor sander bottom showing the three sandpaper pads

Shocked by this pricing, I went home and hopped onto their website and found they sell these in a 5 pack for a fraction of the cost. Talk about annoying! 

Plan ahead, shop online for your sandpaper, and overestimate how much you’ll need. You can return what you don’t use, which is better than getting stuck paying the in-store price. This is the easiest way to save money!!

Tool rental

Book it for the week and be ready to go. If you don’t end up needing the entire week, they’ll refund you. Home Depot offered a one-day, three-day, or week rate. Due to the terrible condition of my floors, I barely finished in a week, which leads to the next tip on cleaning.

Clean thoroughly before you start 

Have everything prepped ahead of time before the clock ticks on your rental. Cover everything with plastic or, my favorite, old sheets. 

Also, get out your mop and give your floors a farewell washing. This is to remove any buildup that you can not see to the eye and prevent clogging your sandpaper. Less clogging equals less sandpaper, which equals more saved money.

Here’s a pic of what clogged sandpaper looks like. See the chunk of sanding dust in the center? That’s “clogged”, and it causes unsightly swirl marks on the wood floor along with other undesirable outcomes.

clogged sandpaper disc from sanding old wood floors

Get your hands on a corner sander

Snag one second hand. I got mine for $8.50, and it works perfectly! Or how about that friend who owns one? Use hers! 

My Thrifted Corner Sander

I have the craziest store about this sander! As I was leaving work, my co-worker asked if I was heading to the thrift store (because I usually do this on an evening when I don’t have my kids). To her surprise, I was not planning to. 

I went on about how good I had been and that I had not gone in several weeks because I still had so much work to do on my floors, needed to get the corners sanded so I could start sealing, etc. 

So, I went to Home Depot and purchased a new corner sander, which cost me $70. This wasn’t too bad and was worth the investment since I could use it on my furniture projects.

But then, as I was leaving Home Depot and driving by the thirst stores, I lost all willpower and found myself pulling in. I mean, I’m right here. I’ll be quick. You never know!

I snagged two bar stools in mint condition and in the style I had saved in my online shopping cart. The cost of these new was several hundred dollars each. I paid under $20 for both.

This must be my lucky day, and I can’t stop now! I then hit up my other favorite spot, and you will not believe it! They have the solid wood bed set I’ve been hunting for on marketplace. For $50!!! The closest I had come to finding this set was the headboard for $100. 

But it gets better. Directly behind the headboard, a black box catches my eye. I think to myself, what are the odds that’s a corner sander? My heart is beating fast because I’m two for two on epic finds. I open the box, and there she is—a craftsman corner sander! I literally laughed out loud.

So, let’s do this math. I originally spent $70 on the new sander (which I immediately returned). So, I bought an Ethan Allen spindle bedframe (headboard, side rails, and footboard), two solid wood turned-leg bar stools, and a corner sander for $80… 

The way I see it, I saved a shit ton of money that evening because I was going to spend close to $500 on the bed set and stools alone. Plus the cost of a new sander. This may go down as the most epic evening. I owe my co-worker a drink because she’s the one who planted the thrift store seed. 

Crazy, right?!

Save your sandpaper

stack of sandpaper for a random orbital floor sander

A floor finish is ridiculously hard, so it requires really rough sandpaper. But when I changed the sheets, they still felt way more coarse than the sandpaper I used on my furniture projects. I saved them, thinking I could get more out of each sheet later

I then also had this brilliant idea. Since the sheets were so large, could I cut them down to fit the corner sander?! Yup! I sure can. It worked beautifully! So, save that sandpaper and reuse it for your corners. 

Oil based floor finish is cheaper than water

If costs are adding up, one way to cut back is on the finish you choose. Do consider that there are many differences between water and oil so you’ll have to weigh this against the savings. 

For me, paying up for the water-based finish was worth it. You can read all about the floor sealer I used in this post (coming soon!)

Floor sander rental tip number two

And when you turn it in, be sure you’re actually done with it! I didn’t get to my kitchen because I still needed to pound the nails down (I’m not talking a few nails; this thing had 3 layers of old flooring over it and an ungodly amount of nails per board). 

Well, hand sanding an old wood floor finish doesn’t work well. The time it would take me to do this using my orbital sander was ridiculous compared to the one-day rental price. So I rented it again. 

I also didn’t plan on staining, so I did not test the stain colors. Then I started sealing the floors and realized it was not the finished color I was going for, so I had to sample stain colors. Although these come off easily with my hand sander, removing stain samples with the rental is way easier.

How Much Does It Cost To Refinish Wood Floors

I’ll give you my rough numbers so you can decide if this project is worth tackling! My grand total was $1790, and here’s the breakdown of that:

  1. Tool rental: $390
  2. Sandpaper: $650
  3. Corner Sander: $10
  4. Additional tool rental (whoops): $90
  5. Stain: $150
  6. Water Based Sealer: $500

It took me way longer than anticipated to complete this project. When I started, I had no clue about the scope of this work.

It took me 55 hours of actual sanding, then several hours to work on the edges, followed by the 2 days it took to clean up the dust, then the several days it took to stain, and lastly, the time it took to seal. 

Thank goodness the sealer I used went on like a dream because had this been finicky, like the sealers I’ve used in my furniture flips, I may have lost my mind.

Yes, refinishing wood floors yourself is a big job, but it also saves a lot of money. If you were teetering between refinishing vs replacing, I did the math, and refinishing them myself saved close to 10k. 

If you’re thinking of hiring a professional to do the job, I don’t blame you, but if you’re willing to take on this task, you’ll save even more, especially with these money saving tips I just gave you!

Hey Friend!

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