Introduction: Refinishing Traffic Area on a Wood Floor

About: I make pictures and video about saw milling, guitar/ banjo playing and building and general interest content too. I love to build stuff!

Ever wondered if you could just refinish that ugly worn off high traffic area on your wood floors instead of sanding the whole thing? The temptation to do so was too much for me one day and this Instructable will show you how I did it.


100 grit sandpaper
Varathane water based
Applicator and extension pole
Paint tray, rags, etc

Step 1: Prepare the Surface

Wherever the old finish has worn off use the sandpaper to lightly even out and blend in the edges towards the still-finished surface of the floor. Don’t sand too hard or the worn out section will look way lighter than the original sections after the varathane is applied. Not sanding at all will do the opposite and leave the worn out section looking darker than the original, I think that looks even worse than just leaving it alone! So don’t just varathane over the worn out spots. Try a little test area where you sand lightly then apply a little finish over it and let it dry. If it’s too dark you have to sand more, too light you may have sanded too hard!

Step 2: Applying the Finish

I am using Varathane water/based for this floor because I had some left over from a full-on sanding and refinishing kitchen floor project I had just completed. While still in floor finishing mode I wanted to try and fix up these worn out traffic areas without the sanding/dust/sore muscles nightmare that comes with the real deal!
Start by applying a coat of finish over the whole section including the worn out area. I only refinished to just past where the rug covers! You get the idea. The point is don’t just varathane over the freshly sanded area and not the visible surrounding area. The sanded area will soak in the first couple coats of finish and look dull but will eventually gain a sheen. You want an even as possible sheen over the entire area in the end as this quality will hide the worn out section as best as possible.
The pictures show the floor after two coats of finish. The traffic area is getting a sheen. Now I apply a couple coats of finish only to the traffic area until I think the sheen matches the surrounding un-damaged section. After that another coat or two across the entire section will ensure an even as possible match.
You can see these floors have taken a beating over the years. Using 100 grit paper will not take any wood off the floor or level anything. In this application it’s only use is to take any specs of old finish off the top of the damaged rough surface and try to blend the edges of those surfaces with the finish of the “good” surface.

Step 3: The Final Analysis

Well the final coat is on and how does it look? Probably not as great as you would like but as any pro will tell you, it’ll never look the same as sanding the wood to the same level and smoothness all around. Wood takes on finishes differently while it’s in different states. Sanding “raises” the grain and stains soak in more. Maybe it will darken or maybe stay lighter than other finished areas. A test area with a job like this is essential. See what works for you. My floor is very old 1.25” pine and I finished with varathane satin finish. Hardwood will probably be a different story but I would guess it could be approached the same way. Test an area and see what you can do. If you do some careful evaluation it won’t come out looking worse!
Hopefully this Instructable will help you do that repair job or at least satisfy that curiosity of what would happen if I just....?! Thanks for checking it out!

Step 4: Side by Side Comparison

These two pics are before and after. I’m satisfied with the results!