Asked on Jan 13, 2015

Help! We rented a home with sad wood floors. What is the DIY to fix?

We've lived here for about 4 months now and we can no longer stand the floors. We are renting so don't wish to spend a lot of $$, but we do want this house to look nicer while we are living here. There aren't many scratches, however there are a lot of spills! As if the last tenants dropped a bunch of their drinks or something and the landlords did not clean anything in the house. Not the drawers, the cabinets, the bathrooms, least of all the floors. So we are asking you our fellow DIYers ~ how would you tackle these sad, dry floors??
Spilled on
How do we make this floor look nice again ??
  33 answers
  • SK on Elderberry SK on Elderberry on Jan 13, 2015
    Hi Sharon. Old wood floors can be a problem to redo if you're not willing to spend the time sanding and the money to give them a couple of coats of floor varnish. Have you tried to clean them with Murphy Oil Soap? I would try Dawn first and then move on to Murphy's. If you can get the stains out, you might be able to use a lemon oil to finish. Nothing is going to be better than completely refinishing them which costs about $3.50 a square foot depending on where you live. I have done floors myself with a rented floor sander from Lowes. Tons of work...Good luck. sk
  • Carole Carole on Jan 13, 2015
    I would first tackle the landlords. In Australia, I don't know if it is the same where you are - if a tenant vacating a property does not clean it properly before they go, the landlord will get professional cleaners in and charge it from the bond the tenant leave with a real estate agent. Anyone renting is required to put up a bond before moving in, which is usually a months worth of rent to be used by the real estate agent/landlord if they need to fix anything the tenant damaged or left dirty. They don't tolerate dirty or lazy tenants here. Or lazy landlords for that matter, but does the landlord realise there is a problem? If you don't let them know then they cannot fix it. You should not have to pay to get this mess cleaned off. I have been a tenant for nearly 20 years and also a landlord for some 15years.
    • See 1 previous
    • Carole Carole on Jan 14, 2015
      @Liliana Wells When renting in Australia we have to lodge our deposit or bond with a legal entity. If damage occurs or the tenant leaves without paying, the landlord or managing agent can apply to keep the bond or part of the bond to cover lost rent or damage to the property. I think this is a good idea. One time we left a property we had rented and forgot to clean the canopy over the oven and it was greasy and we had cleaned the mirror wardrobes with a glass cleaner that left it smeary so money to fix this was taken out of our bond. Rightly so. We also had tenants who damaged carpet with cigarette burns at a property we own and the real estate agent took money from the bond they left to pay for half the cost of replacement carpet in the bedroom where the damage was. So we have seen it work from both sides.
  • Kim Kim on Jan 13, 2015
    Boy, that's sad! Such beautiful floors, they could be! I agree SK above, clean as best you can, then try maybe a floor wax like for wood floors. Sorry, not much help, never had wood floors, but do love working on wood projects.
  • 9530106 9530106 on Jan 13, 2015
    *****You may want to Google "ORANGE GLO 4 in 1 Floor Cleaner." I think it may be just what you need!*****
  • Gail Salminen Gail Salminen on Jan 13, 2015
    @Sharon Leahy-Watkins is there any way you can get an area carpet to cover it, then you can take it with you when you go.
  • RH RH on Jan 14, 2015
    We have the same sort of issue, as our house was a rental (parents were landlords) before we inherited it. The last renters they had completely destroyed the place then left in the middle of the night. Mom didn't know they were even gone til she stopped one day to see why the rent was late and realized the house was vacated (though they left a ton of junk, garbage, and even food - DISGUSTING!)! Our budget doesn't allow for the sanding/refinishing yet, but I asked at our local know-it-all hardware store, and they suggested a floor refinisher - it's liquid, and you apply it as you would mop & glo, with either a sponge mop or a microfiber cloth/pad. It's got something in it that you need to shake it up well before you use it, and it dries to a shiny protective surface (though our floors needed a number of coats before it stopped soaking in and just left the shiny surface! Yours may too - buy a gallon to be safe!). I (personally, as I've been there/done that) would start with super-hot bleach water. Not strong bleach, just like a half-cup to gallon of water ratio. Wash the floors with this first. Then you can move on to the floor protector. True Value (hardware store chain) has a generic in their stores, but I don't see it on their website (the bottle I have says: "Maintenance One non-buff Floor Polish"). Here is what they DO show, however: The Bona brand is good, but the bottles are small and pricey. Yes, you generally get what you pay for, but I would reserve those products for AFTER you get the serious cleaning/polishing done. Wax is also an option, but it's a lot of elbow grease. I read a post somewhere about using mop & glo after washing and how shiny the floors got. Tried it. Yep, shiny for about 4 days. I'm not going to re-mop my high-traffic rooms twice a week, when I can get stuff by the gallon that keeps its shine for almost 6 months!! Good luck, can't wait to see pictures of the finished project!!
  • Stacy | BlakeHillHouse Stacy | BlakeHillHouse on Jan 14, 2015
    The Bona wood floor cleaning system is pretty good. Then, I would get som rugs. :( You are clearly good tenants. Thank you! (from a current landlord. :) )
  • Rosemary Kelly Rosemary Kelly on Jan 14, 2015
    I might ask your landlord to make a deal with you. Your floors actually don't look too bad. It does take time and elbow grease to sand them down and refinish them. How about a deal on the rent if you refinish them? I'd call some local hardwood floor refinishers and see what the going rate is.
  • Stacy | BlakeHillHouse Stacy | BlakeHillHouse on Jan 14, 2015
    That's a great idea Rosemary!
  • Kim Kim on Jan 14, 2015
    I moved into a beautiful little apartment many years ago. Most of the apartment had maple floors. We did it the old fashioned way and got down on hands and knees with steel wool to clean the floor up. My mother, bless her heart still had an electric floor polisher. So we used hard wax and then polished with the machine. They were gorgeous and I lived there 3 years. I never had to do anything else to them. Good luck with your endeavor and see if you can get the landlord to pitch in on whatever you decide. The place should have been cleaned before you ever moved in.
  • Chris Knutson Chris Knutson on Jan 14, 2015
    I have looked at the pictures you posted and the floors definately need to be taken down (sanded and refinished) In Illinois it runs about 2.25 a square ft. One gal said try Bona but what you can buy on the open market from Bona is not what you need. Call Shannon at Energyst Solutions in Grand Rapids, MI 616-530-9020 and ask about a product called squeak or whatever she may recommend. Tell Her Steve from Blue Ribbon Hardwoods told you to call. Also I would definately ask your landlord to cut you a deal on cleaning up those floors. Hope that helps you.....
  • Carolyn Carolyn on Jan 14, 2015
    I would also ask the landlord if he would pay for a wood floor glossy sealer like gym floors if you can rent a sander and touch up floor. some stains are too deep to get out and just have to be covered with a rug, hopefully. The bad thing is you would have to move everything out first to sand and do sealer but so worth it. i LOVE wood floors in our house, but it has to be a light clear sealer not dark as it shows dust badly
  • Joyce Overbay Joyce Overbay on Jan 14, 2015
    1st I would check w/landlord!!! I rented a house for a year or so and they took it on themselves to FIX the floors. The floors were old ones that you stripped all the wax and then rewaxed and buffed and shined. The renters used just a plain squirt wax and had buildup so bad we had to later have the floors stripped and redone. I I would suggest some rugs to hide the floor until the landlord makes a decision.
    • 861650 861650 on Jan 14, 2015
      @Joyce Overbay I cannot believe those renters used squirt wax. How nasty. Too bad the homeowner did not have something in the lease regarding the floors. When growing up, my mother made me use bowling alley wax on our hardwood floors. Forty years later, they are just as beautiful.
  • Frank Frank on Jan 14, 2015
    Rent a floor sander and sand the floor .Then apply a good quality floor coating
  • Carol Stehling Carol Stehling on Jan 14, 2015
    I would NOT use a wax on wood floors. It looks from the picture that there isn't much, or any, varnish left. You can hand sand them (on your hands and knees) with a very heavy grit sand paper until you get thru all the existing varnish, then put 3 coats of polyurethane on them. Deeper professional sanding would be needed to get to the stains though. I would go with Chris Knutson's suggestion in calling Energyst Solutions. They may have a good product to help with the stains. As a landlord myself, thank you for being so contentious!
  • Liliana Wells Liliana Wells on Jan 14, 2015
    Bona mentioned above just cleans the finish, not the wood. Once in a while I also use a mixture of vinegar and water with a dash of dish soap. Working in small sections at a time, mop the section and then dry and move on to the next section. It's not ideal, but better than what you have. Change the water mixture often. Joyce, above is right though, check with your landlord first. If he is not willing to refinish the floor, then try my suggestion.
  • Ray Phillips Ray Phillips on Jan 14, 2015
    You can go to Home depot and rend a floor sander. Get the one with 3 disk and start with 24 or 35 grit and then go to 100 grit them vacumn and put 2 coats of water base finish. I like gloss finish and it will look great. the landlord should take it off the rent. Here are some pix of a floor that my grandson and I just finished, now we made the floor from pallets but this will show you what the floor will look like when you get through.
  • Karen Keen Karen Keen on Jan 14, 2015
    After adding on to our home, we were low on cash to hire someone to refinish the existing floors. So I did some research and found a product that breathed new life in our wood. Orange-Glo. Yes, there are some spots where the pet stains didn't come out, but that's what area rugs are for! ;) The key is to get them as clean as you possibly can. Vinegar/water is the best. Then get some OrangeGlo and a sponge mop and work the solution in with a thin coat. After several coats, it absolutely amazed me of the turn out. As good as completely refinished floors? No, but for the time and expense, it will serve the purpose for a while. Good luck!
  • Lola Lola on Jan 14, 2015
    I wouldn't do anything without checking with your landlord first, as a former realtor I can't begin to tell you how mad landlords get when someone does something without their consent. And usually the tenant tries to take it off the rent without consulting the landlord. This should have been addressed when you moved in before you took possession. Even when tenants improve a property you would be surprised how many landlords are not happy. For now I would invest in a beautiful rug you can take with you when the time comes.
    • See 1 previous
    • Lola Lola on Jan 18, 2015
      @Kat You are entitled to what you rent per your lease., as I mentioned if the damage was there, it should have been addressed when they leased the property. I did not mention they were bad tenants.Homeowners are funny, I'm sure everyone loves a good tenant but this problem was already there, the landlord did not take care of it when they leased it. Landlords have the right to be notified of any changes to their property, good or bad. It is only good sense and consideration on both sides. Communication is the key.
  • Jane Mayer Jane Mayer on Jan 14, 2015
    Spills occur frequently even in living rooms. Use a floor cleaner that won't harm bare wood. Then if you are daring and OK with your landlord, use a palm sander on just the discolored area. Refinish. If the finish is rubbery, it is most likely polyurethane... use a stain a shade lighter than what is on your floor and then lightly coat with a spray poly... less likely to show edge differences.
  • Lisadoll Lisadoll on Jan 14, 2015
    Wow. Those floors appear to be bare wood. There really is not an easy, quick fix. Either properties are inexpensive where you live, or that house was inherited seems as though your landlord has no interest in protecting an investment. Renting a filthy house?! You are definitely in a pickle. Ideally, the only solution is to sand, putty, repair, stain and seal that wood to make it durable enough to withstand dirt, foot traffic, and mopping. Doesn't sound as though you have the landlord that's willing to have that done professionally. And it's a HUGE DIY . Hopefully you have some STRONG friends, relatives to help you.( move out ,sand, labor to clean up messy process, move back in). I have had all wood floors in My house for YEARS and I love them. Easy care. I've had them resealed twice since 1985, so I know what's involved. If you decide to DIY, I would say... WHY NOT? He doesn't care, and it can't get any worse. Don't expect perfection, and you'll be fine! Whatever you do, DONOTjust attempt to clean and seal, without sanding.. The sealer will just peel up. I know what you're thinking, though. It really is a cleanliness issue. Wood is porous. Best of luck to you, and please let us know the outcome ,
  • CK CK on Jan 14, 2015
    You might try a bleach and water solution to clean the floors and hopefully remove some of the stains. Wash the floors and dry them either by hand (like with a towel) and/or use a fan to speed up the drying. You don't want to create any more stains or water marks. Also, if the landlord allows, you may consider painting the floors. We did in our home on hardwood and we love it!
  • Nina Nina on Jan 14, 2015
    Have you tried bleach and water mixed more bleach then water it will bleach the stains out then you will let it dry lightly sand re,stain and polie
  • Joanne Wei Joanne Wei on Jan 14, 2015
    I agree, before you do anything, get your landlord's permission. Bleach will take out the deep stains; however, it will need to be sanded and re-stained.
  • Sarahkathryn Sarahkathryn on Jan 14, 2015
    I used to work for Home Depot and I got to test many of our products. THIS was one of my favorites. It ads moisture back into the wood and seals it without using a wax. I'd start with the cleaner then move to the refresher ( ). I don't know how much square footage you have, but this is much cheaper than resurfacing if your landlord won't pay to have it done. I never tried it on bare wood, but I think your floors are just extremely neglected, not necessarily completely bare. Hope that helps!
    • See 2 previous
    • Rocky26 Rocky26 on Feb 01, 2015
      Many thanks. Last time I used sanding machines I found I can't do what I used to so easily. I got the job done, but it took a long time to recover. I didn't do a couple of rooms (older than the rest of the house. I'll try this.
  • Brenda LeCloux Brenda LeCloux on Jan 14, 2015
    Try hydrogen peroxide on those stains. I have a really old Yorkie that has a problem going potty in the house. Sometimes urine stains turn black on hardwood. Spray hydrogen peroxide on the stains and they just disappear. You may have to spray several times but it works. You could try it. It won't hurt the wood floors and just could make it better at a real cheap price. This is my personal experience I hope it works for you.
  • Letha Letha on Jan 14, 2015
    After cleaning like Liliana Wells suggested, if that takes the stains ou,t I would use Whatco (Spelling?) Oil. Have no idea how to spell that. Anyway, it will smooth out the the remaining varnish. Don't use it if the floor has polyurethane. If stains still remain, I would go over them with a darker stain. Please check with your landlord first. If they don't want you to mess with the floors, buy rugs.
  • Sharon Duke Sharon Duke on Jan 15, 2015
    Clean the floors.Sand them then Bleach them...then put vinegar on it to neutralize the bleach and sand them...vacuum dust and wipe the floor...put a stain on them...check your options out...some stains have a sealer in them and don't smell for long...look for a water cleanup.your floors can look beautiful but you do have some elbow grease involved but worth it.
  • KatMo KatMo on Jan 15, 2015
    My painter told me to clean my old hardwood floors with deck stripper and then varnish. No sanding needed. My floors looked like yours.
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Jan 16, 2015
    Get on the landlord's case - like KatMo's advice but get the landlord to pay for the product. You could also see if you could get a area rug or two. Then you take them with you when you move.
  • Tia Tia on Jan 16, 2015
    Be careful about using vinegar on bare wood it can turn it grey. I use it to make new wood look old and weathered. I would lightly sand around the outer edge of the stain ring wipe clean with a damp cloth let dry. Then test one of the stain areas that you did using one of 2 things. Olive oil. LIGHTLY to see if it will help blend into the surrounding wood grain. Or that of liquid oil. Now when using oil you will have to wait a little while to see how it holds. Meaning when the oil completely drys (disappears) how the area looks. If when you applied the oil everything blended real well and you like the look then you can decide to finish the floors using a wax or stain. Definitely ask the landlord for permission. Especially if you want him to pay or reduce rent for it. You can also use baking soda as a cleaning agent. I have used liquid gold on unfinished wood floors it turned out great and over time one could not tell that I had done them. They looked like I had just waxed them. It was in a small museum with a gift shop. The name of the place is "LuLu's Bordello" located in Goldfield Ghost Town, Apache Junction Arizona. Good luck and let us know what you did and how it turned out.
  • Country Design Home Country Design Home on Jan 18, 2015
    Of course, you need your landlord's permission before you do anything, but renting a sander and refinishing seems like a lot of work for a place you don't own. And, they are not that easy to use, so you could end up ruining the floor with gouge marks. Since the landlord didn't clean or do anything up to this point, it appears unlikely that will change. Once you get permission, I would try the hydrogen peroxide method or deck cleaner, as mentioned above. Seems a lot less likely to stain an untreated floor than bleach. Sanding one spot will only place the emphasis on that particular area. Once the floor is clean, and even if all the stains don't come up, you just need to add shine. Shine reflects the light and will mask some of the stains. Years ago I used Polyshades-a product that has polyurethane and stain mixed-on my dining room floor without a full sanding. They came out beautifully and have lasted many years. Polyshades is acrylic so it doesn't have a very strong odor. Good luck!
    • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Jan 19, 2015
      @Sue@CountryDesignHome Agree on two counts. Potential damage using a pro sander. Two. Had an apt. with parquet floors. Somebody had stripped a few of the squares. The others were scraped, gouged and a mess. Another tenant suggested I just varnish. I used poly instead. There were various shades but it was a great improvement and really easy to clean.
  • MBLori MBLori on Jan 21, 2015
    Most of the time you can get a landlord on board if you promise to make it look better than it does now. For them its free labor and a better looking rental for when you move out.