What is a screen and recoat?

Screen and recoat hardwood westchester countyScreening and buffing are the same thing. They are synonyms for each other, and both mean that you “scuff up” or abrade the floor, and then you apply a coat of polyurethane for protection and sheen.  Screening is often called buffing, since the screening is done with a buffer.  Screening both smooths the floors a bit, and the abrasive action allows the polyurethane to adhere to the surface better.  The screen and recoat process can restore the glow of the floors and give them a refreshed look. 



Some customers call this a “light sanding,” but technically, it’s a screen and recoat since you are not sanding the wood, but rather are just sanding the top layer of polyurethane.  Other customer refer to this as “adding a top coat” or a “buff and coat.”


When you screen and recoat hardwood floors, you have the options of changing the gloss level of the finish. So, if your floors are too glossy and you want more of a satin look you can do that (or vice versa).


buffing hardwood floors westchesterScreening (or buffing) will not address deep scratches or changes in color.  If you have a stain on the floor and scratches that have penetrated down to the raw wood, the screening will not help with this.  It is simply adding on a coat of clear protection on the floors (think about nail polish…if your nail polish color has chipped and you add an extra coat of gloss, it will help preserve the existing polish, but it will not change the color underneath).


Screening will save you money, labor and time.  Not only will a screen and recoat help refresh your floors, but it will also postpone the need for a complete sanding and refinishing later.


When will screening NOT work?

  • screen and buff hardwood floors westchesterScreening will not work on waxed floors as it can not adhere properly to the surface.  Also, it will not work well if you have used products that have wax in them (e.g. mop and glo or orange glo).
  • If the floors have worn down past the color (and/or you have portions of the floors that are gray from oxidation), screening is not the right process.  Instead, it’s time for a full sand and refinish.
  • If you want to change the color of your floors.  In order to change the color of your floors, you need to sand the floors completely down to the raw hardwood and then apply the stain.
  • If you have gray patches on the floor, it’s too late for a screening
  • A screening will not address UV discoloration under area rugs


How does screening work?

Unlike sanding and refinishing (which is rather messy), screening just scuffs up the floor and is relatively clean.  It is a faster, and hence less expensive process as well.  After the floors are screened (which could take an hour or two…or sometimes 1/2 day to a full day, pending on the areas), we then apply 1 coat of polyurethane – either oil based or water based polyurethane can be used.  The buffer has a mesh that is embedded with abrasive particles – just enough to allow proper bonding for the new coat of poly.  It is basically the last step of the sanding process. 


buffing and screening hardwood floorsTypically, for a screen and recoat, you add one coat of poly, but if you’d like even extra protection, you can add on 2 coats.  You would screen before each coat.


Screening is generally a 1 day process (or 2 days if you opt for 2 coats).  Just like sanding and refinishing, all the furniture needs to be moved.  There is some drying time involved as well – usually 24 hrs before you can walk on it and a few more days before you can move furniture back.


How long does a screen and recoat take?

screening hardwood floors and buffingGenerally, a screen and recoat can be done in 1 day and it needs to dry for 24 hours.  It depends on the area to be done, but often the work can be done in a few hours.  An oil based polyurethane will take 24 hrs to dry, and a water based poly will usually dry in 4 hrs.  All furniture and items must be moved off the floor.  With an oil based poly, it’s advisable to wait 4 days before putting furniture back; for water based poly, you only need to wait 2 days.  It’s ideal to wait 30 days before putting area rugs back so that the floors fully cure.


Screening is great maintenance plan for your floor

Screening can help prolong the length of time between full sandings.  Over time, the top protective layer of finish will wear down.  This leaves the wood more vulnerable to scratches and spills, and the lustre becomes more dull.   The key is do a screen and recoat before your floors get badly scratched up.  Once the scratches have gone through the color, it’s often too late.  How often should you screen your floors?  Well this depends on how much traffic your floors get and whether or not you wear shoes.  But, as a general rule of thumb, if you screen every 3 years or so, you can avoid a full sanding for a very long time.


westchester hardwood flooring - screen and buffIf you have a stenciled floor (which can be rather expensive), screening every couple of years is a “must do” so that you maintain the beauty of the design.  Sanding and refinishing and repainting stenciled work can be very expensive and very time consuming.  (you would generally add on at least another week for this work).  So, if you want to avoid the large expense and hassle, a regular maintenance screening program will be much easier.


Can you just screen a portion of the floor?

In general, it’s better to screen and recoat the full area or at least a full room.  You can not stop at the end of the room if there is a clean break in the wood (e.g. if there is a saddle, if the wood changes directions or if it is along the grain of the wood.  But, you can not stop if the edge of the area is perpendicular to the grain of the wood as you won’t have a clean line.  If your wood floors from one room into the next, an alternative is to add a saddle at the door to create a clean breaking point.


Is it possible to do a light sanding on hardwood floors?Also, I would advise against doing part of a room rather than a full room, as you can usually see a difference in the two sections if part of the room is restored while the other part isn’t. The sheen will be different.


Other related articles:



Buy me a coffeeDid you find my tips helpful? If so, feel free to buy me a coffee and support my blog




Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors, whether they are light or dark


Hardwood floors: What is a screen and recoat?  What does buffing mean?




28 Response Comments

  • Pete's Hardwood Floors  June 25, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    We put a “how-to” video on screening and re-coating on YouTube – complete with a nice, relaxing soundtrack 🙂 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgHDzAE17c8 We are big proponents of regular screenings/recoatings at Pete’s. I like to say it’s the best kept secret in hardwood flooring – your floor will look so so so much better when you do this and don’t put it off for years.

    • TheFlooringGirl  June 27, 2013 at 6:20 pm

      Thanks Pete. Yes, I think it’s a great way to freshen up a floor and maintain them for much much longer.

  • Camille pisciotto  May 29, 2014 at 4:51 am

    I’m in trouble. I had my floors sanded and re stained pickled oak the workers came yesterday and applied the polyurethane its too shiny i live on the water and shabby chic is my decor the previous floor was dull and softer tone. Can I request the second coat of poly be satin of something low luster?

    • TheFlooringGirl  May 31, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      Yes, you can make the next coat(s) satin (or even matte). Sorry for the delayed response. I hope this is not too late.

  • ninacirigliano808@yahoo.com  June 4, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    i just had hardwoods buffed and coated, they put semigloss on and i don’t think it has enough shine, what do you think?

    • TheFlooringGirl  June 7, 2014 at 8:08 am

      Hi Nina. It’s hard for me to tell without seeing it. But, this is really a matter of taste. Most people in Westchester prefer less shine – they do satin finish. But, if you’re not happy with it, you can do a screen and recoat and change the gloss level – either to make it more or less shiny. I hope that helps.

  • Vikki  July 30, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Hi. Since it is difficult for us to rent a buffer, I am wondering if it is possible to screen the floors by hand. If so, what product do you recommend? Also, if we do not screen the floor first, will the polyurethane just completely flake off? Thank you!

    • TheFlooringGirl  July 31, 2014 at 5:20 am

      Vikki – First, yes, you need to screen the floors; otherwise, the poly will not adhere properly, and it will flake off. Most likely, it would take off more of the poly that is underneath it off, too.

      I would recommend that you use a buffer or hire someone to do this work. It’s not very expensive. If you try to do this yourself, changes are you will not do this right.

      I don’t have a specific product to recommend. You could try calling one of the manufacturers to ask for their recommendations.

  • Sarah  April 2, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Your website is very helpful.
    Thank you.
    I want to know if I can use water base on top of oil base finished floor.
    My other part of the house is waterabase since I have grey colour floors. But the hall way and the kitchen have oil base which looks a bit yellow compare to other part of the floor.
    Can I buff it and do water base on top?
    If you can let me know it will be great.


    • TheFlooringGirl  April 10, 2016 at 11:16 am

      If it’s been more than 6 months, then yes, you can screen with another type of poly. However, I would not expect this to solve the amberizing issue. It will probably just prevent it from getting much worse.

  • Maureen  September 4, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Is it possible to put a darker stain of polyurethane on a floor after buffing?

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 8, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      Maureen – No, you can’t do a darker stain once the poly is on. The only way to change the stain is to refinish again. The stain needs to be able to penetrate the wood.

      That being said, on the last coat of poly (assuming you are using oil based poly, you can add in a bit of tint (e.g. mix in a bit of stain). This will make it a tad darker. Only do this on the top coat.

  • Griffins  November 13, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    Can you screen and recoat only one room (eg kitchen) in an open home design if you’re using watebourne poly like bona traffic in a matte finish?

    • TheFlooringGirl  November 14, 2016 at 7:54 am

      This depends…it depends on how the wood flows. If you have saddles or flush transitions/turning points, you CAN do that. Or, if the wood has a clean “breaking” point (i.e. the wood is parallel to the rest of the area. Or, you could add saddles (which is not the most attractive in an open floor plan. Do bear in mind that the area you do will probably look different from the rest of the area, so this is your call, if it is better to protect/clean up the floors and have them look a bit different, or if it’s better to have the floors in the kitchen look worse. I hope this made sense. It’s much easier when you see it in person.

  • Lisa  January 23, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    During our renovation, we had new white oak rift sawn hardwood floors put in. The stain was very dark – like a sheet of dark brown linoleum, you couldn’t see the grain of the wood anymore. The contractor sanded it and restained it. The color is much improved, but then after the appliances were put it there was then 2 deep gouges in the wood. The contractor then “rescreened” the floors, did something to the gouges and put on the polyurethane. Now the floor has all of these streaks in it, there are little “bumps” in the floor when you run your foot over it and the area of the gouges look terrible, very patchy. Now he wants to re-sand it and do it all again or re-screen it and do another coat of polyurethane. What do you think? I am concerned that screening and recoating won’t fix what has now happened, but also that sanding it again will decrease the length of use of the floor as it will have been sanded twice before it was even really used. What do you think?

    Thanks for any help or insight you can provide.

    • TheFlooringGirl  January 24, 2017 at 7:12 pm

      Hi Lisa. Yes, unfortunately, this does sometimes happen with the appliances. If the gouges are deep, that is tough and the “best way” to fix it is to resand the floor. However, this often isn’t practical either. It sounds like your contractor did a simple fix (which is fine) and put some stain there and then screened the whole floor and in general, this is a fine approach. The real question at this point is what is causing the bumps. My gut tells me that rescreening the floor will probably take care of this, but you’ll need to get your contractor’s advice as he can see and feel it in person. It may not fix the area with the gouge though if you’re saying that looks bad. It looks bad because the gouge was bad. (BTW, you may want to see about having the appliance company pay for all of this since they are the ones that caused the issue). An extra coat of poly may camouflage the gouge a little bit. I wouldn’t worry so much about the life of the floors as you can still get many sandings out of it.

      For sure, resanding the whole thing will give you the best results. It depends on how much you want to pay (and if you can have appliance people pay for this) and your amount of inconvenience and how bad the gouge looks. I would really seek your contractor’s advice on this.

      • Lisa  January 29, 2017 at 12:55 pm

        Thanks for replying. Our contractor “buffed” the floors and put on Bona. The areas were the gouges were look better, most of the rough spots are now gone, but now the whole floor looks hazy, as if the floors are supposed to be shiny but aren’t. The finish is supposed to be matte. I am regretting allowing him to even fix the gouges in the first place as I could have lived with them since they were noticeable only in certain light and the floors otherwise looked gorgeous then. If you really don’t think having them sanded will create an issue down the road, that is likely how we will approach it as this point.

        • TheFlooringGirl  January 29, 2017 at 4:10 pm

          Lisa – I’m not sure I’m completely following. But, if the sheen is the issue, you can buff and do another coat and change the sheen level. Bona comes in satin and semi gloss and I think they may even have a glossy option. With water based poly, it always looks duller than oil based, so matte in Bona looks very matte (if there is such a thing), satin looks more like matte, semi gloss looks more like satin, etc.

          I’m not sure if you had the floors sanded down to bare wood or buffed. Generally when you fix gouges, you go down to bare wood. If the floors were just buffed, they don’t come out as well vs sanding the floors.

  • Peter  January 25, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    I used Bona renew on my floors giving it two coats with a new micro fibre applicator but it looks smeard and has dots or small circles everywhere. What happend?

    • TheFlooringGirl  January 25, 2017 at 8:15 pm

      Peter – I would recommend that you contact Bona directly. Their site is good and they are reputable. It may that you had the floors waxed before or had previously used a cleaning product that had waxes or oils in in.


Leave A Comment

Please enter your name. Please enter an valid email address. Please enter a message.