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.


Screen and recoat hardwood westchester countyAlso, 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.


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My name is Debbie Gartner, and I'm known as "The Flooring Girl." I own my own flooring store called Floor Coverings International, and we serve Westchester NY and Fairfield CT counties.We install hardwood flooring, carpet, tile flooring, laminate, bamboo and cork flooring. We also refinish hardwood floors. We are a shop at home flooring store. You can call us at 914-937-2950 to schedule a free flooring consultation or email us at debbie@TheFlooringGirl.com. Let us "bring the store to your door."If you are calling outside of Westchester/Fairfield Counties, please contact us at 914-407-3899.

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17 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.


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