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

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. 

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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?

  • what to expect when you are refinishing floorsScreening 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.


Debbie Gartner The Flooring GirlAre you about to sand your floors? Not sure how long to wait before using them? Avoid these common pitfalls that can impact your floor’s durability!


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 sanding articles:



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

49 thoughts on “Hardwood floors: What is a screen and recoat? What does buffing mean?”

  1. Thanks for letting me know about it. If you have spent any time talking to your hardwood flooring professional (or reading the hardwood flooring blogs) you’ve heard the phrase “screen and recoat.” Here at Pete’s we know that people can toss around jargon like that in an attempt to sound knowledgeable, but in this case, the jargon actually means something.

  2. Camille pisciotto

    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?


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

    1. 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.

  4. 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!

    1. 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.

  5. Hi
    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.


    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  6. 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?

    1. 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.

  7. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

  8. 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?

    1. 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.

  9. I just had screen and coat done four days ago with semi gloss well I’m assuming they applied what I asked for looks more like a gloss it’s to shiny ok the big problem I see and feel sand paper the whole floors looks sandy why is this normal will it subside ????

    1. Heather – No, this doesn’t sound normal. A buffing smooths out the floors, and it’s not supposed to make them rougher. It sounds like maybe they didn’t know what they were doing and/or didn’t have the right equipment.

  10. We have brand new engineered wood floor that scratches very easily. I applied 2 coats of Minwax Super Fast-Drying Polyurethane for Floors in satin with a lamb wool applicator, 3 days ago.

    The floor has some streak marks and a few bubbles. I’m considering polishing the floor with a buffer or maybe screening it, and then applying a coat of poly with a roller with a 3/8 inch nap. Does this seem like a reasonable fix? Your help and suggestions are mich appreciated.

    1. Brian – Oh gosh. Prefinished wood is challenging to screen, and now, given what you’ve done, you may have a bigger issue on your hands. In general, what you should have done was screened/buffed the floor (and I would have called in a professional to do this as this is a risky proposition, especially with engineered floors) and then I would have done 2 coats Bona Traffic water borne poly. It will definitely look duller than current. This is what is needed for any poly to properly adhere. It’s extra tricky as you probably have aluminum oxide in the finish. Generally oil based poly does not work well with prefinished floors.

      Buffing in general will take care of the bubbles, but now I’m not sure what to advise you given that your base may be messed up. If I were you, before doing anything, I’d call in a local professional to get their opinion before you proceed (either w/ a professional or DIY). I’d also test a section in a closet if you have one.

      Finally, I’m not so sure mixing oil and water will work here. You may need to wait at least 30 days (or maybe even 6 months…which would be better).

  11. Mary C Belanger

    I have highly used oak floor in my kitchen – It has been sanded 3 or 4 times in 25 years – I should have screened in between-I was told floor is too thin to re- sand but it is pretty bad and the color has yellowed was last finished with Glitza . Any suggestions as to what I can do???

    1. Mary – You really should speak with someone local to see what can be done. It’s odd that you could only get 3-4 sandings out of your wood…unless it’s engineered, or if it’s really old and was refinished 2-4 times before you. Or, it may be that you had inexperienced installers who sanded off too much. If your local refinisher thinks it can be sanded one more time, then do it and then screen and recoat every 3 years as that will be the only way they will last. If your floors are well worn down and discolored and can’t be sanded, I’m not sure what to advise you. I suppose you could screen and recoat to protect them more and prevent them from needing to be replaced. At some point, you may need to rip them up and replace them. (And, that is probably a better option vs putting another floor on top, especially for a kitchen (as appliances need to fit).

  12. I recently purchased a home that I am considering screening and refinishing the hardwood floors. How can I tell if the previous owners used any wax products like mop n glo?

    1. It will be very difficult for you to discern this. My guy can generally tell by looking and feeling the floor. I’ve often been able to tell now, but I have no idea how to explain the look and feel. I would advise calling in a local professional. I would not attempt to screen the floors if you are not a professional and haven’t done this. Screening is very difficult for DIYers and chances are if you try to do this, you will end up needing to fully sand and refinish the floors.

  13. Hi. We just had our floors refinished and they used a water based poly. We are feeling like it doesn’t look quite right and want the richness and added durability from an oil based poly. It’s been a week since the last coat of water based poly was applied. Can we have the floors buffed and then put a coat of oil based poly over the water based poly that was already completed? Thanks!

  14. Thanks for this great post. Why do you say that it is better to call someone in for a screen and recoat? I feel refinishing had more possible errors. Just wondering g before I do this myself..

    1. Jacob – Actually, I think you should hire a professional for both. Very few people are able to sand or screen their floors correctly and often they need to be redone (or worse). With a screen and recoat, many feel that it’s easier as the machine is smaller, but the issue is that most don’t put the proper pressure on it and screen too much or too little, and then they need to call in a professional to do a FULL sand and refinish which is messier, more expensive and a longer period of time off the floor. As an FYI, most general contractors and handymen who try this, fail.

  15. My flooring people did not ask me what type of finish I wanted and they chose satin. I don’t like the flat, dullness of this finish. They are coming back to put on semi gloss. What steps are involved for this? And how can I make sure they do it correctly? Is there afinish off

    1. Lynn – I’m glad they are coming back to do this for you. That’s the right thing to do. And, your floors will get an extra layer of protection.

      This is a very simple process, assuming your flooring company is reputable. They just buff the floors and add another coat of poly. Through the buffing, they “rough up” the floor (just like they buff your nails so the polish stays on better) and add the coat of poly. This allows it to adhere better.

      The finish you have on the top layer is the finish you see, regardless of what finish layers you have underneath.

  16. Lynn:
    I have read your recommendations for Bona water-based poly coatings but you do not recommend their oil-based poly coatings. I plan to screen an older oil-based poly floor and re-cote with oil-based. I have had good success with an oil-based Bona product in the past. I am wondering why you do not recommend their product and what kind of problems you may have seen.
    Thanks for your assistance.

    1. James – It’s just that Duraseal is a much better oil based polyurethane than Bona. It’s more durable and lasts longer. Bona has the best waterborne poly. I don’t think that there are any real problems with Bona oil. It’s just that there are better ones out there for oil based poly.

  17. Recently some cleaning girls damaged the poly surface on our beige hardwood floor by using Murphy’s oil soap several times. The corners of a few planks are not flush any longer and the color is now worn off some portions of edges/corners. My question: is it reasonable to do a screening/recoat after Murphy’s oil soap has been applied to the floor multiple times (3-5 times)? Is there any way to completely remove the residue? If I understand correctly, this “oil” soap is actually a detergent made from vegetable oil rather than an oil such as linseed. Otherwise, this floor has always been cleaned gently with cool water per instructions and had light use over its 20-year life. We did not expect to refinish in any way for years until the recent cleaning fiasco.
    Thank you for your advice!

    1. Jayne – Oh so sorry to hear this. I’m not an expert on cleaning products, but usually once you have oil or wax on the floor, it’s too late to do a screen and recoat. And, in this case it sounds like it went through the color (and the only way to fix this and the gaps is via a full sand and refinish, and I understand you don’t want to do that). Before do anything, I would call the manufacturers tech departments to see if they have recommendations on how to remove what’s been used. Maybe call Bona and maybe even whoever makes Murphy’s. I’m afraid to give you advise as it may actually make the floors worse, especially since it sounds like there is no protection in some areas (and you may need to avoid using cleaning products in those areas as the wood may absorb it and it may get worse.

      I might also call over a local flooring place (make sure they send an expert…someone who actually sands the floors…because they’ll know if a screening is possible or out of the question).

      If all of those things fail, maybe you can get creative with the furniture to hide the areas until it’s time to refinish. I hope that helps a bit. Again, I’m sorry that this happened to you.

  18. I have 20 year old Hartco acrylic impregnated pattern-plus wood flooring which has never been refinished. How can I address faded flooring along the patio door and slight scratches perpendicular to the flooring in the high walkway areas.

    1. Doug – That’s a toughie. I don’t think you can refinish that, but you can check with the manufacturer as to how they made it/how it’s impregnated. Pending on the contruction, you MAY be able to refinish it, but it may not look the same/look right. I doubt that you’ll be able to find that product anymore. If you have extras, you could try to swap out pieces. Alternatively, a simpler solution may be to cover it with a mat since it’s near the door.

      I would call the manufacturer before you try anything.

  19. We have a very glossy cherry floor that shows everything. Can it be buffed or screened if it’s slightly rippled.? It is also slightly distressed so it has some slight gauges here and there. It is beautiful.
    , just too shiny.

  20. We have a very shiny cherry hardwood floor that shows everything. Can it be buffed or screened if it is slightly rippled and distressed?

    1. You should be able to buff it to turn down the sheen, but it won’t take care of the “lower” parts from the distressing. But, it would still look better than it does today.

      Of course, you also have the option to do a full sand and refinish (either now or later) and that should take care of the whole area, but it will eliminate the distressed portions. I hope that made sense.

    2. Doreen – I don’t know how well it’s going to come out if your floor has ripples. Certainly later, they can sand and refinish the floors later so they are smooth and then you can change the finish. Get someone local in to see what they think. My gut tells me that it won’t come out very well and it’s likely to come out rather uneven.

  21. We have prefinished hardwood floors. It’s new construction and we are the first owners. It should be a satin finish but the builder applied Orange Glo, (supposedly just once) to make it appealing for selling. Since we moved in I’ve been using Bruce Hardwood cleaner on a flat mop. How can we remove the glossy residue?
    Screening? I see you mentioned that screening wouldn’t work on floors treated with Orange Glo, but what if it was only one time?
    How about a product like Bona Polish Remover?
    Thank you, as a new construction home owner you expect everything to be brand new and “perfect”. Thank you for your advice.

    1. Frank – You won’t be able to screen the floors. One application of Orange Glo is enough. And, I think the only way to remove it will be to sand the floors. You can call Bona Tech department and see if they have any solutions, but I’m skeptical. If they do, I certainly would not screen all of the floors. I would test it with one room that isn’t used that much. (and go in knowing that it may not work and you may need to either fully sand and refinish that room or buy a large area rug.

  22. I just had a screen & recoat on my hardwood floors but I don’t believe they did a second screening before their second coat of oil based poly- are the floors doomed for flaking?

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