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What is a screen and recoat? What does buffing mean?

Home Builder with The Flooring Girl

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 westchester

Screening (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 county

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:

If you live in Westchester County and would like a free consultation as to whether a screen and recoat will work for you floors (or a full sanding and refinishing), give The Flooring Girl a call at 914-937-2950 (for out of state callers, please dial 914-407-3899)  

Map of Westchester hardwood flooring and refinishing

View Westchester Hardwood Floor Refinishing in a larger map  

Originally posted at: Hardwood Flooring: What is a screen and recoat?  What is buffing?


What is a screen and recoat?  What does buffing mean?



Florida Tolbert Team Keller Williams Advantage
Keller Williams Advantage III Realty in Lake Nona - Orlando, FL
Keller Williams Land Luxury Division Specialist

That is great detailed information telling us the difference and the care necessary.  Great job.

Jun 25, 2013 01:59 PM
MichelleCherie Carr Crowe .Just Call. 408-252-8900
Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! . DRE #00901962 . Licensed to Sell since 1985 . Altas Realty - San Jose, CA
Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years
Thanks for the useful info on these terms.
Jun 25, 2013 03:14 PM
Jennifer Fivelsdal
JFIVE Home Realty LLC | 845-758-6842|162 Deer Run Rd Red Hook NY 12571 - Rhinebeck, NY
Mid Hudson Valley real estate connection

Debbie excellent explanation of flooring terms that might be confusing to consumers.

Jun 25, 2013 04:13 PM
Edward & Celia Maddox
The Celtic Connection Realty - Queen Creek, AZ

Some new information on flooring items we didn't know about before.  Thanks for sharing.

Jun 25, 2013 06:53 PM
John F Muscarella
Broker/Owner, Venice, FL, Florida's Suncoast

Debbie, a very timely quote as I was contemplating a buffing to the hardwoods on our floors upstairs.  They don't need a full sanding but some urethane has peeled over the past 10 years.  Thanks for the info.

Jun 25, 2013 08:18 PM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Debbie: I love your posts because they always give us such a very thorough explanation of what all of these flooring terms mean.  Thanks so much for giving us such good ideas on things we may get asked by clients

Jun 25, 2013 08:24 PM
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning again Debb. This is a classic and so very informative. I somehow missed this but Kathy sent me by. Great!

Jun 25, 2013 08:26 PM
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

Good ti know of course....and that you can change the look of a finish with this process is important to many homeowners.

Jun 25, 2013 08:53 PM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I have heard of weird people wearing a long coat as a screen, and when they open it they reveal themselves to be in the buff.  Is that what you mean?

I've never heard of it as buffing, but I suppose that's as good a word as any.

Jun 25, 2013 09:15 PM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Sussie - Thank you so much.  That means so much!

Debbie - Oh good, I'm so glad I'm able to share something new.

Sharon - Yes, many get the terms mixed up, so glad this helps.

Kathy - Yes, and this could be good for staging, too.  If you do every 3 yrs, you may be able to avoid sanding for 10-20 yrs.

David - Thanks and I hope it helps a lot of people out there.  Now, let's just hope it ranks well on google.

Kevin - Thank you so so much.

Michelle - You are welcome.

Jennifer - Thank you, and I hope this clarifies what a screen and recoat is.

Jun 25, 2013 09:44 PM
Margaret Goss
@Properties - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

My client recently told me that the floor refinisher suggested screening their floors before they move in.  I had never heard the term before - and now I do!  Thanks for the thorough explanation.

Jun 25, 2013 09:55 PM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

As always, great post with great information on issues we get asked about a lot. Thanks.

Jun 25, 2013 10:04 PM
Cindy Edwards
RE/MAX Checkmate - Johnson City, TN
CRS, GRI, PMN - Northeast Tennessee 423-677-6677


I do appreciate your knowledge of flooring.  I learn something new everytime I visit!

Jun 25, 2013 10:25 PM
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Debbie, what a good informative post! It's good to know screening is a possible option to re-sanding. G+1'd!

Jun 25, 2013 11:04 PM
Tom White
Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com - Franklin, TN
Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN

Another great post! I especially liked the section on when screening will not work.  Really helpful!

Jun 25, 2013 11:05 PM
Suzanne Otto
Six Twenty Designs - Lansdale, PA
Your Montgomery County PA home stager

Screening is a great way to bring the life back into your old hardwood floors. I've always referred to it as buffing, but I like screening better. It sounds much more professional. Thanks Debbie!

Jun 26, 2013 12:06 AM
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

Debbie, one of my clients recently used screening in two areas of her home and refinishing in the rest of the home.  She was fortunate that the areas were separated by a marble floored corridor.  I was impressed with the screening process.

Jun 26, 2013 01:02 AM
Dana Casey
Bridge Realty Inc. - Forest Lake, MN
Twin Cities

Nice to see your post Debbie.  I have questions... what is recommended as a readily available clearner for wood floors aside from Mop and Glow or other wax based products?  If a renter uses a product such as this, is there something that can be done to lift it and avoid a total sand and refinish?  Second, on the time to apply coats - a Dutch Boy distributor said that multiple coats can be completed without sanding in between as long as the floor is still tacky and the coats are applied within 3-6 hours of each other depending on room temp and humidity.  Will you clairify this info for me.  Thanks,  Dana

Jun 26, 2013 01:28 AM
Marilyn Wier
RE/MAX Space Center - League City, TX
Your League City & Surrounding Areas REALTOR!

I learn something new everyday! I will say mop and glow seems to build up on my floors and then cleaning them is sooooo much harder because the dirt gets stuck to the floor! I spent hours removing mop and glow from my floors! Not fun and very time consuming!

Jun 26, 2013 02:56 AM
Debbie Walsh
SHAHAR Management - Middletown, NY
Hudson Valley NY Real Estate 845.283-3036

I never knew the technical terms for this procedure.  This is a great post for anyone contemplating doing work on their floors or someone who is looking to get this type of floor and wants to know what maintenance to expect down the road.

Jun 26, 2013 04:43 AM