Adding a coat of finish to hardwood floor

My wife and I are moving into a house with beautiful hardwood floors that have been hidden under shag carpet for years. The carpet and pad appear to have left the wood it almost new condition (1950's)
I know fully refinishing hardwood is either expensive to have done professionally and an enormous amount of work to do yourself. So, I am looking for a simpler way to treat the floors prior to our move-in.
Is there a problem with simply applying a coat or two of modern polyurethane to make sure the surface stays in great condition? If this works, would I have to lightly sand the surface first or could I just apply the polyurethane after a good cleaning?
I have not closed on the house yet, so I haven't' been able to test the current surface for water absorption, wax, etc.
Thanks in advance for any help
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On 17 Jul 2006 09:57:49 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Lightly sand would be nice.
If you have some imperfections, Start with 80 grit, move to 150 grit and finish with 220 grit. Use a tack cloth to remove dust between sandings.
Then finish off with 400 grit and remove all dust from the room and lay down your poly.
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Dont recoat without sanding the old finish, it is hard, the new finish may not bond to it. It would be fairly cheap to hire out the work, a floor buffer is used with sanding screen to roughen it up. You must check and remove any old finish or wax.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

What is your definition of "expensive"? As home improvements go, it is about as cheap as it gets to have anything done professionally.
How much square footage are you talking about? It's usually about 50 cents a square foot in my experience to sand and refinish. It cost me $350 to have my entire first floor refinished.
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I heard that it was more like $2-$3/sqft. What type of professional did you get? A hardwood specialist, handyman, other?
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TCG wrote:

Local hardwood specialist.
$2-$3 per square foot just to refinish? That's the labor charge to install and finish a whole new floor, not to refinish.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

That's great news! I wasn't even considering professionals when I originally posted.
Thanks everyone for your comments :)
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TCG wrote:

Yeah, just shop around a little bit. 50 cents a square foot is probably on the low side but that's about what I paid - my first floor is about 750 square feet and it was $350 to refinish (so even less than 50 cents). The guy I used was just a local wood floor contractor.
We had new wood installed upstairs and it was $7 total per square foot, which included $4.50 for the materials. So $2.50 for the labor and that includes installation, sanding and finishing. The installation is obviously the hard part, so anybody you hire just to refinish should be a lot less than $2.50.
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If it is in good condition and you like the color now, having a pro screen and recoat is the cheapest way , sanding to wood is more.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com writes:

Here in Eastern Massachusetts, the cheapest you can find is $1.50-$2.00 for somebody who basically just rapes your floors and splashes down a layer or two of poly.
For good quality jobs and multiple coats, people pay as much as $4-5 per square foot and more...
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It is certainly a good idea to do the floor before you move in, as you won't have to worry about dirt and dust, nor moving furniture.
I would defer a decision until you have removed the carpet and padding, so you will know if there are any problem areas that might affect your decision.
My concern would be compatibility between the old finish and the new. Amateurs usually don't have the knowledge to tell what the old finish is, nor to be certain that the new finish will properly seal to the old. As someone else said, having the floors professionally redone is not too expensive, and perhaps you could even get a discounted rate because the house is empty.
snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

if the carpet needs replaced, have a pro do it. it should not cost to much more if at all than new carpet. remember you don't know how the whole floor looks till the carpet and pad are gone.
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If you want to try to do this yourself, it's really not that hard since your not going down to the bare wood. DON"T put a sander on it though as that would be too aggresive. What is normaly done after the first coat is hit it with a 100 grit sandscreen. You can either do this with a buffer type machine or an orbital sander. In your case the orbital is much better as it is easier to control and won't leave swirl marks. Home depot and most tool rental yards have these available along with the screens you'll need. You'll only need 2 or 3 screens. Go over the entire floor with the orbital going with the grain not against. Vacuum if you can, sweep if you must up all the dust. Take some tack cloth and wipe the entire floor. Since your house is from the 50's, they had to have used an oil based coatinig. You can use water base on top, but oil is much better unless you can't wait the day it will take to dry. Get a lambs wool applicator and since it will be new, take an old fashion comb and comb the applicator to get as much loose "fuzzies" off as you can. To make the oil base easier to use, you can thin it out just a bit with paint thinner. start on side, and apply 4-6 linear feet at time working your way to the other side of the room. When you go to do the sencond row of 4-6 feet, put the applicator about 6'' to a foot into the first row in order to blend it in and just work your way out of the room.. Hope that helps, good luck with your project. O, f.y.i. I normaly charge my cutomers $1.25 to $1.50 to sand and refinish, but thats going down to bare wood and applying 3 coats. If you pay to have it done, you shouldn't pay more that 50 cents at the most. Steve snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

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