Hardwood floors

I just bought a 70 year old home in somewhat of a lower-end neighborhood that I am fixing up a little, renting, and then maybe selling it in 5 to 10 years. It has hardwood floors that have been covered with carpet for many, many years. If I decide to sell the house several years from now, I will completely refinish the wood floors. But until then, I would like to find the cheapest method to clean them up and protect them through the rental years. Can anyone out there suggest some possible solutions?
My first thought was to lightly sand the floor, apply a darker stain, then a good thick coat of poly. But I'm kind of confused as to whether or not that will work if my current floor was shellac or varnish (probably the case based on the age and condition).
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Jay wrote:

An old wood floor would not be coated with shellac normally - probably varnish, and very likely old coats of wax. If it was protected and just dirty, you might get it looking good with just cleaning. Old wax can hold a lot of dirt, and mineral spirits with some fine steel wool could get most of that off. I would try that, if possibly, in a spot that isn't obvious. Damp mopping is perfectly fine, as well, but you do not want to leave any standing water. Damp mop, especially with soap, will dull the floor. Back in the day, I had a small floor machine that cleaned, applied wax and buffed. Repeat waxing was needed only every couple of years or less, and the floor looked great.
If you are going to stain, you need to clean it and remove all of the old finish, wax and dirt.
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Jay wrote:

Have you pulled up all the carpet and inspected all the floor space? I redid a HW floor in one house we lived in, built in 1954. After pulling up the carpet, there was quite a bit of damage that I had to deal with. Stains, water damage, gouges along every wall from carpet stretchers and carpet tack board damage etc. My floor was top nailed so every nail had to be reset. Had to do heavy sanding on some warped areas. We sanded and coated with water based poly urethane. Turned out pretty good but had to put throw rugs over some stains in the hallway that we couldn't get out. Bleached them and sanded which helped take 75% of the stain out. Kevin
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I think the 3 choices come down to:
1 - If the floor is OK enough that a good cleaning and waxing will make it look good, that is an option
2 - Install new carpet for the duration while you're renting it
3 - If it's OK enough that refinishing will work, then refinish it now and hope that the renters treat it well
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