The key to a beautifully refinished floor is following all the necessary steps properly.
Careful preparation before application of the polyurethane is critical to achieving a smooth and durable floor. This is usually where both DIY'ers and contractors skimp and unfortunately get poor results. Preparation requires careful sanding, meticulous vacuuming of all particles, light sanding (or screening) between coats. Overzealous sanding particularly with a drum sander can lead to serious gouges in the wood that really cannot be fixed without replacing the affected boards.
Pay close attention the full cure time for your brand of polyurethane. If you put furniture back or subject the floor to full traffic before it is fully cured, the floor will likely suffer damage. Full cure time can range from 5 - 10 days depending on temperature and humidity which is a long time if you have a busy family schedule. Probably the best time to have this done is before you go on vacation. This way when you come back, the smell is mostly gone and the floor fully cured and ready to use.
Water Based polyurethanes have become popular lately, because they dry more quickly and don't tend to change the wood's color as much as oil based ones. Oil based polyurethanes do tend to give the wood a golden hue.
Many say that the durability of the water based polyurethanes are much less than the oil based ones. Then there are water based ones with are enhanced with a catalyst to make them harder and more durable. The downside is that these are tricky to work with due to a limited working time before they setup.
If you desire your floor to be stained a different color, that will require additional steps. A wood conditioner is recommended before application of stain in order to create a more uniform stain.
Unfortunately, my current insurer does not permit me to refinish hardwood floors at this time.
If you are interested in hardwood floor refinishing, please let me know and I'll see about
changing my insurer.
Thanks for your feedback!