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I recently bought a 1917 house with all original hardwood floors. I refinished the maple floors upstairs and they look great. Unfortunately the oak floors downstairs are utterly unsalvageable. The property was a rental for 25 years and owned by slum lords who didn’t repair anything, added to the fact that the renters bred dogs and didn’t really clean up after the puppies. The floors have been so badly sanded that the tongues are exposed in large areas. There are some areas with old sealant still intact but most of the floor is just trashed.

Given these facts, I’m hoping to just put down two coats of polyurethane and call it mediocre until I can afford to replace them in four to five years. That being said, what would happen if I don’t sand them first? Ultimately, I do need these floors to be safe for my one year old niece to crawl around on, both in regard to splinters and also sanitation, but it’s just for five years. I do plan on adding as many rugs as I possibly can, but there will always be some wood exposed in places.

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    You might need a light sanding for bonding of finish, but it should be okay. The heavy sanding you did upstairs is to make the floor new again.
    – crip659
    Commented Apr 7 at 17:55

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The poly will bubble and or peal in some places, but that isn't a concern for your situation.

Just do as you intend, and in a few years cover with a new subfloor or rip and install new flooring.

Your situation may be perfect for something like LVP if it is reasonably flat.

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