I'm not saying that this is the right way to do this, it was simply a last ditch effort that payed of surprisingly well. YMMV.
You can tell that hardwoods were in pretty miserable shape:
Sanding the floors down wasn't an option for us due to time constraints and allergies. So, we rented a professional floor cleaner from Home Depot (which was surprisingly affordable) and used a solution of water, Murphy Oil Soap, and a little Bon Ami as our cleaning agent. Once the water had time to sit a bit, the wax came off pretty easily. We purchased the red scrubby pad you see there. Evidently, different colors correspond to different "grits" and frankly, I wish we'd used a bit tougher one. But, better to err on the side of caution than wind up with scratches.
A good cleaning worked absolute wonders...you can already tell how much better the floors looked after just a few passes with the machine. Once they were fully scrubbed, there were quite a few areas where most of the original varnish was worn off. Which I am fairly sure is the only reason we got away with this next step:
After letting the floors thoroughly dry, we applied a coat of Daly's Walnut Stain to floor, using lint free cloths to give the finish a hand rubbed look.
We allowed the stain to dry overnight, than applied Daly's CrystalFin in semigloss. We used a large mop-head like applicator sponge to apply it, making sure to keep a wet edge:
We bought these products at our local Benjamin Moore. They're made in Seattle and are much less toxic than a lot of what is commercially available. They aren't the cheapest, but avoiding chemicals that may or may not cause cancer is worth it to me. Plus, you can really smell the linseed in their products, which I think is cool. Yes, I'm odd.
Here's what we got:
So much prettier than what we started with and not bad for a weekends' worth of work. Want to see what the house looked like after we moved all the furniture out of the area? We put the dining table, china hutch, mand a few other construction sundries in the kitchen:
Stacked miscellaneous crap in front of the fireplace, since it has a slate hearth:
Put both couches and media table in our master bedroom:
And even stuck some of the kids' toys in the entry way:
The good news is that after wading through so much stacked stuff, I got off my butt and took three very full boxes to Goodwill this afternoon. We almost have our house back to normal, too. In the end, it was so worth the mess.