Happened to be talking to my next door neighbor John while watering the lawn the other evening. He'd noticed the red oak floors in my house (a pretty much restored 1926 bungalow in downtown Phoenix); he'd just of pulled up the 1970's shag carpet in his house, and wondered what could be done about the original wood floors underneath. He suspected they were beyond salvaging, and had about decided to re-carpet.
I put the hose into a parched flower bed (I mentioned that this is Phoenix) and ambled next door. A quick hit, by hand, with a bit of 150 sandpaper showed that the "permanent" stains were very surface; the glue from the carpet pad looked evil, but mostly scraped up; likewise a whole lot of paint. (The carpet went down after a fire; the painters sent in by the insurance company figured that, with carpet going down, there was no need to be tidy). Similarly, figuring that the carpet would not be removed in their lifetime, they were quite generous with nails (big) in the carpet tack strips, and added (just to be sure) a whole lot of staples, throughout.
All solvable. The staple holes were small enough to be unnoticeable; the nail holes could be filled with a tinted putty. John had a wood flooring company look at the job, and they suggested sanding with a drum sander. No need, I thought: the wood was in good shape throughout; no reason to take of a substantial amount of it, as would a drum sander (you can only fully sand an oak floor several times before you hit the tong-and-grove part, and need to replace the floor). A large (usually about 16" x 24") commercial sander would remove surface issues while taking off little wood. I offered to assist (more with advice than real work); he'd have a better, less destructive job, much more affordably. After the cleaning and light sanding, I like oil based urethane. It goes down easily, looks great, and wears quite well. My house I refinish every several years - large dogs with large claws), but my office probably every eight or ten years.
While we do the occasional wood floor professionally (our main focus is in office cleaning Phoenix) I've mostly learned at places where I can afford to make mistakes - my home, and my 1914 vintage office. So far, no mistakes.
Finally, I mentioned to John that he needed to get up ALL the nails and staples; any left would shred the sandpaper on the sander, at a cost of a few bucks each time. He asked (innocently) how to insure that he's gotten all the staples up. I suggested a lot of walking around, barefoot, on the floor....