Refinishing hardwood floors can be a daunting task, but with a little know how and determination, it can be easier than one would think. Spending hours waxing and buffing a hardwood floor will give it a polished sheen, but it may lack the sparkle it once initially had. Refinishing the wood is the only way to revive the initial value and magnificence of the wood. The work involved to refinish a hardwood floor is challenging work, but hiring a professional is not necessary and can save some money (Most wood floors are oak, but maple wood is harder to stain and sand, so talking to a professional may be essential). Most of the necessary equipment is available to the public and the only skill needed is the ability to follow directions!
The first thing to do is to screen the floor to see if it has refinishing potential. Inspect the floor to determine if it has thin scratches or just a lackluster surface. While refinishing a wood floor is a great way to increase the value of a home, it sometimes may only need a top coat of finish. Other times, refinishing the wood won’t be effective because the boards need to be replaced altogether. The floor is probably worth replacing if the wood is squishy, shapeless, or the boards are bent. While inspecting the wood, check the floor edges to see how much wood is left. Refinishing a wood floor over and over again takes the wood off in layers over time. If the only things determined are scratches and dings in the wood, refinishing is the next step.
Next, you will need to fill the cracks and gaps in the wood. Be aware that small gaps and cracks are required due to variations in temperature and humidity – causing them to contract and expand. Fill the gaps at the end of the wood planks. The wood does not expand much lengthwise. Be sure to do this process before sanding the floor.
A local hardware store most likely will have everything needed to refinish wood floors. The equipment needed to complete your project includes a drum sander, floor edger, buffer, orbital/palm sander, putty knife, scraper, shop vacuum, ear protection, dust masks, safety goggles, bristle brush (lamb’s wool and natural), or foam applicators, and tack cloths.
Begin by sweeping the floor and remove any debris or anything that isn’t nailed to the floor. Pull out any carpet staples or nails that are sticking out of the wood. Ignoring this step could damage the sanding machine. Unless you plan to replace the baseboards, leave them alone. If replacing the baseboards, use a shim behind the pry bar to prevent damaging the wall.
Using a sanding machine will cause dust to fly everywhere throughout the house, so be sure to hang plastic over the room’s doorways and put towels over the vents to keep dust confined.
Before sanding the floor, double check that there are no additional repairs required. Walk around the floor to find any squeaks or cracks.
Once ready to begin sanding the floor, here are a few tips to ensure a more even floor:
Once finished sanding the wood, fill any nicks or gouges in the floor. Use wood putty and a broad knife to fill any spots. Let the wood putty dry according to package directions and then lightly sand the areas smooth by hand with medium or fine sandpaper. Be sure to vacuum and wipe down walls with damp towel. Dust can later fall on the floor and dry in the new finish.
It is important to end with a good finish. Polyurethane is the most popular finish for floors. It’s tough enough to handle daily wear and tear and is resistant to almost everything. Oil-based polyurethane will turn a light amber color with age whereas water-based stays clear. Water-based polyurethane can be recoated in 3 hours. Oil-based polyurethane is cheaper, but can only be recoated every 8 hours. Ideally, seal the floor on the same day the sanding is finished to prevent the wood surface from absorbing moisture. Be careful not to apply too much. Excess sealer will not soak into the wood and can leave an ugly spot if not removed. Regardless of the finish chosen, a fresh coat every two years will prevent wood floors from wearing out.
It is natural to feel intimidated and want to suddenly call a professional, but once completed, there is a true sense of accomplishment!
Written By: Bob Jenkins
Budget My Build
P.O. Box 72987
Phoenix, AZ 85050
Office: (602) 579-9660
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