Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How To Sand And Refinish Your Hardwood Floors

You might think your old hardwood floor looks really ugly and dingy. Back in the 60’s and 70’s, many homeowners thought their hardwood floors were so ugly, that they would cover them up with carpet.

In the modern day, that would be a sin, but it happened a lot back when wall-to-wall carpet was the craze. We often find older homes with old worn out carpet that covers seemingly faded and weathered hardwood flooring. Don’t be deceived, the resurfacing process of hardwood floors and its potential beauty will have you patting yourself on the back for years.

Restoring hardwood isn’t easy, but it is definitely worth the trouble. If your floor has been covered with carpet, then be sure to remove all the carpet and tack strips. Then you will need to see if there are any nail holes that need to be filled.

If you are resurfacing your hardwood floors because they are old looking, then you will start out with a heavy duty sander called a drum sander. You will be able to rent this sander at any rental stores or building centers because they are very popular and frequently used. To strip off the finish you will need 24 grit sand paper on the drum sander. A drum sander goes in a straight line so you will need to head toward a wall and go in a straight direction until you come to the wall, then you will need to turn around and head for the opposite wall. Do this until the entire floor is done.

You don’t need to be worried about sanding completely through your floor because most hardwood floors, especially the older floors are about 3/4 “thick. You should be able to sand your hardwood floor over a dozen times before it wears through.

You will need to do a second sanding to smooth the rough gouges made by the finish-stripping sand paper. This will also remove any of the remaining patches of finish left behind. You can accomplish this with 36 grit sand paper. Go over the floor the same way you did with the heavier sand paper.

You won’t be able to get very close to the walls with the drum sander so you will need a smaller sander to sand next to the walls and corners. An orbital hand sander will work really well for this. You will use the same grit of sand paper for the hand sander as you will use for the drum sander at each phase of the sanding process.

The third step of the sanding process will be the smoothing phase where the sand paper will sand out all the rough cuts from the heavier sand paper. You will use 60 grit sand paper for this. This grit of paper won’t strip off any remaining finish materials so you will have to make sure that you get it all with the second sanding.

The fourth sanding phase will be where the light grit sand paper brings out the wood grains even without the final finishes. You will use 80 grit sand paper for this step. You will notice how the old hardwood sheds its old appearance for a new vibrant, modern display.

The final sanding phase is very important, yet it is a step often omitted by flooring contractors. You will use 150 grit sand paper with a small hand sander. Be sure to sand with the grain. This will make a huge difference in the deep luster shine and the appearance of the wood grains.

After you have completed the sanding phases, you will then need to sweep the floor clean of all dust and wood particles. This won’t be quite enough though, because you want the wood grains to be completely exposed and free of dust so they soak up the finish better and deeper. If you have an air compressor you can spray the floor with air to get the dust free. If however you don’t have an air compressor, then you can use a vacuum on the lowest surface setting to suck the dust out. Be sure to make slow thorough passes with the vacuum.

Next, you will start the first application of the floor finish. There are many finishes to choose from, but most flooring specialists’ choose a water-based Urethane because of its characteristics. It dries quickly and the odors won’t kill you. The first coat will go on in a copious fashion. You can use a brush or a floor brush on a pole. This will help you get an even coat.

Let the first coat dry for at least 12 hours and then apply the second coat. The third coat should make the final finish appear as a deep finish that makes the wood grains stand out almost as if in 3-D.

Once the floor has dried, you will notice that it is very hard and durable. The shine and the wood grains are new looking. The floor doesn’t even look anything like the old floor. That is part of the restoration process. Enjoy it. Spread out on the floor and give it a hug. That’s how I feel after so much work, yet so much reward.

About the Author
Larry Angell is the author of Sweat Equity, building a house at half cost. He runs an instructional site that teaches people how to build houses that are strong financial tools and not financial burdens. Build your own house

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