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How to Refinish Hardwood Floors

Jun 5, 2008
Several homes, especially centrally located homes, have hardwood flooring. A pristine hardwood floor is beautiful, but to restore one back to its original 60 year old elegance, the floor will need to be refinished.

Refinishing hardwood floors can be a challenging job for the do-it-yourselfer, but with some preparation and research, it can be done without the help of a professional.

Many older homes have gone through fads, and one that became a norm was wall to wall carpeting. If wood floors hide under a carpet, it will have to be removed. After all furniture has been removed, pull up carpeting and its tack strip, making sure to remove nails and staples that will hinder sanding performance later.

Sanding floors during the refinishing process creates a lot of sawdust. Prep the area by taping off doors and cabinets, and opening windows. Covering areas with damp sheets helps trap the sawdust.

After the area around the floor is completely prepped, use a drum sander to sand the floor. They can be rented at most home improvement stores. The purpose of the sanding is to cut the floor and remove the old finish. Start with a coarse grit sandpaper, such as a 20 or 36 grit paper, and move up to 60 and 100 grit. The lighter grit sandpaper is used to remove the scratch marks made by the heavier grit paper.

A drum sander can be daunting on its first use. They are loud and powerful, so wear ear plugs, eye protection, and a dust mask. A common first-timers mistake is gouging the floor, which is a hard problem to fix, and easier to prevent. Start by tilting the sander back before turning it on, and slowly lowering it to the floor.

Find a good test area that may be covered by a rug or furniture, and move the machine back and forth, without keeping it in one spot, as doing so can damage the floor in a few seconds. Move the sander in the same direction as the grain of the wood floor. When the machine becomes difficult to maneuver, it's time to move to a lighter grit paper. Edges of the floor can be hard to sand with the large drum sander, so either renting an edge sander, or doing these areas by hand, is recommended.

After the old finish has been removed, and the floors smoothed with the sander, the room must be vacuumed. It's advisable to vacuum and dust the floors, walls, light switches, and every area that can be reached. Let the dust settle, and vacuum again to insure no dust will end up in the new finish. Running a tack cloth (also available at home improvement stores) along the floor after it's been vacuumed is also advisable.

It's now time to apply a stain to the wood, unless the natural color of the wood is preferred. If possible, test the stain on your floor, as color charts may be helpful, but not always accurate depending on the wood of your floor, and how it takes the stain. Apply the stain in a circular motion with cloth rags. Spread the stain as evenly as possible to keep the color consistent.

The final step to refinishing a floor is applying the finish. There are oil and water based finishes. Though oil finishes are less expensive, the water based dry quicker, finish clear, and do not have the solvent odor that oil based finishes contain. Make sure to not shake the finish, as it will create bubbles that will end up on the floor. Slowly stir it, and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Make sure to plan the final application finishing in a doorway, and after a few coats, the floor refinishing is complete.
About the Author
Escapeso Austin Texas Real Estate is a small realty company in Austin. Their website has a search of the Austin MLS along with up to date commentary on their blog about Austin real estate.
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