How to Refinish Hardwood Floors
These days, with hardwood back in style, it might be worthwhile to check your floors. If it turns out that your floor was among those treasures that were buried, we can help you put it back on display with these tips to refinish hardwood.Ever think you'd find buried treasure in your own home? Years ago, homeowners decided to go for a more "modern" look and covered their hardwood floors with vinyl or carpet. These days, with hardwood back in style, it might be worthwhile to check your floors. If it turns out that your floor was among those treasures that were buried, we can help you put it back on display. Be warned, though: this project takes a lot of time, patience and elbow grease.
Before You Start:
- Check the gaps between the floor planks. If they're widening and you can see the nails that hold the floor down, don't bother trying to refinish the floor.
- Some newer hardwood floors are only 1/4 inch thick with a laminate coating on top. These floors can't be sanded and refinished. If you try, you're likely to wear away the entire floor!
- Some floors are easier to refinish than others. Pine and oak, the most common, are fairly easy to work with. Harder woods such as maple, mahogany and walnut take more time.
stiff, wide-blade putty knife
power floor sander
power floor buffer
industrial-grade vacuum cleaner
4" Chinese bristle brush
large lamb's-wool paint/stain applicator
polyurethane floor sealant
Warning: Some older vinyl floors contain asbestos, either in the backing or in the adhesive. Before you begin removing a vinyl floor, check with a licensed asbestos contractor to make sure your floor is safe for you to remove.
1. First, you'll need to remove the existing floor. Don't worry about keeping it all in one piece unless you plan on using it again. In fact, you might find it easier to cut the flooring into sections so it will be easier to handle.
Tip: If an adhesive was used on the previous floor, spread some adhesive remover over the remaining adhesive; then scrape it up. This will save you a lot of time in the long run.
2. Use a wide-blade putty knife and a pry bar to remove the molding and trim from the walls. Be careful when removing these; if they're still in good shape, you can reuse them. You may need to use a utility knife to cut a line in the paint between the trim and the wall.
3. Remove as much dirt and debris from the floor as possible. Then check it for protruding nail heads, which could tear your sandpaper. Use a nail set to countersink the nail heads about 1/4 inch below the surface of the floor.
4. It probably won't come as any surprise that sanding generates a lot of dust. You can minimize cleanup time by isolating the room you're working on from the rest of the house. Close as many doors as possible (except for the one leading outside) and cover them with plastic sheeting. Also cover open door frames, heating ducts, windows, cabinets and shelves. Use painter's tape to hold the sheeting in place--that way it will be fairly easy to remove. Cover all the wall outlets and switches with painter's tape as well. If you have a suspended light fixture, wrap it with a plastic bag before you begin sanding.
Tip: You'll need good ventilation, both when sanding and when applying the new finish. Use a box fan to help draw fresh air into the room.