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Refinishing Wood Floors

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Refinishing floors is no quick and easy task. It takes time, skill, and the right tools. Whether you want to take on this task on your own or have a professional take care of it for you, your old floors can shine like new again. Here's what you'll need for this project:
  • Floor sander and edger
  • Wet/dry utility vacuum
  • Wood floor finish
  • Wood stain
  • Rags
  • Paint brushes
  • Heavy and light sandpaper

Prepping the Room

Obviously, the first thing you'll need to do is get all the furniture, rugs, etc. out of the room. Then, check for nails or staples that are sticking up out of the floor. These could rip the sandpaper when you go to sand the floor. Nails should be driven down so they're flush with the floor and staples should be pulled out with pliers.

Next, you'll need to sand the old finish off the floor. Your best bet is to rent an orbital sander to do the job. These are meant for refinishing jobs and are much easier to handle than traditional drum sanders. You'll also need to get sandpaper for your machine in varying grits. 36, 60, 80, and 100 grit should do fine.

Start with the heaviest grit (36 grit), running the sander over the floor in straight, even strokes and going along with the grain of the wood. Never go against the grain. Sand the entire floor and then switch to the next-lightest grit sandpaper (60). Repeat the process, after each time switching to the next-lightest grit sandpaper. This is the best way to get truly smooth floors. If your sander doesn't reach the edges of your floor, repeat the steps above with an edging machine to sand the edges of your floor.

Staining the Floor

Whether or not you stain the floor is completely up to you and your tastes. There are many color and tone options from which you can choose. On the other hand, you may opt for a more simple and natural look. In that case, you can just leave the floor as it as and move on to finishing.

If you decide to stain, first clear the floor of any sawdust or other debris with a broom. Then get it completely clean with a wet/dry utility vacuum. The cleaner your floor is, the better the stain and finish will look.

Keep your windows open during the entire staining and finishing process, so as to ventilate the room. Apply some stain to an out-of-the-way corner or closet to double-check that you like the color. Allow it to dry, and, if you're satisfied with color, you can apply a full coating to the floor. If you want heavier, darker coats, apply the stain with a brush and then smooth it out with rags. For lighter application, use only rags. Apply the finish in even strokes, going with the grain of the wood. Allow the first coat to dry. If necessary, you can apply a second coat or touch up light spots. Then, allow the stain to dry completely before moving on to finishing the floor.

Finishing the Floor

This part of the process is relatively simple. Thoroughly stir the polyurethane finish; shaking it will create bubbles in the mix that will show up on your floors. Use a brush or roller to apply the finish in smooth and even strokes. Again, go with the grain of the wood. Allow the finish to dry for about three hours and then apply a second coat. The final coating should be allowed to dry for up to 3 days before moving furniture back into the room.

Once you're done refinishing your floors, make sure you take good care of them, keeping them clean and dry. That way, you'll be able to enjoy your newly refinished wood floors for a long time to come.

Adam Mandelbaum  Posted by Adam Mandelbaum on January 7, 2013

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