Refinish your hardwood floors
Sanding is the key to refinishing your hardwood floors successfully
Refinishing your home’s hardwood floors can be a big job, but if you do it well the final results will be very rewarding. In fact, its resilience is one the great features of hardwood. Even when the floor is badly scratched and worn, hardwood can be usually be restored with a couple of days’ work.
In recent years some hardwood floors have actually been made from engineered wood. You can identify these floors by the slight chamfer on each board edge. Don’t try to sand this type of floor: the veneer is too thin.
To see what kind of flooring you have, pull up a heating grate from the floor or look at an edge by removing a threshold from a doorway. If it’s solid hardwood, you’re in business. But if less than 1/8″ remains above the tongue, the floor is too thin to sand and will have to be left “as is” or replaced.
What to rent
The rental shop will have either a drum-sanding machine or a belt-sanding machine (or both). Choose a belt-sanding machine if you can: it’s easier to control and won’t chatter the surface of your floor the way a drum sander can. The belts are also easier to change.
You’ll also need an edge sander to get into areas that the big machine can’t reach. And you’ll need a floor buffer for finishing. Before you leave the store, be sure to ask for tips on how to operate each machine.
Room preparation basics
– Remove all furniture from the room and anything hanging on the walls.
– Tape up plastic sheets to close off all the doorways leading into the room.
– Tape plastic around all the heating vents and transitions to other floor surfaces in adjoining rooms.
– Set any nails that are exposed and remove any metal grates or grilles from the floor.
Remove the old finish
The first sanding is not actually intended to resurface the wood, but rather to remove the existing finish. Install a 36-grit belt in the sander and start by moving forward toward the far wall, then turn and retrace the same path back, walking in the same direction as the wood grain. Keep the sander moving. If you rest the machine in one spot for too long, you’ll sand a groove in the floor. Sand another row, overlapping your path by one plank of flooring. Check the sanding belt for wear and replace it as needed. Don’t try to sand down to completely bare wood. Once you’ve removed about 85 per cent of the finish, you’re ready for Step 2.
Once the main portion of the floor is done, sand the parts of the floor that you couldn’t reach against the walls. Start back about two feet from the wall, then sand as close to the wall as you can. As you approach the wall, lift the sander to avoid grooving the floor at the wall.