Tuesday, November 30

Refinishing Floors 101

Within 2 hours of closing on our new house, we were tearing up the carpet to reveal the hardwood underneath. Mmmmm...potential! When we first peeked at a corner of the floor it look perfect, but once we got it all up we noticed some problems and realized we would have to totally refinish it.

The biggest problem was this glue that was left from some old carpet (that apparently had a flower pattern!). Everywhere the floor looks grimy there is glue, which turned out to be the whole floor and a big pain. Below is a close up of how thick it is on there. Nasty. Besides the glue there were also some scratches and gouges that needed fixing.

We waited until right before Thanksgiving to to tackle this because we wanted it to dry and air out while we were far away! We put on the last coat of polyurethane, hopped in the car, and and left the state hoping to return to a beautiful dry floor. But I'm getting ahead.... Let's start at the beginning.

When I started looking for tutorials online about how to refinish floors, I didn't find too much that was really helpful. I found tidbits here and there on what to get, what to do, how much it will cost, how long it will take, etc. but no one-stop guides. Fortunately I have relatives with experience, a handy husband, and no fear! So we took whatever advice we could get and just dove in. Hopefully this is helpful to you!

We started with a trip to Lowe's to get our supplies. We spent just under $200 on our first trip, and ended up being closer to $250 when it was all said and done because we had to go back for more sandpaper so many times. Here is everything we got for the job:
  • Rented Lowe's floor sander for $35
  • Sandpaper disks for the floor sander (ended up using 3 packs of high-grit and will be returning the medium and low-grit)
  • Sandpaper disks for our small rotary sander (the 50 pack and used the whole thing)
  • Some hand-sanding supplies that we didn't touch and will be returning
  • 2 quarts of Minwax "Provincial" stain (used less than 1, so we'll return the other)
  • 2 gallons of Varathane water-based high traffic floor finish polyurethane in semi-gloss (the biggest cost of the project, but totally worth it! It doesn't have the stink of an oil based product, recoats in only 2 hours, and cures in 3 days)
  • Applicator brush for polyurethane (attaches to an extension pole)
  • Ear plugs, masks, goggles, gloves
Once we return all the extras, we should be back down around $200 again. Not bad for a refinished floor!

Once we had all our supplies, we got to work. We knew going into it this would be a big job, but it ended up being MUCH more time consuming than we expected.  We started by covering the doorways with paint tarps to try to contain the dust. We also taped plastic grocery bags over the vents. We opened the windows (I think we got lucky and did this on the warmest day in November!) and had a fan blowing out the door.

This is just how we are living until the furniture gets put back tomorrow. That is the pathway through the kitchen. We can't get to the office at all, and the couch is in the garage! Another good reason to do this when you won't be stuck at home!

Once the prep was done we hopped right in to sanding. (When I say "we" I mean "my husband" because I pretty much sat this one out. You can do that when you are pregnant.) We started with the big floor sander from Lowe's. We only had it for 24 hours and didn't want to waste any time. The sander takes 3 disks at a time (1 pack) that come in 3 steps. The great thing about the sander is that it has a built in vacuum and we had no dust flying around while we used it. If you don't have glue on the floor, this might work out just fine for you. Unfortunately not for us. We started with the roughest grit paper and kept running into this problem:

That is glue gumming up the paper. We spent a whole Saturday with me sitting on the porch picking the glue off the sandpaper then giving it back to my husband so he could continue sanding. It was not fun, but we only went through three 50-packs of sandpaper that way and it would have been MANY more if we had just put new ones on each time. We spent a solid 12 hours sanding that day. Only stopping to eat. After that we decided to rethink our strategy. We had a good amount of the glue up, but we didn't want to pay for another day with the sander and by that point we weren't convinced it was the best way to get the glue up. We decided to return the sander and use our smaller hand held sander to finish. It gave better control at was more accurate than the big sander at getting up the glue.

Enter Sunday. Went to church and then spent the rest of the day (a good 10 hours) sanding with the hand sander. And Monday. After work we finally finished with the rough paper! Then we used a fine grit paper (80) to smooth everything out. And finally my husband stained before bed. He probably spent about 7 hours on it that day. That's right, about 20 hours of sanding. What a trooper! After a thorough sweeping and vacuuming to remove sawdust, he used a rag to rub the stain on, going with the grain. Remember that any overlapping of staining areas will make the overlap slightly darker...so if you do 5-foot sections at a time like he did, you will notice a darker line between the sections. You may be able to avoid this by staining entire lengths of the floor at a time. The next day he used the applicator we bought to put 3 coats of polyurethane on the floor. One at breakfast, one at lunch, and one after work. It was finally done! So we headed out and hoped to come back to a beautiful floor...

... And we did! Like I said before, it is supposed to cure in 3 days, but we are waiting a full week just to be safe. We don't want to risk messing it up after all that work. The only bummer is that I'm waiting that long to put up my Christmas tree too!

So shiny! So to sum up floor refinishing: it takes a long time, keep your receipts so you can take back all the extra stuff you buy,  sand the floor starting with your roughest paper (the smallest number), apply stain, apply polyurethane (at least 3 coats!), and then get out of there and wait for it to dry! It is actually a very simple process, just time consuming. And totally worth it to save thousands of dollars!

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  2. I ended up using the hand sander for mine as well. The extra time it took to sand by hand was worth the control the small sander allows. The floors look gorgeous, I love how you can see all the details of the grain of the wood, great job!

    1. Thank you! I'm glad to hear we're not the only one's who ended up doing it the long way. Thanks for commenting! :)

  3. A drum sander (these can be rented as well) may have been a bit better, easier quicker, albeit a bit more touchy given their power.