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We know this post is about refinishing your hardwood floors–but WAIT! Before you go for the complete overhaul, assess whether you can simply scuff-sand the scratches out of them and apply a fresh coat of finish. First try a water test. If water drops form beads on the floor that’s a good sign. If they soak in slowly or right away, this means that the wood fibers are exposed and the floor needs to be refinished. However, if you’re just looking to get rid of pesky scratch marks, follow these simple steps:

  • Scuff-sand your floors (don’t sand all the way down to bare floor) with a buffer that can be rented at a home center. You’ll then need a vacuum to suck up the dust.
  • Once the floor is roughed up, apply a water-based polyurethane (it dries in about 3 hours), let dry, and re-coat. You’re done!
  • Word of advice: If you have a wax finish on your floors, you’re going to need to remove it before starting, otherwise the polyurethane won’t adhere. This can be done a couple of ways. You can use a wax stripper, or mineral spirits (remember to open the windows), or sand down to the raw wood.

Ok, so maybe you’ve determined that it’s not ‘just scratches’ you want to get rid of (or the scratch goes all the way through the floor). In that case we’ve outlined specific instructions, with the help of Lowes, to correctly and safely refinish your floors.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Your floor needs to be at least 3/4″ thick, or else you’ll sand straight through it. If you don’t know how thick the floor is, or simply don’t trust yourself to not sand down to the subfloor, consider hiring a pro.
  •  A tongue and groove floor cannot be sanded as many times as a plank floor.

That said, let’s get started:

  • Remove everything in the room. Cover light fixtures (a trash bag with masking tape will work) and remove shoe molding if there is any. Tape every opening – electrical outlets, light switches and vent ducts especially. Close off the room from the rest of the house by sealing the door with masking tape or hanging plastic sheeting over the door opening. Finally, vacuum the floor to remove and debris before sanding.
  • Attention: while sanding be sure and wear hearing and eye protection and use a respirator. To sand, you’ll need to first use a drum sander, which can be rented from a home center. Using this tool takes some finesse, so start with the machine tilted back, not in contact with the floor. After it’s up to full revolutions, slowly lower it to the floor surface.
    • Keep it moving – it’s not hard to move forward or backward, just don’t let it stand still while running.
    • Work slowly and let the machine do the work. However, keep in mind this sander will remove a lot of surface very quickly, so don’t linger too long in one area…a couple seconds is all it needs.
  • The goal is to create a level surface and remove the stain, so choose your sandpaper accordingly. Remember the smaller the grit number, the rougher the sandpaper and the more material it will remove. Start with a coarse grit and move to finer grits as the floor begins to get smoother with each sanding. Remember that if you are using a specific grit, that the entire floor surface needs to be sanded with that size grit before moving on.

Step 1

Begin sanding in the center of the room. Sand with the grain from one end of the room to the other, overlapping passes by an inch or two. Repeat the procedure on the other half of the room. Sand the entire center portion of the floor.
Step 2

After the main portion of the floor has been sanded with the drum sander, hand-sand or use an edge sander to sand areas where the drum sander did not reach. Use the same grit sandpaper you used with the drum sander. You may need to hand-sand or use a detail sander to reach the corners.
Step 3

When the entire floor is finished, vacuum and repeat the entire process using smaller grit (larger number) sandpaper with each pass.
Step 4

Finish by sanding the entire floor with 120 grit sandpaper.
Step 5

After the last sanding, vacuum once more and wipe with a dry cloth or tack cloth.

  • If you choose to, then apply a stain to the floor (water or oil-based). Remember to test a small area first, and follow the directions on the label. You might find that you’ll need more than one coat.
  • Finally, apply the seal–a water-based polyurethane. After the floor is dry reapply the shoe molding and buff the floor for best results.

This might seem like a lot of work, and we won’t lie to you–it is. But the results are amazing. Refinishing your floors can really bring a room together, making it look more polished, and ultimately help with the re-sale value of your home. Happy refinishing!

(Photos courtesy of thisoldhouse.com, nbarchitects.com, choosingflooring.com, wearetheolivers.com, luxtica.com)

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