Refinishing Hardwood Floors – Advice From a Pro
Refinishing hardwood floors, for me, is much more enjoyable than say pine floorboards or parquet, because generally they are much easier and take less time. Also they tend to look great once they are done, especially if its an exotic hardwood (as opposed to plain old oak).
The only problem is, I often change my method for sanding hardwood floors depending on several factors such as the condition, flatness or even the type of finish that is currently on the floor.
Best thing to do is test to see how easily the floor sands off with higher grits just to see if I can get away with doing less. This way less wood will be lost in the process and it will take less time!
Try the floor with a 60g, if it becomes slow and difficult quickly then you may need to drop to 36.
If the floor is excessively uneven and damaged I will start on a 36 grit.
So long as the floor is relatively flat you can use a 50 or 60 grit rather than the rougher 36 grit.
As you can see in the video I sand the floor diagonally with the 60 grit.
While the floor is pretty much flat there is still a slight taper on the edge of the boards which can be seen in the video as the sander passes across the boards.
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Sanding diagonally will help to smooth out that taper so that when you go straight with the 80 grit the floor will be perfectly flat.
Sanding straight on every grit will create “unevenness” in the floor also so its always good to do 1 grit of sanding diagonally before the final 100/120 grit finish.
The first edging grit should be the same as the first belt sanding grit, so in this case 60g. Then clean the corners of with 60g either by hand, palm sander or even delta sander if you have one.
Remember to empty the dustbag before doing the 80 grit sanding if you do need to fill the floor.
Sand the floor with 80g on the belt sander and use the dust in the bag to do any filling you may need to do.
Once the filler has dried, you can sand it off with 100 grit, don’t rush this, you need to make sure you remove all filler from the surface.
Finally edge the floor with 80 grit and sand into the corners also with 80 grit.
If you have rented a buffer, trio, flexi sand or any other kind of rotary or finishing sander, then great. Smooth it up to 100 grit.
If not, no biggie, although you may want to rub the edges by hand with a 100 grit along the grain to smooth over the edging scratches.
You will especially want to do this if you are going to be staining the floor.
I feel like this tutorial is rather brief but thats really what its like when refinishing hardwood floors.
There are many different finishes you can apply, I recommend polyurethane for durability.
You can learn how I apply polyurethane lacquer and hardwax oil here.
Repairing Hardwood Floors
I’d like to give some information on repairing hardwood floors, should you need to do so. The problem is that the term hardwood floors can span many different types of woods, widths, types and laying methods.
Your floor may be glued directly to a concrete subfloor, secret nailed into joists/battons or just a floating floor laid over a couple of millimetres underlay. Maybe your floor is secured in another way I can’t think of right now.
Whatever the weather, you need to first rely on any information you have about the floor. Did you have this floor laid? Can you remember who supplied or fitted it? Do you know anyone who might know the source of the wood?
Do whatever you can to track down the supplier or source of the wood so you can get an exact match if possible.
Failing that try and contact a local floor fitter to see if they know A what type of wood it is, if they can source it, or if not can they recommend you to someone who might know better.
And failing that, just lightly hand sand a small section of the floor with a palm sander or something and apply some finish to it. Take some pictures and send it to some local reclamation yards or anyone who might be able to identify the wood. Reclamation yards may have, for example, 3-inch wide teak that would fit into your floor very well.
If they don’t they can still identify the wood at least. Sometimes you can’t identify the wood because it is so rare. If this is the case you need to try and find woods of a similar color and grain that will go in without looking too different.
Note: Repairs that involve sourcing some reclaimed wood never match perfectly, even if you get an exact match on species of wood and dimensions of milling, they are usually different in age and region that they are grown, making them look different.
So how do you repair hardwood floors?
If your floor is a floating floor, you really need to try and take up the flooring from the edge of the room and work your way back to the damaged board. Replace it and then relay the flooring back towards the wall.
If your floor is nailed into joists or glued to a subfloor, you are going to have to get a little more aggressive. Basically, you need to somehow break up that damaged board from inside out without damaging the boards around it. Maybe use a skill saw to chop into the middle of it and split it then just break it up with a chisel.
Be careful not to damage the boards around the damaged board, not even the tongues.
With glue floors you need to remove at least some of the glue, so you can then apply some glue and drop in your new board.
On both the glued floor and joist floor repairs, you need to remove the lower part of the groove so that it doesn’t hinder you putting the board down. You should put some pva style wood glue both on the tongue and in the groove of the new board.
The floor nailed into joists is obviously going to be a little weak with a repair like this, so you may want to fix some wood to the underneath of the floor by either glue (clamped and left overnight) or screwed through the face of the board or both. If you do screw through the floor then get some self tapping screws and make sure you drive it deep into the wood and fill over the top of the screw holes.
Hopefully that gives you some idea about repairing and refinishing hardwood floors. I will get some images soon to better explain.
Good luck and as always, if you have any questions please ask them in the comments section below.