Nov 4, 2008

A step-by-step guide for how to refinish your hardwood floors. Takes you through every step, from removing carpet, sanding, and finishing.

As the trend toward restoring older homes continues, more and more people are refinishing their hardwood floors. Hardwood floors provide years of maintenance-free beauty, yet they are relatively cheap and easy to restore. What’s more, refinishing floors on your own can save thousands of dollars while raising a property’s value.

Removing Old Carpet

If you are lucky enough to not have your hardwood floors covered by existing carpet, you can skip to the next section. If not, depending on the condition of the carpet and the pad and how they were fastened to the floor, you may have a long and tedious job ahead. Older carpet pads can bond to hardwood floors, adding hours to the task.

The best option for removal of bonded pads is to scrape them off by hand with a putty knife. Take care to follow the grain of the wood and to not gouge it as you scrape. A chemical solvent can be used to speed the process. If the pad is too well bonded, you can elect to use an electric sander to sand the pad off. The disadvantage to sanding at this point is that you may sand some of the carpet staples into the floors themselves, leaving tiny metal scars in the final product. Staples can be removed by hand with a needle-nose pliers.

Sanding the Floors

The best way to obtain an electric sander and other equipment described is through a local tool rental business. These establishments are also usually eager to provide extra information and supplies related to what they rent. Sometimes you can save money by purchasing your own sandpaper and other accessories, however.

Start sanding with the coarsest grit of sandpaper. Perform three passes, using a finer grit each time. Be careful to move with the grain of the wood as much as possible. It is also important to keep the sander moving at a steady pace to avoid uneven patches. Corners are often sanded too much as the machine passes over them repeatedly. There will always be awkward patches where the sander can not reach. The only choice is to do these patches by hand, using the same progression of coarse to fine sandpaper described above.

Once the floors have been sanded three times, they are ready to be prepared for staining. Use tacking cloth, sold at hardware stores everywhere, to pick up the sawdust and other debris left after sanding. Make sure to pick up plenty of tacking cloth because you will also need it for the staining process.

Staining the Floors

After selecting a stain matching your taste, gather up plenty of rags and some old clothes. Apply the stain with the rags in a circular motion. Try to apply evenly to avoid any color inconsistencies. Be sure to consult the product label for drying time and other important information particular to that brand. If after the first application the stain is still too light, repeat until desired color is attained.

Buffing is the next step. Again, tool rental businesses are the best place to obtain a buffer. These machines are the same ones that are used to polish floors everywhere. Ask for a little advice about operating the buffer before you leave with it because they can be hard to handle. Generally, if you pull down on the handle of the buffer, it will move to the left; if you pull up on the handle of the buffer, it will move to the right. Just take it slow at first until you get the hang of it.

Use tacking cloth again to clear away dust and debris, and the floors will be ready for their first coat of polyurethane. The easiest way to apply the polyurethane is to use a mop-like tool. This prevents you from having to stoop over for hours and seems to work as well as other applicators. Once the recommended drying time has elapsed, repeat the above process twice more, making three coats of polyurethane in all.

Now your hardwood floors should be ready to go. You should wait two or three days before using the room and at least a week before putting down any area rugs (or they might adhere to the floor). Again, be sure to consult the labels of all the finishing products that you use for any specific information. Be safe and enjoy your new low-cost hardwood floors!

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