These people has some nasty little dogs that apparently HATED wood. Yeah, our floors were ugly. But we knew underneath the mess, there was an oak beauty that just needed a little microdermabrasion to look fabulous at age 72!
orbital or drum sander
100 times more sandpaper than you think you'll need for the sander, in a selection of grits: 20, 36, 60, 80, 120
palm sander (ditto on the sandpaper)
dust masks, safety goggles
rags or foam brushes for stain
lamb's wool applicator and natural bristle brush for poly
stain of choice
poly of choice
The first thing we did was make sure that we couldn't see a lot of staples or nails in the floor, if we had, it would indicate that the floor had already been sanded too many times and couldn't handle another sanding. We didn't have any large spaces between the boards, if there had been spaces, we would've filled them before the sanding process.
- We removed everything that wasn't nailed down and swept the floor thoroughly.
- We didn't have any carpet in this room, but if you do, use pliers to pull out any leftover carpet staples and use a hammer and nailset to sink any exposed nails that may damage the sander.
- We left the baseboards, but if you plan to replace them, use a shim behind the pry bar to avoid damaging the walls while removing them.
- To avoid spreading dust throughout the house, we hung plastic over the room's doorways, fireplace, and vents. We DID NOT do this right away and were quite annoyed with our stupidity. Take the time to seal up everything or you will be sorry later! Please see our dining room as proof - talk about a 'before!'
We chose to rent an orbital sander because it is more forgiving than a drum sander. A drum sander works faster, but carries a greater chance of gouging your floors. Sanding floors is a horrible, nasty, dusty, noisy job. You'll want to wear a
- Start out with a course paper (20 to 36 grit). Begin in a low visibility area like under a sofa, just in case! Start the sander with the drum off the floor and slowly lower it onto the wood. Here's the really bad area after the first pass with the sander:
- Don't be scared of the sander! It takes some getting used to, but with a little practice, you can do it as long as you're careful. You can be a wee less careful with the orbital, because it isn't as powerful as a drum.
- Walk the sander forward, with the grain of the wood. Sand from wall to wall, making both a forward and a backward pass of each row. CAUTION: Never let the sander sit in one spot. It can make a gouge or swirl mark in just seconds.
- Let the stain dry out overnight and avoid walking on the floor so you don't have footprints like we do!
We chose oil-based satin polyurethane for our coating. There are good water-based polys out there, but we are traditionalists, so we went with oil knowing that it will eventually develop a nice amber glow. Water-based will not amber over time, and will dry faster - this is a bad thing for beginners that need more time to work with the wet poly! Oil-based is also thicker, more durable when dry, and takes less coats than water-based. It's just personal preference. We originally decided to do 3 coats (pretty standard) but then had to do 4 due to user error. Make sure you have good light coming in while working, or you will not be able to see where you poly'd and where you didn't.
- Use a high quality natural bristle brush or foam applicator to cut in along the edges and corners. Avoid drips and thick overlaps of finish. We used bristle brushes and tried to be careful to avoid overlap marks. If you brush into the wet area and lift up your brush, you won't have a line. If you put your brush down in the wet and move it towards you, you will have a line. Move into the wet portions, not away from them. This feel awkward, but it's the best way. I'm not going to lie, our first three poly coats looked like drunken monkeys had applied them, because we had tried to apply all the poly with brushes, instead of using an applicator. Hey, you learn!
- Start at the farthest point from the doorway (don't poly yourself into a corner, mkay?) and apply an even coat of poly with a lambswool applicator. Before you use the applicator, make sure to use tape to remove any fuzzies and also use a bit of mineral spirits on a rag to wipe it down. DO NOT skimp on the applicator, buy real lambswool applicators that screw onto a broom handle, the cheap ones will leave you with a hairy floor. While the finish is still wet, blend in any brush marks from your edging with the big applicator.
- Between each coat, scuff-sand the floor lightly with a pole sander fitted with 150 or 220 grit sandpaper. This is very important, because once the poly hits the wood the grain will lift and cause roughness. Sanding also improves adhesion and makes sure you get a glassy finish. Vacuum, use tack cloths (and a slightly damp rag if needed) to make the surface dust free before the next coat. Don't sand the final coat, though :)
- Let the finish dry for 24 hours between coats, unless using the quicker drying water-based urethane.
- Don't put down any furniture or rugs for at least a week after your last coat. We didn't put anything in this room for an entire month because I was worried the 4 coats wouldn't be completely dry. I'm glad I overcompensated, because we did not have any dings or dents in our finish. We are so happy with our floor! Too bad we will be doing this many more times before we're finished with all our floors...