Everybody loves the look of hardwood floors, but if you have an older home, your floors are probably scuffed, scratched and dingy. Most homes made before 1970 had hardwood floors and even though your house now has carpet there may be a beautiful hardwood floor hiding under your rug!
By Lee Dobbins
After years of use, your floor will need to be refinished and that can cost over $1000 for just one room! But if you want to put in a little time and elbow grease, you can refinish the floor yourself and have the beautiful look of warm wood in your home for a fraction of the cost.
Contrary to what you may have heard, the finish doesn’t take weeks to dry. It’s quite simple actually. You can get the supplies for sanding at your neighborhood home improvement store. You’ll need a drum sander and a belt sander. They will be able to advise you on the sandpaper you need, how to use the machine and what kind of stain and finish you’ll need to finish off the floor. Sanding creates fine particles of dust that will get everywhere and on everything so you may want to pick up some dust masks and drop cloths while you are at it.
The first thing you’ll want to do when refinishing your floor yourself is to learn how to run the sander. The key to stripping a floor is learning how to get the sander working smoothly. The sanders are very easy to use. But they’re a bit on the loud side. The key is to keep it moving at all times. The sander gets very hot and if you stop in one spot for any length of time, you run the risk of burning or denting your floor.
Running the sander is the fun part of refinishing, but you must be cautious as the machine is self propelled. You may feel like a Zamboni driver smoothing ice after you get the hang of it! When you start it up, hold on firmly and make sure you keep it in control at all times.
After the old finish is removed, you need to apply the stain and new finish. Think of this as the same as doing your nails – first you remove the old finish, then basecoat, color and topcoat. Sometimes you don’t want color on your nails so you skip that part. In your floor you might also skip that part (the stain) but you still want to use a finish to protect the floor.
When it comes to the finish you have 2 choices – oil based or water based. Oil-based is available in a satin, semi-gloss or gloss finish. Satin works well on a hardwood floor because it will bring out the natural glow of the wood without too much of a shine as well as help hide any flaws. Oil-based also produces a warm amber look that gives you the traditional glow of wood floors. Water-based polyurethane dries clear and resists yellowing. Water-based also dries quicker.
Either way, make sure you let each coat dry thoroughly before applying the next. Follow the manufacturers instructions on the product for drying times. Give your floor at least 24-36 hours before moving furniture back on it. It will continue to harden in the first couple of weeks.
Refinishing your floor is simply a set of tasks which can be done easily if you take them one step of a time. Your flooring can get a whole new look for less when you refinish it yourself – you’ll save over 80 percent of the cost.
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