Refinishing Hardwood Floors
Whether you've had wood floors for a long time or just discovered them under old carpeting, you've probably considered refinishing them.
Waxing and/or buffing often provide a good shine, but refinishing the floor is usually the only way to regain the original richness and beauty of the wood.
Refinishing is hard work and some people opt to hire a professional. But most of the necessary equipment is available at rental centers and the steps are pretty straightforward.
Is Your Floor a Good Candidate?
Refinishing a wood floor is a great way to increase the value of your living space. Sometimes, a floor with shallow scratches or a dull surface only needs a top coat of finish.
Other times, refinishing isn't enough and whole boards need to be replaced. If the floor feels spongy, sags, or if floor boards are buckled/warped, then consider replacing them.
If scratches or dings are in the wood, refinishing is the next step. However, a wood floor can only be refinished so many times because each sanding takes off more wood. Check at floor edges or around a heat register to see how much wood remains.
NOTE: Maple floors are difficult to sand and stain well. Consider hiring a professional to refinish them.
Filling Gaps & Cracks
There really isn't a definitive procedure for filling cracks and gaps in hardwood floors although there are some guidelines. Since variations in temperature and humidity cause the wood to expand and contract, small gaps and cracks do serve a purpose.
Winter months tend to be drier making cracks and gaps more visible. In summer, humidity rises, causing some cracks to virtually disappear. Large cracks in the summer however, only lead to bigger cracks in the winter.
Fill in the gaps at the ends of the floor planks because wood doesn't expand very much lengthwise. Which cracks to fill are really up to you. Just make sure to fill them before you sand.
Equipment For Refinishing
Refinishing a hardwood floor requires some specific items that can be found at your local hardware and rental centers.
- drum sander
- floor edger
- orbital/ palm sander
- putty knife and scraper
- shop vacuum
- ear protection, dust masks, safety goggles
- lamb's wool and natural bristle brush, or foam applicators, tack cloths
Remove everything that isn't nailed down and sweep the floor thoroughly. Use diagonal pliers to pull out any leftover carpet staples and use a hammer & nailset to sink any exposed nails that may damage the abrasives or sanding machines.
Leave the baseboards unless you plan to replace them. If so, use a shim behind the pry bar to avoid damaging the walls.
To avoid spreading dust throughout the house hang plastic over the room's doorways and put rags or towels under doors and over vents.
Lastly, walk over the whole floor and seek out any squeaks, cracks, or other repairs that should be done before sanding.