How to Refinish Hardwood Floors

Water damage on the hardwood floors.

There are many floors that have a water damage and there is always a question whether that can be removed or not. Although many people are sceptical about it and there is no way to promise it, there are ways to get rid of the stains.

First and foremost: it is almost impossible to get rid of the urine stains, not if they’ve been there for years. In case these stains appeared recently(within the last 4-6 months), you can try to get rid of them with the chance of success.There are other types of stains, of course: somebody spilled something, or you had a plant on your floor and found water damage after removing it. Honestly, there is a good chance to fix these problems.

Now, how to fix the water damage? Well, there are two the most common ways. First, to sand the floor and try to go a little deeper on the spots, where the stains appear.Don’t go too crazy, because if you go too deep, you will have a gap in your floor, and the only way to fix that is by replacing the wood. If you sanded the floor and you didn’t have any luck, try to bleach the stains. Just take a regular bleach, put it on the rag and rub it into the surface. Be careful: if you will put too much bleach, you will end up with the white stains instead of black ones.There is no way to fix that one either, unless you will replace the flooring.

Like I said, if you know what are you doing, you should, if not get rid of the water damage completely, at least have much less of it, with the stains that are dramatically reduced in size.

If you didn’t have any luck removing the damage, you can always stain your floors. The best choice would be a darker stain, something like Red Oak,  Red Mahogany and Cherry: those are on the reddish side, or English Chesnut and Dark Walnut, if you want you floor to be more on the brown side.

How to refinish wood floors

For those of you who doesn’t know this, here is the order, in which the floor should be refinished:

1. Rough sand with the big machine (normally 36 grit sandpaper).

2. Rough sand with the edger.

3. Rough sand underneath the radiators and in the corners.

4. Fill the nailholes.

5. Fine sand  with the big machine (normally with 80 grit sandpaper).

6. Fine sand with the edger.

7. Scrape the corners.

8. Buff the floors (normally 120 grit discs).

9.Vacuum the floors.

10. Coat of sealer.

11. Coat of polyurethane.

12. Fill the nailholes (if you missed some).

13. Buff the floors

14. Vacuum the floors.

15. Final coat of polyurethane.

Filling the gaps in the floor

In some cases, when the floors are getting refinished, there are some gaps, cracks and nail holes, that  need to be taken care of. Well, some types of cracks can be filled and some should be left alone. Here is an explanation.

Things like regular nail holes, little cracks and gaps inside the pieces of wood can be filled pretty easy and the putty more than likely will stay. These holes can be filled when the floors are getting sanded (between the rough first sand, usually 36 grit, and fine, usually 80), before the final coat, or, in case something left behind, after the final coat. In the first case, I always use Zar red oak wood putty. Believe me, this filler blends with pretty much any wood type- oak, pine, fur – you name it. The only wood that requires a special colored putty is maple. 

Zar can be also used  before the final coat,obviously if it is a natural finish, although it will not blend in that good. Normally, if I missed something while I was sanding the floor and applied two coat of finish already, I use Minwax Golden Oak. It actually made for this purpose and can be used even after the final coat.

There are some types of the gaps that either cannot, or should not be filled.

1. You will not be able to do anything, if you have a space between the floor and the baseboard: since the level is different and in most cases the floor ends where the baseboard starts, the putty will just continue falling in the gap. In the end you will have much less product, dirty baseboard and the gap that is still there.  If you have this issue it is much better to just install  quarter-rounds.

2. Long spaces between the pieces of wood. This is usual for wide pine flooring, or just an old wood. The reason why you can’t take care of those using just the regular filler is because the floor moves: it expands and shrinks depending on humidity. So the regular putty simply won’t stay their.It will pop, you will step on it and leave a scratch on the floor. If I have to fill these gaps, I would use epoxy: it is much stronger. The minuses of this are: there is no color in it, so you will be able to see the epoxy clearly and it takes about 24 hrs to dry.

When is a good time to refinish the floors.

I heard this question many times.There are few thing to consider.After that make your choice.

First, it’s a good time to do the floors if you just bought the house(if they are in bad shape, of course). Don’t put it aside and think that you will take care of it later room by room.This  is a very common mistake.It will cost you twice or even three times as much to do it this way, rather than all at once.Shop for the estimates and you will see that most of the floor guys will charge a flat fee for the room.You will end up paying $300-$500 for 10×10 room.If you will do the whole house at once the room this size will cost you $140-$200.Not to mention all the dust and noise that you will have to live with, while your floors are being refinished, and the furniture that will have to be moved out and back in.

Second.The best time of the year for ANY home project, including the floors, would be winter.During the summer months everybody are working on their houses and the prices are going up significantly.In winter thing are usually slow for everybody in the construction industry, so you will be able to get the same project done for the price that much lower than in summer (I’d say 15%-20%).

When shopping for an estimate, call 2-3 different contractors, get the prices, compare.I wouldn’t go with the price that is much lower than everybody else’s.Don’t forget: you get what you pay for.

Hardwood Floors – Refinish Or Not

First of all you should decide whether you want to completely refinish them, or just make them look a little better. I would like to point out to you that if your floors look dirty, they lost some shine, or even worn down a bit, it’s not necessary that you need to completely refinish them. Trust me, sometimes a little bit of hand sanding and a coat of fresh poly make miracles.

If you just want to shine your floors up a bit and put a coat of polyurethane on them, you will need to figure out what kind of poly is on your floor already. There are two types: water-based and oil-based. You DO NOT what to put one kind of poly on top of the other. It’s not gonna stick, will eventually peel off and you will end up sanding the hell out of them. If you waxed your floor before, don’t even bother putting poly on them without sanding them down to the bare wood. Poly will bubble up and you will be stuck with the refinishing project anyway.

Now, how to figure out what kind of poly is on the floor? A few years back I would say that if your floor has a rich yellow color it definitely has an oil-based poly. Right now it’s tough to say. I know at least 4 different kinds of water-based poly that look exactly like an oil-based. Your best bet would be to take a piece of 120 grit sandpaper and try to hand sand them a little. If it clogs up real easy – you can be 99% sure that it’s a water-based.

Now- to the process. Before you are going to make your beloved floors look like brand new, you need to concentrate your attention on sanding. You will need to light sand them all over and clean them up after that. Make sure that you didn’t leave any dirt and dust. To clean the floors up you can either vacuum them (regular vacuum-cleaner won’t work – not strong enough, wet-dry vac should do), or mop them. If you mopped your floors, you don’t what to apply poly right away, let them dry first.

Once you’ve started to apply the poly, make sure that it sticks good. If it spreads evenly- you are good. If you applied it and after a little while (it usually happens after 3-4 minutes) you start seeing that this beautiful, evenly- spreaded coat of yours starts to bubble up – then you are in trouble(told you not to put poly on the waxed floor).

If you want to put several coats of poly, you DO NOT have to lightsand your floors after each coat (like it says on every single can of poly). Once before the first one and once before the last one will do. Save your time and energy for something else. And don’t forget- with a little bit of hard work you CAN do it as good as any professional. Good luck!

Floor refinishing: should you do it yourself or hire a contractor?

So, you just bought the house, or lived in the house for years and all this time you had a wall to wall carpeting, or in some cases linoleum..One of those days you decided to remove it, lifted it up and discovered a hardwood flooring, which is in really bad shape(sometimes covered in glue or other nasty stuff).Well, what’s next?

You have 2 choices here: do it yourself or hire a professional. Let’s do some thinking.

Of course a lot of homeowners will say that they can do their floors easily.That statement could not be further from the truth.Floor refinishing is not the type of work that anyone can do.There are so many ways to screw up your floors, while sanding them, that I could probably write another article just on this topic.Not to mention a mess you can make while coating your floors.

But let’s imagine, that every homeowner has a good idea of the refinishing process.Let’s just talk numbers here.We are going to take one room, for example(for bigger projects you’re definitely going to need a pro, unless you have a huge amount of pills for the back, knees and hands).

The floor guy will charge you something like $300-$500 for the room.That normally includes sanding your floor down to the wood, 1 coat of sealer and 2 coats of polyurethane.Of course, he has tools necessary for completion of the job.

If you will decide to refinish the floors yourself, you are going to need the following:

1.Big drum/belt sander(220v), which will be unavailable to rent, because it is made especially for professional  use and it’s a little tricky.So you will end up renting a small(110v) belt sander at the Home Depot for around $50 a day+ the sandpaper(say another $40).Note: with the small sander you won’t come even close to the result you’re looking for.It simply lacks power necessary to take of all the old finish.

2.Edger(around $20)+ the sandpaper-another $40.

3.Radiator sander- good luck looking for that one.the only way to get it is to buy it.they retail new for around $500.

4.Buffer- another $20+ the sreen for it($5)

5.Vacuum cleaner(let’s hope that you have a good one)

6.Polyurethane – I’d say since we’re talking about one room only you’re going to need 1 gal. of sealer($20) and 1 gal. of poly($20)

I’m not going to mention here all the small tools that you’re going to need to do the job right.Let’s do the math: to refinish the floor yourself, you’re going to spend $215(if everything goes nice and smooth and if you know what are you doing)  , not to mention your time(how much would you pay yourself to do this job?) and effort.

Well, here is the info you going to need to make a decision.The rest is up to you.Good luck!

How to match new and old flooring

So you added a  new flooring, or replaced some of the old flooring and now thinking: how could I match the old and the new floors?

Of course every floor is different and there is no way for me to tell you what to use exactly to match the colors of your floor, but still, there are most common colors, which you can use and play with, while trying to match it.These are the types of stain that you can easily find in your local hardware store.

of all try Golden Oak by Minwax. This stain is good to match white and red oak, fir (in some cases), southern yellow pine. Apply it heavily, if it didn’t work the first time, try again. Make sure you sand the floor before the application( at least lightly with 120 grit sandpaper) and clean it up.

If you need to add some reddish color to your stain, try colonial maple by Minwax. By mixing it up 50%/50% with Golden oak, we actually matched quite a few floors.Of course, you can add less than that, but I would not recommend the mix less than 30%/70% both ways, since it’s going to be the color of the dominating stain.

Those are the most commonly used colors for the natural floors.Of course the result will be much better, if you will sand down all the floors in the room and stain them all, but if you don’t want to do it, this is the way to go.

If you have any ideas, leave a comment, let the world know!