Let’s start from the beginning. Shane and I began house hunting about 9 months ago, and I had two requirements: hardwood floors and natural light. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I wanted a home with character. If it was built after 1955, I didn’t want it.
Character homes come with their own set of issues, but we were up for the challenge. The previous owner had dogs so the floors were scratched up pretty badly and stained in some areas. Also, pretty sure the floors had the original finish on them from 1948. Ideally, we wanted to refinish the hardwood floors before we moved in. I did some research (googled tutorials online) and called my go to handyman, my dad. When it was all said and done, I spent around $120-$130 for our living room floor.
Tools and Supplies needed:
Orbital Sander–I rented one from Menards for around $60.
Sanding Discs (for the orbital sander)–Find out what kind of wood you have and if the floors have been refinished before and ask an employee what they recommend. Seeing it was my first time doing this type of work, I started out with less coarse sandpaper just in case. I ended up having to do an extra round with rougher sandpaper at the end, but better safe than sorry. Always have extra discs, you can always return what you don’t use.
Sanding Block/Paper–I bought a couple sanding blocks in varying coarseness. The blocks are easier to hold and have edges for tough to reach spots.
Sealer–Here is where things can get tricky. Some professionals recommend using water sealer with water-based polyurethane and oil with oil. Others say it isn’t as big of a deal. I went the safe route and used oil-based sealer with oil-based polyurethane.
Polyurethane–Like I said, I used oil-based for a few reasons. One, I didn’t pay attention to the sealer before I applied it, and two it is more durable. Some disadvantages include that it has a much stronger smell and an amber tint to it. Personally, I didn’t want too much amber tint, but the few coats I did didn’t affect the natural wood color too much.
Mask–I would buy something heavy duty because saw dust is going to be flying.
Gloves–You’ll want these when the polyurethane and sealer are cracked open.
Booties–These fashionable little numbers will protect your shoes and floors, because after it is all sanded down your floor will be susceptible to anything- dirt, gravel, hair, etc.
Paint Brush/Roller– Make sure to spend the extra buck on something specifically for polyurethane/stain application. Again, ask someone from that department what they recommend. Do yourself a favor and buy the nice paint roller extender. It will save you a world of hurt.
Now for the fun part…
I began by lugging the 200+ pound orbital sander (by myself mind you) up my back stairs.
1. You’ll want to sweep your floor to pick up anything the orbital sander could grind into the wood grain. I swept and vacuumed before starting anything.
2. Hand sand the perimeter. It’s about as fun as it sounds. If you have access to a small hand held sander, use it. You will still have to hand sand in the tight corners.
3. Ok, I’m going to be honest. The orbital sander scared the beejesus out of me at first. It was large. It was loud. It spun in circles. You’ll want to slap on the coarsest sanding pads you bought and start in the middle of the room. Get a feel for it before you get too close to any walls. Once you get the hang of it start working in a pattern. I just went back and forth the length of the room. The beauty of the orbital sander is that you can move it left and right or up and down and not have to worry about creating strange lines across the wood grain. Try to keep a pattern going though.
4. Once you feel like a badass Bob Villa like I did, and you’ve sanded off the first layer of finish, empty the bag on the sander and sweep up any excess sawdust. If need be, change out your sanding discs.
**If the discs seem to still have some life left, try taking the discs off and bending them to crack any finish that has clogged them up. This may help them last longer**
5. Continue this process and gradually lessen the coarseness of your sanding discs.
6. Next up, apply the sealer. This doesn’t need to be pretty, but try to make it as even as possible. Follow the directions on the can for drying time and if it recommends you sand after it’s dry. At this point, whenever you sand you’ll want something very light that is just taking off any excess and creating texture for the next coats of polyurethane to adhere.
7. Once the sealer has dried and you’ve sanded it down, crack open that polyurethane. If you’re using oil, have the room well ventilated. Apply the first coat starting in a far corner and working your way to the exit. Following the directions on the can, continue this process until you achieve the sheen and look you want! I did two coats with the intention of doing three, but time and a crazy weekend of moving did not allow it.
8. Definitely allow your floor to dry COMPLETELY before you put anything on it (up to 72 hours). Also be careful to wear booties if you have to walk on it before it completely hardens.