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        Haven Hardwood’s How to Sand and Refinish Your Floor Guide

        Haven Hardwood’s How to Sand and Refinish Your Floor Guide

        Haven Hardwood’s How to Sand and Refinish Your Floor Guide

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        Home Page > Home Improvement > DIY > Haven Hardwood’s How to Sand and Refinish Your Floor Guide

        Haven Hardwood’s How to Sand and Refinish Your Floor Guide

        Posted: Oct 13, 2008 |Comments: 0
        | Views: 102 |


        Haven Hardwood’s

        How to Sand and Refinish Your Floor




        •1.)                                                                Safety.

        •2.)                                                                Determine if you have hardwood flooring.

        •3.)                                                                Remove any layers of carpet or sub-floor.

        •4.)                                                                Rent the equipment.

        •5.)                                                                Sanding with the floor belt sander.

        •6.)                                                                Sanding with the edger sander.

        •7.)                                                                Scraping.

        •8.)                                                                Screening.

        •9.)                                                                Vacuuming.

        •10.)                                                            Picking the right finish.

        •11.)                                                            Applying the finish.

        •12.)                                                            Screening between coats.

        •13.)                                                            Floor care.


        1.)  Safety

              The first and most important step is safety.  When doing any of the following steps I highly recommend the importance of safety and/or preventive gear such as safety goggles, ear plugs, respirators, work gloves, back brace and knee pads.  You only have one body so please take care of it!


        2.)  Determine if you have hardwood.

              Do you even have hardwood that is capable of being refinished?  There are a couple ways to find this out.  If you have carpet simply tear up a couple corners in an inconspicuous place, such as a closet and peek underneath. 

                If you don’t have a finished basement ceiling you can sometimes see the flooring from there.  Sometimes you can even see the species and grade of wood from below.  It gets tricky from there if your floor is covered with tile, linoleum or another sub-floor.  If you can not see anything from the basement then you will have to tear up a small section of the sub-floor to reach the hardwood.


        3.)  Remove any layers of carpet or sub-floor.

              Take a sharp razor knife and cut the carpet in three feet wide sections.  Roll up the sections and tape.  Most garbage companies won’t take carpet any wider than three feet.  Do the same with the carpet padding.  Next, grab a crowbar, hammer, nail set and snub-nosed pliers.  Pop the carpet tack strip up, being careful to pull any nails or staples all the way out.  If you don’t they could damage your sanding machine and dull your sandpaper.  Any nails that can’t be pulled need pounded down with a hammer and nail set.  Vacuum thoroughly.

        Wood Sub-Floor Removal

                Grab a circular saw and set it to the proper depth of your sub-floor.  Make sure not to set it too low, as it will leave saw marks in your floor.  Cut lines across the room, then cut lines perpendicular to those, making 2′ by 2′ boxes in a grid-like fashion.  Cut as close to the walls as you can for easier removal.  Pop the 2′ by 2′ sections up.  You can buy a “Gorilla Bar” at a home improvement center if you have a lot of removal work.  Be prepared to pull a lot of nails and/or staples.


        4.)  Rent the Equipment.

              Call your local rental equipment company and explain your project.  You will need a floor sander, edger and buffer.  You also need the lowest available grit sandpaper, medium (36 grit) and fine (80 grit) for the floor sander and edger.  For the buffer you need an 80 grit screen (like a drywall screen, except it’s round) and a 180 grit screen.  Make sure to get more paper than you think you will need.  The rental company should let you return any leftovers.


        5.) Sanding with the Floor Sander.

              Before you start sanding you need to fill any holes caused by the nails and staples.  Buy stainable latex wood putty and fill the holes with a putty knife.  The putty should take about thirty minutes to dry. 

              Grab your lowest grit paper and put it on the big machine.  Most rental companies only carry down to 36 grit paper, but if you have any lower grit paper put that on first.  Making sure that the machine’s cord is behind you, turn the machine on and slowly let the drum handle down as you simultaneously begin walking toward the wall.  Make sure to always go with the grain of the wood.  Occasionally, in exceptional circumstances you may have to sand the floor diagonally.  This may be the only way to get the floor sanded in extreme cases.

               After the first rough cut you need to sand with a medium grit.  If you started with 36 grit then you would use 60 grit.  If you started with a grit lower than 36 your second sanding should be with 36 grit. 

              Especially pay attention to the “drum marks”.  These are lines where you put your drum down too fast and hard.  If you get one, simply run back over it with the machine a few times.

              The final cut is the fine sand.  Go up another grit of paper, 80-100 grit.  Follow the same sanding procedures as above.


        6.)  Sanding with the Edger Machine.

              Sanding with the edger machine consists of using the same sandpaper as what you are using for the big machine.  When you fine sand with the edger make sure to get the previous swirl marks from your rough sandpaper out.  Don’t push down too hard on the machine, as this will leave gouge marks.  Watch when sanding around doorways so as not to leave “half-moons”.  These are just from when the machine stops and leaves half of a circle mark.


        7.) Scraping.

              Now that the floor and edge sanding is completed, it’s time to scrape.  Anywhere your machine can’t reach (corners, under cabinets or radiators and stair noses) needs to be hand-scraped down to the bare wood.  You can purchase a 2″ wide scraper from any home improvement supply store.  A bastard file is used to sharpen the scraper blade.  Keep the blade as sharp as possible.  Remember to always scrape with the wood grain.  You have to scrape any old, existing finish off the floor completely so it will match your newly sanded floor.  If your are meticulous and worried about rough spots where you scraped, just take an 80 grit piece of sandpaper and lightly sand where you scraped.


        8.)  Screening.

              Screening is a process used to sand and smooth out any marks or imperfections.  An 80 grit screen will work fine for the raw wood.  Try to rest the machine handles on your belly.  Don’t try to hold the machine out, away from your body.  You will lose control if you do it this way.  Try to go with the grain as much as possible.


        9.)  Vacuuming

              This stage is vital in order to complete a flawless finish process.  Get a vacuum (a simple wet/dry vac will work) with a flat floor attachment.  Vac everything.  Start at the top (ceiling fans, moldings, windows door sills, heat vents and registers).  You don’t want any airborne dust floating in your finish so make sure to get everything!  Next, move to the floor.  Once again, try to go with the grain. 

              When this is completed lightly dampened a rag with mineral spirits (paint thinner) and wipe the floor clean.  This should pick up any tiny particles which would otherwise impede the integrity of the finish on your floor.  During this step I recommend you shut all windows and either take your shoes off or wear protective shoe booties.


        10.)  Picking the Right Finish

              There are three choices here for the first finishing step:  a.) Stain, b.) Oil-based polyurethane or c.) Water-based polyurethane.

                          a.)  Stain

              This is used when you want to change the natural color of your floor. It can be used to diminish the visibility of water or pet stains as well.  I have always used Minwax stains and never have had a problem.  After sanding make sure to put samples down on the floor to determine the color of your liking.  Don’t go by a color guide on a sheet of paper.  Wood color fluctuates so your floor will be unique. 

              This stain takes 8-12 hours to dry, so another coat can’t be applied until the next day.  Keep in mind that the smell of this stain is strong.  In order to get rid of the smell crack windows and keep air flowing.  After staining the floor it will still need 2-3 more coats of urethane.

                          b.)  Oil-Based Polyurethane

              This is used to maintain the “natural” appearance of the floor.  It does slightly tint the wood to a light, amber, honey color.  Oil takes 8-12 hours to dry and smells very bad.  Complete curing time takes 14 days.

                          c.)  Water-Based Polyurethane

              This is used when you want the true natural color of the floor.  Wet a rag with water and wipe a small section on your raw floor.  That resultant color is the same as water-based finish.  I recommend this finish because of it’s low smell and fast drying time (2-3 hours).  Curing takes 7 days for this finish.


        11.)  Applying the Finish.

        a.)  Stain.

              Grab a lot of old rags without buttons or zippers.  Dip your rag in the stain and wipe in a circular motion out three feet from the wall.  When you have one section done take a clean rag and wipe the stain.  Watch for overlap marks.  You want everything to be even, not splotchy.  Continue this as you work your way out of the room.

                          b.)  Oil-Based Polyurethane

              Buy an oil-based lamb’s wool applicator.  Dip your applicator and cover the floor in a back and forth motion, up and down.  Oil finish is more forgiving of mistakes and lets you have more time.

                          c.)  Water-Based Polyurethane   

              Buy a synthetic water-based applicator pad.  Pour a basketball size puddle by the wall and work in three feet sections until you get comfortable to do more.  Just be careful not to get ahead of yourself because any finish that is left sitting will dry and “burn” the wood.  If there are bubbles in your finish this means that your applicator has too much finish in it.  Just run back over the area again.


                          12.)  Screening between Coats.

                          a.)  Stain

              Stain needs another coat of urethane before screening with 180 grit screen.  When screening a stained floor it is important to move quickly so you don’t buff any of the color off the floor.  This step just needs to knock the grain down and abrade the previous coat of urethane so that it will adhere properly.  Vac according to the instructions in step 9.).

                          b.)  Oil-Based Polyurethane

              Oil finish screening takes place after your second coat, before the last coat.  Once again use 180 grit.  Vac and coat according to instructions.


                          c.)  Water-Based Polyurethane

              This finish can be screened after the first coat with 180 screen.  It shouldn’t need screened again unless 24 hours has passed.  Vac and coat.


                          13.)  Floor Care

              Any laying water can warp and damage your hardwood floors. Wipe up any liquids.

              Grit is the hardwood floor’s number one enemy. Sweep regularly and use doormats at any entrance. Never use a vacuum with beater bars!

              Always lift furniture to avoid scratches. Do not slide! We recommend putting felt pads under all your furniture.                                                                                                                                                                               High heels can dent some hardwood floors, especially recently refinished ones.

              Never wax your hardwood floors!

              Only clean hardwood floors with approved PH neutral cleaners. Never saturate your floors with liquids when cleaning. Just lightly dampen your cleaning materials and wipe.

              Floors can be walked on and furniture may be moved back the following day after coating. We recommend not putting area rugs down for 7-14 days until the floor has completely cured.

              If you have a pet dog, it’s nails should be clipped short enough as not to cause scratches when it runs.

              Do not tape directly to the floor. There is a chance that the adhesive from the tape can pull the finish right off the floor.


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        Andrew Matotek
        About the Author:

        Co-owner of Haven Hardwoods, Inc. located in Beaver Falls, PA. Andrew has over a decade of hardwood floor experience. He can be reached at If you would like to read more about Andrew’ background check out his website at and click on “About Us”.

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        Co-owner of Haven Hardwoods, Inc. located in Beaver Falls, PA. Andrew has over a decade of hardwood floor experience. He can be reached at If you would like to read more about Andrew’ background check out his website at and click on “About Us”.

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          I would like to sand my wood floors so that I can refinish them unfortunately the sanding machines available f?

          Question by Nilsa N: I would like to sand my wood floors so that I can refinish them unfortunately the sanding machines available f?
          for rental are to big and I cannot handle them (I am a small woman). Does anyone know where I can rent a small wood floor sanding machine or any other ideas on how I can sand my floors without using a heavy duty sanding machine?

          Best answer:

          Answer by Don
          You’ve been looking at drum machines, which is what most pro’s prefer. You’re right, those are wickedly fast, and if you rest even a moment, they can gouge the floor out. There are other sanders available that are sort of like giant palm sanders for floors – they use a giant sheet of sandpaper instead of a drum. Those aren’t nearly as fast, but they’re easier to use. Have you asked your rental yard? I suspect you can rent those as well, I think they’d be used around the edges, but I’ve never used one – I’ve only read they have them. Personally, I’ve always got someone else to finish floors, it’s kind of a skillful job. I hire this job out because I’ve known other people that tried to do this on their own, and it caused them some problems.

          What do you think? Answer below!

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