5.04.2012

Refinishing hardwood floors...


Let's talk hardwood floors this morning. One of the most common questions readers ask is about refinishing floors. We rented an industrial sander, sanded down all of the floors, stained, and clear-coated the floors ourselves. No matter what products you use, I don't think it's an easy job, but it is do-able. We started by cleaning all of the floors with an industrial cleaning product called Mex All-Purpose Cleaner. We mixed it with very hot water at maximum strength, mopped it on, let it sit for a few minutes, mopped again, and then used a putty knife to scrape off the old varnish, paper, and glue. Mex removed the varnish, so make sure you throw away the mop head once you're done.

We used three different types of sandpaper, starting with the roughest grit first and working our way to the smoothest. When you rent the sander, they give you a supply of sandpaper and you only pay for what you use. It cost approximately $500 to refinish the hardwood floors on the entire 1st floor, which (I'm guessing) is about 1000 square feet.
 
The tricky thing with our floors was that each room on the first floor is a different type (color) of wood, but we wanted them all to look the same. My dad taught us this trick to determine what stain to go with: after sanding down all of the floors, rub a damp cloth on the floor in each room. The wet spot mimics what the floor will look like when it's polyurethaned, so you should choose a stain that matches the darkest wet spot. If you look at the image above, the floor on the right is coated in clear polyurethane (and nothing else)- the floor on the left was stained and polyurethaned to match. This is what our kitchen floors looked like when we started...



Below is an image of the dining room after the floors had been sanded. You can kind of see how the  floors are two different colors. We put the tape down to remind ourselves where not to apply stain...


This image is after the floors were stained, but before being polyurethaned. Polyurethane has an extraordinarily strong odor and, having little kids, I'm not sure we'd go with it a second time. Besides waxing, which I've heard is really labor intensive, I'm not really sure what other durable options are out there, though. If you do go with polyurethane, make sure you can open all of the windows, use fans, and allow it to dry completely (follow product directions). We moved furniture too soon, so now we have a few divots that we need to touch up (not a huge deal)... 


Here's a shot of the living room floors before...

renovation
and after...

another shot of the kitchen before (well, during)...

renovationand after...
renovation_floors
I know I've said it before, but you're all lucky that you can't smell the before photos. Blech! The stench was pretty unbearable. The previous owners had dogs and the house had been abandoned for a while, so there were some animal stain issues. We were able to sand out some of the really bad spots, but not others. The smell came out, which was what we were really shooting for. The floors aren't perfect, but this is an 1800's farmhouse- they don't have to be perfect. Let me know if there's something I missed or if you have any questions. This is the first time we've refinished floors, so I'll try to answer them as best I can. And if anyone knows of a durable alternative to polyurethane, please leave your suggestions in the comments.    

11 comments:

Emily Rodriguez said...

Benjamin Moore makes an acrylic clear coat that is a great alternative. You can walk on it an hour after application and the odor is minimal. It is however, not as durable and if you have pets running over it you will need to reapply at least every other year.

beth lehman said...

Your floors are so beautiful! That's what I love about old houses - the flooring is so fantastic - after being refinished. We've done two houses worth of floors. The second time we used a water-based product from Benjamin Moore that I would NOT recommend. It hasn't held up and doesn't prevent water from getting through (even after several coats (like 4 in the kitchen). The first time we used Varathane and it was more like a bowling alley finish - which it turns out we need with kids and animals and messes!! What poly did you use?

Julia at Home on 129 Acres said...

Your floors are gorgeous. You have my respect for doing it all yourselves. My husband did ours once, and we've sworn we'll never do it again. And ours were just slightly paint spattered, worn and hidden under old carpet! The variation in your floors and the amount of stuff you had to scrape off is more than I'd take on myself. Kudos for such a beautiful finished product.

Kitten's Lost Her Mittens said...

This post couldn't have come at a better time! We've been talking about ripping up the linoleum in the kitchen and refinishing the wood floors underneath ourselves, but I just didn't even know where to start with it all! Thank you!
x Katherine

Karen said...

Your floors look great and congratulations for doing it yourself! Have you looked into Diamond Finish water-based Varathane by Rust-Oleum?

Aesthetic Outburst... said...

I'm not sure how often we'll have to reapply the polyurethane. We used Minwax for both the stain and polyurethane and it seems to be working out well. It was easy to use and I like that it's not a very high-gloss finish. We didn't look into other options because we were in a hurry and there weren't that many options available locally. I'll have to check out the Diamond Finish water-based Varathane by Rust-Oleum for next time, though. Thanks, everyone! Best of luck on your projects! :)
-A

Lotte said...

did you have many gaps in-between the floorboards? just wondered how/what you used for that...?

Aesthetic Outburst... said...

Hi Lotte,

We didn't have any gaps between the floor boards. I'm not sure what you'd use for that. From what I understand, filler will crack and come out because it doesn't expand/contract like wood. We have a lot of cracks in the floors on our 2nd floor that the previous owners covered with tin can lids (really). We painted the floors upstairs because we're eventually going to replace them. I'll be interested to hear what you find out.

:) A

Stephanie said...

We started our own 1860s farmhouse remodel last year, and on the floors downstairs (upstairs not even begun!), we used Vermont Natural Coatings. It's made from whey. Still a bit of application smell, but not terrible. A year later, it has held up well with three cats (ahem, hairballs) and various furniture rearrangings. Any surface scratches seem to buff out (or are not really noticeable). Messes cleaned with soap & water. Maybe not quite as durable as polyurethane, but no complaints. And nope, I do not work for them.

How2home said...

WOW..... the floor looks amazing. Love the rustic look it has. How long did the entire process take for your whole house? Is there anything you'll have to look out for when you're re-doing the flooring yourself?

Aesthetic Outburst... said...

The process took less than 1 week for the entire house.

:) A

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