Refinishing Hardwood Floors – What To Know

Refinishing hardwood flooringHardwood floors are the most popular flooring choice in today’s homes. Many people enjoy solid hardwood flooring because of how easy they are to maintain, no more having to pull out the bulky vacuum, all you gave to do is sweep and go. Others enjoy the relief that the hardwood floors provide for their allergies, no more nasty allergens getting stuck in the carpet fibers. No matter what your reason is for wanting a hardwood floor installation, if you have them there will come a time when they need to be refinished.

Before you even attempt to refinish your hardwood floors you want to get to know the floor’s history, which in some cases is easier said than done. Knowing the floor’s history is important when refinishing the floors because it helps you avoid any mistakes that you will need to repair later. Two things you will want to try to discover about the floor is how many times it has been sanded before, as well as what finish has been used in the past. One way to find out about the history of the floor is to ask the previous owners of the home, especially if they were the original owners of the home. If you cannot talk to the previous owners, for whatever reason, the best thing to do is hire a professional to come in and look at your floor.

With hardwood floors you also need to look at the floor to get a general idea of its current condition, whether stains are ground into the floor, how many scratches and dents there are and how deep they are, and if anything needs to be stripped off the floor before you can begin sanding. Something else to look at is how shiny or dull the floor looks. Dull floors often signal that the surface coating need to be replaced. If anything needs to be stripped from the floor before refinishing the floors, you will need to grab the appropriate product from your local hardware store to get started. What product you grab will depend on what needs to be stripped off the floor. If you are unsure of what to use you can talk to somebody at the local hardware store or you could consult with a professional.

Every hardwood floor has a wear layer, whether or not you can refinish your hardwood floors depends on how thick this wear layer is. Once the wear layer reaches a certain point the floors can no longer be refinished, they will have to be replaced. To check the wear layer you will need to look at the side of one of the floorboards. The wear layer is the dark brown layer that sits on the very top of the floorboards. With engineered floors, there will be several layers underneath the wear layer, while solid wood will only have one layer. If you are not sure how thick the wear layer is it is best to get a professional opinion, this way you do not put in a lot of hard work for nothing.

The refinishing process sounds simple enough, but it is one that requires a variety of special tools, as well as a lot of hard work. When refinishing the hardwood floors what you will be required to do is strip off all of the old finishes and coatings that have been applied to the floor, leaving you with raw, smooth wood that you can apply new finish too. If your hardwood floors were originally covered by carpet or linoleum, you will need to remove everything before you can refinish the floors. Removing carpet requires you to pull up the old carpet and pad, remove any tack strips and staples, and then chip away any adhesive that was used. Removing linoleum is also rather simple, unless you have some that contains asbestos, if you suspect yours does please consult a professional to have it safely removed. If yours is safe being by pulling off the linoleum by hand, then remove the adhesive using a scraper and mineral turpentine, just be careful not to damage the hardwood floor underneath. The next step is sanding.

If you rent a drum sander, make sure you rent one that comes with a dust bag; this can help cut down on the amount of dust that is produced when sanding your floors. You can also purchase a drum sander, but most homeowners find it to be more economical to rent one. One thing to always keep in mind when renting or buying a drum sander is that even with the dust bag and tools that claim they provide you with dustless sanding, small dust particles are still going to fly up into the air. Therefore when refinishing your hardwood floors you always want to wear a dust mask, breathing in even tiny dust particles can be harmful to your overall health.

Picking out the right finish for your hardwood floors is probably the most important step. Your floors are only going to look as good as the finish that you use. Whether you pick a cheap or expensive finish, if it is not applied correctly the first thing that people will notice is how horrible your floors look. However, the cheap finish and stain do not come highly recommended because they require quite a few coats to look good, so by the time you get the floors looking right you have probably spent more than you had originally intended. While the more expensive finish is going to look great if properly applied you do not have to purchase it to get a professional looking result. What you need to do when picking out the finish is to find one that works within your budget, but also one that is easy enough for you to apply. Selecting a finish that is easy to apply increases the chance of you applying it correctly, so you get those amazing results that you have dreamed about. Keep in mind that before you apply the finish you will need to apply the stain if you wish to change the color of your hardwood floor. Like the finish you choose, cheap or expensive stain that is improperly applied will ruin the hardwood look you are trying to achieve.

With hardwood flooring prices going through the roof due to lack of raw materials and high labor costs, it is important that you do everything you can to keep your current floors in good shape. Refinishing hardwood floors can not only give you a surface that looks brand new, but it will also help you to protect the underlying wood from damage. One of the most common problems with hardwood floors is water stains. These occur when the wax or finish on the floor is wore off which allows the water to seep into the wood itself. When a floor is laid down the moisture level of the wood strips is going to be 15% to 19%, this is considered dry. As the floor lays for years in your warm home it may dry out even more, especially considering what type of heating system you have. When moisture comes in contact with the wood it is sucked back into the pores and this will cause staining. If you keep a good finish on the hardwood then you will create a barrier against the water permeating the structure of the wood. You can just mop any spills up.
One thing you don’t want to do is to leave unfinished hardwood floors with no type of protection. You will quickly develop dirt stains as well as problems if water is spilled. This is not a good thing.

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