Concealed beneath wall-to-wall carpeting in many of America’s homes is rich, natural hardwood flooring. Before carpeting became popular, hardwood floors were a common sight often adorned with a large area rug or one or more smaller area rugs.
When homeowners decided that vacuuming was easier than cleaning and waxing, wall-to-wall carpeting became a popular alternative. The trend has reversed itself of late and hardwood floors are regaining favor.
Refinishing a hardwood floor is one of the most cost-effective home improvements. Start by removing all of the furniture in the room. Due to the amount of dust generated by the refinishing process, you should consider removing paintings, wall hangings and other decorations and sealing off openings to other rooms with plastic sheeting.
Remove the carpet by rolling it up and disposing of it. Do the same with the pad. Staples that remain should be removed with a pair of small needle-nosed pliers. Carefully remove the tack strip using a small pry bar and a hammer. Use a hammer and a nail set to countersink any nails that protrude above the floor’s surface.
It’s not unusual to find dark stains once the carpet is up. The staples used to attach the pad and the nails used to anchor the tack strip at the carpet’s perimeter also cause blemishes. Most of this is solved by sanding.
Rent a drum sander, edge sander and purchase the sandpaper you’ll need to perform the work. The drum sander looks something like a vacuum cleaner and is used on the open areas of the floor. The edge sander is used for the perimeter and hard-to-get-at spots.
Most floors should be sanded three times. First use 40-to-60-grit coarse sandpaper to remove the existing finish. Then, sand the floor a second time with an 80-grit medium sandpaper and finish.
The floor should have one final sanding with 100-grit paper. Start each stage of the sanding process by using the drum sander and finishing up with the edge sander. Try to sand in the direction of the grain.
Once the sanding is completed the floor should be thoroughly vacuumed in preparation for application of a new finish. Before that, a stain may be applied to enhance the grain of the wood.
We prefer a heavily penetrating oil-based stain. The easiest way to apply the stain is with a clean soft cloth. Wipe the stain on with one cloth and wipe off the excess with another. Again, be sure to work in the direction of the grain to ensure a uniform finish. Allow the stain to dry overnight before applying the finish.
The floor should be dust-free before applying the finish. Vacuum it and wipe it down with a tack cloth to achieve this.
There are many floor finishes from which to select. In general, use a China or natural bristle to apply oil finishes and a synthetic brush to apply water-based products.
We have found that a polyurethane oil-based finish is one of the most versatile and longest-lasting finishes. Due to the high degree of water resistance that it provides, it’s excellent for use in the kitchen or other areas of the home where a floor is exposed to dampness.
Water-based floor finishes have become popular, replacing many of the conventional solvent-based finishes. Besides being more environment-friendly, these water-based finishes are user-friendly being easier to apply and clean up with soap and water.
To provide the floor the maximum amount of protection and minimize maintenance, three coats of finish should be applied. Allow the floor to dry overnight between coats and sand each coat with a 150-to-200-grit buffing screen and a commercial buffer.
Wait two to three days for the floor to dry before moving furniture back into the room.
For tips from James and Morris Carey, visit their Web site at www.onthehouse.com or call the 24/7 listener hot line, 800-737-2474.