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Repair, cleaning and refinishing old hardwood floors

by The Handyguys

in Audio Podcasts, Radio


In this audio episode The Handyguys address a listener question about how to rejuvenate the hardwood floors in his new old house.

The question from Jeremy:

Hi guys, just found your podcast and I love it. working through the archives right now. I’m planning to refinish the original hardwood floors in the 1950s ranch house that I just bought as my first home. I will be pulling all the base trim off and want to go to a dark color to help hide any flaws in the flooring as well as future dirt. Can you please give me any advise regarding: proper prep work, proper tools, recommend a good stain (from what I read product quality can vary significantly), as well as any tips to make the job go smoothly. Lastly, could you please go over any basic wood repair techniques that would be helpful. i.e. filling gaps with stainable wood filler, patching gouges, etc. There are many projects I’m planning and I’m sure I’ll get some great tips in the archives! Thanks Guys.

The Handyguys respond:

Changing hardwood floors to a dark color

I wouldn’t go dark for the reasons you mentioned. Go dark if you like the look. Flaws can usually be fixed, dirt can be cleaned and dark stained hardwood may actually look dirtier faster than a neutral color.

Preparation of hardwood floors

repairing old hardwood floorsPrep work will vary depending on the current condition of the floor. If they are in bad shape then all the old finish is usually sanded off, the floors repaired and cleaned before staining and finishing.

Tools for hardwood floor finishing

Again, this will vary based upon what the condition is. Sometimes a floor only needs a light sanding and then a fresh coat of poly. In a case like that a vibrating sander is ideal. If many heavy coats of old finish and some wood need to be removed then a drum sander is called for. Drum sanders can do a lot of damage if not used properly. You may want to hire that part out unless you are super careful and maybe have an inconspicuous place to practice. Your True Value may have a rental store attached that can guide you on sanders.

Hardwood Floor Stains

Again, only stain if you want to change from the natural color. Some oil based polyurethane will impart a bit of a yellow color. The stain itself doesn’t mater too much, it’s really the top coat that is most critical. I have even know people to make their own stains from coffee! Stain is all about the look you want. If you can get some wood of the same species you can try some different stains to see how you like the look. There is also something called a sanding sealer or preconditioner. Those will affect how the stains absorb and effect the look. Softer woods are more likely to benefit from a preconditioner or sanding sealer.With any of those products make sure you follow the manufacturers recommendations on the can.

Tips for hardwood floor finishing

You don’t ask about the floor finish itself. You have the stain which changes the look/color. You then top-coat it with a polyurethane floor finish. The top coat is the most important. It effects the longevity and durability of the job. For a DIY project I definitely recommend a water based poly floor finish. Why? They dry fast (less time for dust to settle in the finish), they do not change the color (they are perfectly clear), they are easy to apply and easy clean up. The folks at True Value will help you select a good finish. Whatever finish you use make sure it is designed for floors. Again, follow the directions on the can.
cleaning old hardwood floors

Jeremy sent us this picture in a follow-up email

Floor rejuvenation steps

The Handyguys recommend the following steps to Jeremy and anyone else who wants to rejuvenate their floors without completely removing the old finish.

Jeremy – Those floors do not look like they are in that bad of shape. As you do your other projects take care to not damage them.

  1. Sand lightly with  a vibrating type floor sander. Don’t expect this to remove all the old finish. You are just touching up scuffs in the existing finish.
  2. Do not apply a stain – You cant stain without completely removing the old finish.
  3. Clean, clean, clean. You want to remove any dust. Use a damp rag or a tack cloth to make sure you do not leave any dust on the floor.
  4. Apply 3 or 4 coats of water based poly floor finish. Sand with a fine grit paper between coats. Follow the manufactures recommendations here. You could sand in one day and if your water based poly drys fast enough you could get your 3 or 4 coats on in another day.

As always, listen to the podcast for all the discussion.

We were one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. We have been compensated for our time commitment to the program as well as our writing and productions about our experience. We have also been compensated for the materials needed for our DIY project. However, as always, our opinions are entirely our own and we have not been paid to publish positive comments.

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