How to Sand and Repair Hardwood Floors

Refinishing hardwood floors can be a daunting task for any homeowner, let alone a DIY oriented homeowner. However, refinishing hardwood floors should not be considered impossible or for professionals only. If you follow the few basic tips and recommendations listed below and throughout my series of articles pertaining to hardwood floors, nearly anyone can refinish their own hardwood floors to an acceptable level of beauty.

Refinishing any wood product or furniture or flooring requires very similar techniques and a lot of patience. Hardwood floors are certainly no exception. However, your hard work will pay off and your home will not become another home with potentially beautiful hardwood floors covered with carpeting.

As with nearly any project, the majority of the time and effort is spent in the prep work and cleanup. Prepping to refinish hardwood floors involves sanding, cleaning, dust removal, taping, and repairing.

The first step in refinishing hardwood floors involves repairing any damage to the floor such as chipping, dents, splinters, etc… These problems can make a floor unsightly. Chips in the floor should be filled with wood filler which will need to be sanded and stained to match the existing floor. Dents are treated in the same manner, and splinters in the flooring should be torn out and filled. To fill imperfections, clean the wood flooring thoroughly with mineral spirits, sand the wood lightly to assure bonding and use a putty knife to spread the wood filler over the imperfection. Once dry, the wood filler can then be sanded and stained according to the directions on the wood filler that you chose to use.

After all of the imperfections of the hardwood floor have been repaired we can then turn to sanding the entire surface. This can be done by hand, with a handheld orbital sander, with a rental orbital sander, or with a rental drum sander. Which sanding method will work best for you depends upon the amount of sanding that needs to be done. If the wood is in good condition, but the finish is showing its age, I would recommend either the handheld orbital sander or the rental orbital sander. If the hardwood flooring area is small, perhaps only one small room, you may choose to do this step by hand, but it will take longer. If you floor is in poor condition with little to no finish left and shows visible wear patterns in the wood itself, I would recommend that you hire a professional for this step as a drum sander will be required and its use is not considered DIY friendly.

Sanding is not difficult, but will certainly make a mess. I recommend that you close doors to all rooms that will not be sanded, turn off the furnace or air conditioning, close all windows, and block off all other areas of the house that can be blocked off. This will make cleanup easier, but by no means eliminate the job of cleaning sanding dust from the rest of the house.

Whether you proceed to sand by hand, use a handheld orbital sander, or rent a freestanding orbital sander, the next steps will be identical with the time it takes to complete the task being the only variable. First, put on your eye protection and wear a mask approved for sanding of wood. Begin with course sandpaper; a 40 or 60 grit will work. Focus on areas of the floor in need of additional sanding, and sand these areas until smooth. If sanding by hand, follow the grain of the wood. Once any remaining imperfections have been removed you can progress to 80 to 100 grit sandpaper. You should use this grit to thoroughly sand the entire surface of the floor. You will complete this step when all of the remaining finish has been removed from the floor. Depending upon the hardness of the previous finish, this may or may not be time consuming, but figure a few hours per room. Once complete, thoroughly vacuum the entire floor area making certain the remaining wood surface is free of debris.

Now we will move on to 120 grit sandpaper. This is used to remove the sanding marks in the wood that are left by the previous sandpaper used. We are not attempting to remove any more finish, so this step will not take as long as the previous step. Simply sand until all sanding marks are removed and the wood feels smooth. At this point, you have completed sanding unless you feel that a 150 grit sandpaper should be used to remove the sanding marks left from the 120 grit paper. This step is unnecessary, most professional will not do this, but you can if you chose to.

We have now completed the sanding step of refinishing a hardwood floor. Now clean your entire house, the dust will be everywhere. To learn about applying a finish to your beautifully sanded floor read my next article titled, “Refinishing Hardwood Floors” or to find out how to clean and maintain hardwood floors read my article titled, ” Cleaning Hardwood Floors.”

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