Should you get the professionals in or do it yourself?
In a time when everyone wants to save money, trades such as professional floor sanding companies are having a difficult time bringing in new customers, thanks to the culture of the ‘happy amateur’. The availability of sanding equipment from plant hire outlets and the continuing boom in popularity of DIY means that it’s very tempting to tackle such a major job as sanding your floor boards yourself. Yes, it will be cheaper. Initially. But will you get the result you want? And if it goes wrong, do you know how to put it right? Here are three of the commonest DIY mistakes and what it’ll take to correct them.
#1 – the finish is dreadful – what went wrong?
Sanding wooden floors might seem like a simple matter of hiring a sander and unleashing your enthusiasm on your innocent and defenceless wooden floors. But without the right preparation you are inevitably going to get a substandard finish. Ironically, one of the commonest reasons for a bad finish is a lack of natural light when sanding. Unless the room you’re working in is well lit, you may miss sanding flaws like drum marks or buffer swirls before you apply the finishing coat of varnish, wax or stain. If you’ve been a bit heavy-handed with the sander you may also have small tears and rips in the surface of the wood that, once you apply the finish, will stand out like a sore thumb.
Professionals will ensure that the sanding process is carried out properly from start to finish. Before they start sanding they will check that there are no cracks or gaps in the surface of the floor, and if there are, they’ll fill them to produce a smooth and even surface. To get the best results, you have to start with a ‘clean canvas’ and professional sanding gives you exactly that.
Professional floor sanding companies will also maintain their equipment properly, whereas hired sanders may not be running at their best. This in turn can produce a sub-standard finish.
#2 – I’ve got a ‘patchy’ effect – what’s happened?
Patchy finishes on wooden floors can be down to several reasons. Firstly (and the most common reason for a patchy finish) you may have applied the final wax, stain or varnish coat unevenly. This is often down to lack of expertise in using the finishing products, an uneven sanding job initially or just a little bit too much ‘haste’ to get the job done. Also, if there are any sources of intense direct sunlight around the room then this may affect the finish, especially if you apply the finish during the hottest part of the day.
Unfortunately, a patchy finish cannot be rectified by simply ‘colouring in’ the lighter bits until they match the rest of the floor. A professional job will avoid this problem in the first place, but if you have ended up with a DIY patchwork quilt of a floor, it’s going to be a case of ‘back to basics’. The floor will have to be stripped back to bare wood and the entire process begun again.
#3 – The finished surface has a ‘sandpaper’ effect – what’s happened?
Sanding wooden floors by its very nature produces a massive amount of dust and debris. Because the particles are particularly fine, they get absolutely everywhere and are often statically charged, so they cling stubbornly to any surface they land on. Unless you ensure that you have cleaned your sanded floors scrupulously and that there is absolutely no dust on the surface before you put down a layer of varnish, you will get a less than perfect finish. If this happens, then once again it’s a matter of taking the floor back to bare wood and starting again.
Hire sanders do not have the integrated dust removal systems that professional sanders have, so it is very difficult to ensure that you have removed all the dust from your sanded wooden floors. A professional sanding company will have the right equipment for the job from the outset, and will be able to minimise the amount of dust produced and, consequently, ensure a perfect finish on your wooden floors.