It’s all about the Sanding
All wood responds to sanding. Sanding revitalises wood, making it smooth, even and porous enough to accept a fresh finishing veneer to give the floor its naturally shiny condition. Nowhere is sanding more important that when refinishing a wood floor.
Sanding is the foundation of all wood floor restoration so if this process is skimped or – even worse – omitted altogether then the floor will end up as a mess of uneven, blotchy finishing no one would be proud of. So if you are thinking of refinishing a wood floor in your home, think sanding first and foremost.
Whilst good sanding is your number one priority, it is also important to prepare properly. This means not only gathering together all the tools you will need including an industrial sander, but also making sure that you take time to visualise the finished effort. If you are sure in your mind how you want the floor to look then it is more likely that you will achieve that result. Don’t get trapped into starting the job randomly to ‘wait and see’ how it turns out. Wood flooring deserves better, and so do you!
In addition to being able to say ‘I did that’ to visitors to your home, a finely finished wood floor adds beauty as well as value to property and as such is worth doing only one way – well.
Prepare for sanding
With the obvious having been dealt with i.e. clearing the room, repairing loose boards and gap filling it is now time to introduce the sanding machine you have hired to the floor. When you visited the hire shop it is likely they had various different types of sanders to choose from, the most popular being the belt and the drum sander.
Belt sanders, as the name suggests, are driven by a belt (not unlike a vacuum cleaner belt) which is comprised of sandpaper especially designed to sand big areas. The grain of the paper can be changed after each sanding to give a smooth all-round finish to the floor.
Similar to the above, the drum sander is fundamentally a drum that rotates and sands as it moves across the floor. With this type of machine it is important never to leave it stationary in the switched on position, as this can cause ruts to develop in the boards that will be impossible to ‘sand out’.
Small areas such as nooks and crannies, corners and stairs can be served by using an orbital hand held sander. You can fit various grains of paper to the machine as required.
When you are sanding try to go easy, methodically and steadily along the boards. If you come to a stubborn area with veneer that just won’t shift, then don’t fixate on it – move on and return to the area later with the orbital sander. Over-sanding your floor leads to the wood becoming non-porous and making it difficult if not impossible for a finishing veneer to be applied.
Begin floor sanding with the coarsest grain of paper moving on to a finer paper on each subsequent sanding. The coarser the grain, the lover the number. If your floor has not been sanded for 10 years or more it is likely you will require three sandings to get the floor to the smoothness required for finishing to be applied. Always sand along the grain of the wood, never against and never take a sanding machine diagonally across a floor!
For oak and birch hardwood floors use a 120 grit paper, moving to 150 on the second round and 180 grit on the third sanding; for mahogany and walnut start with 150 moving to 180 and then 220; softwoods such as fir, ash and white ash respond well to 120, 150 then 180.