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Refinish Wood Floors…The Hard Way and Without a Big Sander

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A funny thing happened when I started pulling up the carpet in the office.

I pulled it back a little near the walls to make it easier to remove the baseboards. There was the usual carpet pad underneath that you’d expect to find. But under that was what looked like unfinished hardwood. Surely not. I texted Alex to tell her what I’d found. Her response? “I bet you got a lady DIY boner.” Classy. Also not entirely inaccurate.

I left the carpet in the room until I was done with the messy work of skim coating, painting and installing the crown. Call it a lazy girl’s drop cloth.

The entire time I was working on the other stuff I had one eye on the floor. I could not wait to get that carpet out so I could see what shape the wood was in. Finally, the day came when I could finally rip that up (which was nasty BTW). The floor wasn’t great but it wasn’t completely trashed either. Someone else had apparently already thought of using the floor as a drop cloth. There were paint splatters everywhere.

refinish wood floorsThere wasn’t any damage which I thought was amazing considering it’s probably over seventy years old. The floor didn’t appear to have any kind of stain or finish on it either. All good news but this put a wrinkle in things. I’d intended to put down fancy new luxury tile. I’d even picked up some samples and was narrowing it down. I hadn’t factored in taking the time to refinish old wood floors in my timeline either. It would be most uncool if I put the work in and it turned out like poo.

In the end, I decided this was an opportunity that I couldn’t let go by.

I wondered how hard it would be to sand the paint off so I took my palm sander to one of the spots. Not too bad. I did a little more. Still not bad. Before you knew it, I’d sanded the entire floor with just my palm sander.

Dumb? Probably.

If there had been any kind of finish I would have rented the big behemoth from Menard’s but it was basically just wood. I have mucho experience with sanding wood so I felt OK about it. I went back over it a few times with an increasingly finer grit. The room isn’t huge; it’s about 11 x 11. 3 evenings after work was it all took to get the entire thing sanded. I was pretty happy with the result.

Refinish wood floors - sanded hardwoodThen I had a decision to make.

I was planning on building a corner desk and I wasn’t sure if I should do that before or after the floors were done. I had this picture in my head of perfectly finished hardwood floors. And then I accidentally scratched it while I was monkeying around with the desk. That is definitely something I would do so I decided to stain the floor, get the desk in and then go back with the poly.

I’ve been playing around with the idea of redoing the rest of the floors in the house darker. This was a good chance to see if I was going to like it or not. The stain I chose was Jacobean from Minwax. I snapped this pic mid-staining to show the difference. Hubba hubba! There are some darker spots that I guess I didn’t sand out enough but I think it adds character. It’s a seventy-year floor after all.

Refinish Wood Floors -Floor stainingHere’s the part that sucks. When I woke up the next morning, all ready to see that mocha wonderfulness, I realized the floor was still tacky. Whaaaaa? It had been over 8 hours so it should have been dry. Back to Google I went and discovered I’d likely not wiped off enough stain. Insert sad clown face here.

The best solution seemed to be to apply more stain. Once the stain soaks in for a few minutes, you can go in and wipe the heck out of it.¬† It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing on a Saturday morning but my mantra during this project has been “It’ll take as long as it takes to get it right.” So that’s what I did. Working in about 4-foot square areas I used a rag to apply the stain. Caught up on Facebook for a few and then went back with another rag and wiped. And wiped. And wiped.

This time it worked. Only a few hours later and the floor was already almost dry. Whew. That could have gone south in a big way so I was relieved it was an easy fix even if it was super-irritating. Such is the learn-as-you-go way of life.

Refinish wood floors

This is when I finally felt like I could see light at the end of the tunnel.

The walls were done, the crown was up, baseboards were repainted and back in and the floor was stained. This project had taken a lot longer than I’d expected so I was relieved to finally be in the home stretch. I still had the desk to build, shelves to install and the floor to finish but THEN I’d be able to bring in all the pretty decorative items I’ve been hoarding. You know, the fun stuff.

And it’s a big difference from where I started.

refinish wood floors before

I feel like I should reiterate here that I’m not claiming to be an expert. The way I did my floors is probably not the “right” way to do it. I think it’s important to share experiences like mine because things are not always going to work out exactly as planned. It’s your space so you have to make decisions based on how things work for you. As long as you’re not doing any structural damage or anything that could potentially be life-threatening, you should be fine. OK, off my soapbox!

Next up in the “new office series” I’ll show you how I made my desk using some ReStore cabinets and a plank top. Weird halls and narrow doorways made coming up with a design a bit of a challenge but it all worked out in the end. Stay tuned!

You can find previous posts about the office overhaul here:

And so it begins….my new home office is on its way!

We Have Office Progress!

How to remove texture from walls

How to cut crown moulding with a miter box






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