Refinishing The Floors
This week is a big week. With the completion of our latest project at the house, we will finally be able to move into the upstairs apartment. This is seriously big news.
We have been camping out in the first floor apartment for over 2 months now. And when we say camping, that is not too much of an exaggeration. The majority of our belongings have been either packed away in the basement or piled up into an nonfunctional, hoarder's paradise in the tenant living room. Between not having a kitchen, a truly functioning bathroom, anywhere to sit, eat, or watch TV, you could say our eagerness and enthusiasm to move into the upstairs apartment had reached an all time high.
So what is the momentous project that unlocked our ability to live like normal human beings? Well folks, we are proud to say we have officially completed the refinishing of both the original and the new hardwood floors. Follow along as we take you through, step by step of how we did it. We plan on dedicating a separate post to the floor restoration for the 3rd floor as that was an entirely different animal.
First off, we should just tell you in advance that this was probably the most intense, exhausting, burst of a project yet. While most of our other projects have been more drawn out and laborious, this one was jam packed into a super intense, focused weekend that called for long hours and little sleep. It didn't help that the weekend we chose also happened to correspond to Rachel and I both having Monday deadlines at work and Rachel traveling to DC.
To set the scene, it is a bright and early Saturday morning and we have just arrived home with our rented floor sander. Going against all of the internet's advice, we opted for the square floor buff sander as opposed to a drum sander. At the professional opinion of my family, we knew this was by far the best choice if you don't want to completely chew through and destroy your floors. This method takes longer but is usually worth it in the long run if you want to job done right.
Fast forward three hours and we are in peak frustration mode.
The sander we rented seems to be a bit faulty. And by that, I mean the sanding pad keeps falling off the machine and isn't working AT ALL. After a quick call to my parents for advice, Rachel and I decide it's time to change directions.
After scrambling to rent our second Zipcar of the day, we pack up the buff sander to return it to Home Depot. A few hours and some more money later, we were back up and running with our newly rented drum sander and edger. While this wasn't our first choice, we knew it was the only way we could possibly finish the job in a weekend. The trick is to just be careful and take your time..
Unfortunately, the majority of our Saturday was behind us by the time we started really getting going again. First, we used the floor sander to do a full pass with 30 grit sandpaper. I then followed along with the edger along the perimeter of the room with the same grit. This is the machine that will literally destroy your floors if you aren't careful. It is a heavy, unruly and exhausting machine that will be causing me aches for days.
While I edged, Rachel worked on the corners with a detail sander and smoothed out the areas near the radiators with a palm sander. For the plus or minus 650 square feet we were working on, this totaled to probably about 7 hours worth of work. Sadly, this was just pass 1 of 4. Luckily, each pass would be easier as we changed grits.
So after all of the sanding fun, next up was the finishing. In total, the sanding took us a total of 1 really solid weekend with some rather late nights. With the sanding taking up an entire weekend, we weren't able to get any coats of finish down before out contractors were back that Monday to keep working. We ultimately had to cover the majority of the floor with a roll of construction paper to keep it from getting damaged while they worked.
Three Coats and We're Done
Now into weekend #2, we are ready to start the finishing process. The most important thing you absolutely need to be sure of is that the floors are entirely clean and dust free. The best way to do this is to vacuum carefully with a shop-vac to be sure you pick up all of the dust and any dirt particles that may have gotten on the floor. Next, go over the entire floor with a waxed tack cloth. You will be surprised how many more particles you will pick up after you have already vacuumed. If you don't do this step, these particles will end up in the finish of your floor.
After we were all cleaned up, it was time for the first coat of finish. The best product to use by far is a tung oil finish. Polyurethane finishes often make your floors look plastic and unnatural. Tung oil is much more forgiving and creates a better final look.
With a couple paint brushes in hand, Rachel and I put down the first coat late Friday night. We each started on either side of the floor and worked till we met in the middle and painted ourselves out of the room. Even though it is dry enough after 8-10 hours to walk on, each coat takes 24 hours to dry fully before you are able to put the next one down. Each pass only took about an hour and half to brush on so it was mostly the waiting game of dry time at this point. In between each coat, we did another pass with the tack cloth to be sure we weren't painting any particles into the finish. Three coats later and we are officially done with the 2nd floor wood floors!
These final photos were taken right after the last coat was put down so the sheen on the floors is a little more intense in these photos than it is now. What do you all think? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below.