Restoring a Hardwood Floor: Elbow Grease and Tool Rental

Jamison Rantz

Article Posted By: Jamison Rantz

of Rogue Engineer

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

Restoring a hardwood floor is a lot a work, but the final result can be very satisfying. Plus, doing the work yourself can save you a lot of money.

Jamison Rantz, of the Rogue Engineer blog, is a fearless DIYer. He and his wife took on a hardwood floor restoration project with no prior experience, and it turned out great.

Here’s how they did it, including uncovering the wood floor, sanding, staining and sealing.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

When my wife and I were pulling the carpet out of a home we were renovating, we discovered that the home had its original oak flooring, and it was still intact. The problem was that in most rooms, they were buried under several layers of linoleum and mastic. I’m going to show you the steps we took to uncover our hardwood floors and restore them to their former beauty!

Materials

Step 1: Remove the Coatings and Adhesives

After pulling out all the carpet, we removed as much of the linoleum, vinyl tiles and their backings that we could with a flooring scraper, or well, anything that would work.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

Once we had as much of the flooring and paper backing removed that we could by hand, it was time to rent a floor polisher and scraper tool from The Home Depot. The combination of the orbital floor polisher with the wood tool attachment will remove gummy coatings and adhesives and get down to the bare wood where the use of sandpaper would caramelize and clog the paper.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

Restoring a Hardwood Floor


Step 2: Repair Damaged/Missing Areas

We had a couple areas where walls were taken out that needed to be patched.

To start, we removed the boards that needed to be taken out to patch the areas. We did this using a circular saw set to the depth of the board thickness and a pry bar to break it up and get them out. Once the boards were out, we made sure the area was cleaned up to prepare for the installation of the new boards.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

The new boards get cut to fit and installed with construction adhesive on the bottom and tongue and groove wood glue on (you guessed it!) the tongues and grooves.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

As you can see, it was a late night and it doesn’t help that there were no lights in the house at the time. But, nevertheless, we got it done!

Restoring a Hardwood Floor


Step 3: Sanding the Floor

Once the floors were ready for sanding, we headed off to the Tool Rental Department at our local Home Depot store and picked up a drum sander and edge sander.

I had never used either of these machines before, so it was nice to have someone show me exactly how to use them. The Home Depot associate did give me a few good tips. One was that it is important to raise and lower the drum while the sander is in motion so the drum doesn’t sand too deep in one spot. Also making sure to raise the drum when changing directions.

Another tip he gave me was that if I was dividing the room in half, sanding one side first and then the other, then I would need to make sure to vary the stopping point in the middle so that there wasn’t a consistent line in the middle of the room.

He also gave me an idea of how much sandpaper to get. One drum per 100 sq ft was the consensus. The edge sander took a bit more for the first pass but that was mainly due to some adhesive that didn’t get removed in previous steps.

First pass – 36 grit

The first pass was with the 36 grit sandpaper with which the goal is to take the floor down to bare wood all over. This pass was done with the grain of the wood since the sandpaper is coarse and could leave marks if sanding cross grain. The drum sander will do the majority of the room but wont go all the way to the wall.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

Then all around the wall edges gets sanded with the edge sander and 36 grit sand paper.

The orbital sander has three points of contact; two wheels in the back and the sanding disc in the front. To avoid leaving lines I worked the sander in a front to back motion and not a side to side motion.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

Finally, while the edge sander did get almost everywhere, it is an orbital sander, so for the corners and tight areas I had to use my mouse sander to finish it off.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

Second pass – 60 grit

The second pass is with 60 grit sand paper and all the steps get repeated just as they did with the first pass. The goal of this step is to take out all the lines or marks left by the first pass.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

Third pass – 100 grit

The third pass was with 100 grit sandpaper using the drum, edge and corner sanders. The goal with this pass is to get the ready for stain and making it as smooth and even as possible.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

Final Pass – 120 grit Screen

Once I was done with all the sanders, I took them back to the rental center and rented a square buff floor sander with a 120 grit screen. I used this to make a single pass cross grain and then finally with the grain. The reason for this tool and pass was to remove any marks left by the sanding in previous steps. Since this square buffer doesn’t have a directional rotation it is a great tool for the final pass.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor
Restoring a Hardwood Floor


Step 4: Water Popping

Since we planned to use a darker stain color, we thought it was wise to water pop the wood to avoid any blotchiness. This is a process where you evenly apply water to the floors which, when dry, will open up the grain of the wood and allow it to accept the stain more evenly.

As you can see, I did it with a chemical sprayer. You could also do this by mopping the floors, but the key is to have an even application and not to flood any areas. We allowed the floors to dry overnight to make sure it was completely dry before applying the stain.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor


Step 5: Staining the Floor

While applying the stain seems daunting, there’s not a lot to it. Of course, having my wife help made it even easier.

Using common sense is always good practice. First and foremost, make sure to sweep and vacuum any area that will get stained.

We mixed all the stain together to assure the same color throughout.

We also made sure to work our way out of the house and not into a corner.

My wife applied the stain to an area not larger than we could easily reach, and then I came after her and wiped that area down. I made sure to swap out for clean rags often so that I wouldn’t leave streaks.

The color we went with was Briarsmoke by Varathane. It’s a nice dark brown with a hint of gray.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

Restoring a Hardwood Floor


Step 6: Applying the Polyurethane

After letting the stain dry it was then time to apply the polyurethane. I used the ultra thick floor finish by Varathane which only requires two coats, unlike a traditional polyurethane that would take 3-4 coats.

But before I could even get started I needed to make sure that the floor was nice and clean.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

To apply the polyurethane, I used a t-bar and edger pad, but first I wanted to make sure that the applicators themselves didn’t have any loose bristles on them. I used some painter’s tape wrapped around my hand to remove any loose hairs.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

With that out of the way it was time to get started. I made sure to stir the polyurethane as shaking could introduce bubbles that may not come out during the application.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

First, the polyurethane gets poured in a 2-3 inch thick ribbon across the room.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

Then the t-bar is used to spread the polyurethane in an even consistency throughout that area.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

Now the edger can be used to get closer to the walls or areas that the t-bar may not be able to access easily.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

I allowed the first coat to dry over night and came back and did the same thing for the second and final coat.

After the final coat had time to dry, we installed the baseboard trim and it was all done! We are really please with how it turned out. We knew going into it that it may not be perfect since this was our first time refinishing a floor. Though there are a few imperfections that only we can notice, all in all we are very happy with the results.

Restoring a Hardwood Floor

Browse The Home Depot’s Paint Department for the stain and sealant you’ll want for your hardwood floor restoration project.

Follow our DIY Projects board on Pinterest for more DIY project tips and ideas.