Mr Sandman

Never again, dear Lord, never again. At least not with a random orbital sander. Let’s just say we went into this little home reno project a little over confident (snicker). See, on the first house, we rented a sander from the depot and had the whole house done in 4-hours. Yes, the entire house was sanded (and looked awesome, or at least good enough) in the span of four short hours. This house, more like 24 hours. After everything was said and done – I LOVE how the floors look, but I gotta tell ya, we had to work for it this time around. Ok, so for some reference, this is what we started with.

Red Oak Wood Floors

The floors were pretty beat up – and they were orange. Not that I have anything against orange (I’m awfully fond of an orange tabby), but I was ready for something a little more updated and spruced if you will. After hemming and hawing, I decided it was time to go to the dark side. Luke, I am your father. (Insert weird breathing noises, like darth vadar, following me?). After lots of google sluething, I decided on Minwax Dark Walnut. Everyone raved it was the perfect dark color, so I took the bate and bought myself a gallon. But that part, that doesn’t come until later. First we had to sand these guys.

How to sand wood floors

So, for some reference, our day started out like crap with a cherry on top. When project day rolls around, I’m always geeked, ready to go, and I usually set the alarm for like 6am. Jay, um, he wasn’t feeling my mojo. We set the alarm for 7am, woke up at 8am, and Jay sauntered out the door at 9am to get the sander and supplies while I made sure the space was totally dust free and ready for some sand action.

At 10am, Jay calls me and says the place doesn’t have all the sand paper grits for the sander he wants, so he proceeds to go to Home Depot, to get a random orbital (he wanted to use one that had a square pad, I guess, Lord if I know). So, by this time I’m already annoyed that this process is taking SO long (I thought we would be sanding by 7am or 8am) so I say thats FINE, but make sure Home Depot has the sander you need before you cart your tuckus out there. Yeah, yeah, yeah, hubby says, we are good. Chill out wifie. 30 mins later, hubster calls and Home Depot sent the last sander out the door 10 mins prior. Jay politely told them they had sealed his fate and turned around and walked out to call me. Happy, I was not. So now, it’s 11am, and Jay goes back to the place he nixed before, to get a random orbital. Sure, you can have it, but we are not open on Sunday for Father’s Day – so, that’ll be double the price. Holy smokey mountains. Let’s just say this reno did not start out on the best footing.

How to use an orbital sander

And the footing did not improve. 10 hours later, when we were still on the same. grit. sandpaper. we were both shedding tears. It wasn’t pretty. Since we wanted this sanding job to be oodles better than the last house, which had turned out really nice actually, but had some room for improvement, we opted to go with 4 different sanding grits. Since we were going darker, we heard the best way to minimize sander marks and circles was to progressively go to a finer grit. In order, we did, 36 grit, 80 grit, 100 grit and finished with 120 grit.

Sanding Wood Floors

36 grit should remove your first layer of poly and stain no problem. Alas, should and actually are not always the same thing, now are they. After scratching our heads on it, one of the guys from the hardware store suggested the the previous homeowner had most likely not prepped the floor correctly last time it was finished, i.e. there was some extra residual poly on the floors that was so old, and so stubborn, that it would take Hercules himself to pop that stuff off.

How to use a belt sander

We started to notice the poly popping through as we were sanding, so we decided to come through with a handheld belt sander to touch up spots as we went along. This helped (a ton), but it was really, really hard to see all the spots that did not get sanded properly, which led to some troubles down the road – that is in the next chapter ;). Here is how Jay was looking after lots of sanding during the first day. Dusty. I see a slight twinkle in his eyes under it all though 😉

How to sand wood floor

When we first picked up the sander, we thought the entire (sanding part) of the project would take 4-6 hours, like our last house. When the first grit took over 10, we knew we were in for the long haul. We eventually moved onto the 80 grit, which started to make a noticeable difference in the quality of the floor. Each progressive grit made the wood tighter and the grain less porous. Progress my friends.

How to use an orbital sander

The next morning, we came back through with the 100-grit to continue to smooth things out and make them beautylicious. We went to bed Saturday evening feeling defeated, but we woke up on Sunday with a renewed sense of purpose. Git-r-dooone. We wanted to do some popping and some poly and to have finished floors again.

How to sand wood floors

Our final grit was 120, which was a grit higher than we went last time. Yummy, that wood looks good, huh? Our biggest concern for poly popping through, was all along the corners are the room, where we were unable to reach with the belt sander, and where the orbital couldn’t reach to. We tried our gosh darn hardest to get into each of the wedges and thoroughly sand these crevices, but it was hard!

How to sand edges

After lots of sweating it out, we had this as our final product before the stain went down. Not bad, not shabby at all. The staining, well that is a whole other saga … Here is a teaser of our luscious floors (but MAN did we have to work for them).

How to sand floors

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13 thoughts on “Mr Sandman

    1. It’s before – when they are just sanded. I actually love that look – but I think you actually have to bleach them to get them that light, since the poly darkens it up quite a bit. It was a HUGE project, but after the first coat of poly, I’m really starting to like them!

  1. That looks like a ton of work. I always wish we had hardwoods–until I see a post such as this one. They look amazing, though. I guess what I wish is that I had hardwoods that have been recently refinished!

  2. We are in the process of refinishing now and I’m hoping to get more specific information on the water based matte finish poly. Please, help. We are through the sanding process and have picked out the stain. That’s actually how I stumbled upon your post as we are also using dark walnut – LOVE IT! I’m not finding that around here so I was curious what you bought and where. All I’m finding is satin, semi-gloss, gloss. Also, how’s that gorgeous floor holding up?

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