Rub Me the Right Way

When I look back on our home renovating journey’s, I think I can confidently blame our initial floor refinishing experience as the drug that encouraged us to keep tackling projects without a fear of how they’d look on the other end of the coin. Those floors, they turned out so dang beautiful. I still dream of those floors in my head. Sanding them down – it took 4-hours. 4-hours! I remember this because we got the 4-hour rental and wham bam alcazam they were sanded, refinished and gorgeous. It provided just enough encouragement, that we thought on the second house. Hey – that wasn’t that hard, let’s do it again!

Lenda Curtains

Second time around, we hit a few snaggles. Namely – staining darker requires a SUPER THOROUGH sanding job before hand. Noted. Overall, these floors came out looking pretty nice, too.

Dark Walnut Stain on Red Oak

Confession, when you would look up close, you could sometimes see the orange stain popping through in a few places, which always drove me bonkers. Overall, I think that most people didn’t even notice it though, so that’s good. πŸ˜‰

Truth be told, the second time took a whopping 20 hours, just to sand and Jay basically told me that he would absolutely, positively NOT sand another floor in his life. But turns out that my sweet husband can be easily persuaded, since y’all we’ve officially refinished another floor.

Not going to lie, we both had at least (1) freak out moment during this reno. For second there, we got serrrriiisssly worried about our ability to sand this floor. It’s so old and so uneven that to say we had a few trouble spots, well, that’s putting it lightly. First things first – we did a few small things to help prep our space before we got our sander, so that we were completely ready once the clock started ticking.

How to Prep Wood Floors for Sanding

All the funΒ started when we went to rent our sander. We hemmed and we hawwed, but we decided in the end to go with the orbital sander, deeming that it was the safer bet. Belt sanders, although more aggressive, have a tendency to be more difficult to control, which can lead to gouging of your floors. No beuno.

Using Orbital Sander

Problem was, the orbital sander was just NOT cutting it. Cue slight panic. Do you see all those orange spots above, popping through. It should look like the wood on the bottom chunk of the picture, which is the new wood that we laid down in the kitchen. After your first grit, absolutely no orange (or old stain/poly) should be showing.Β Rut roh.

So Jay and I kind of looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and hopped back in the car to get the belt sander. Cue sweaty armpits. Just look at this beast.

Belt Sander Vs. Orbital

After we got this guy home, we decided to start fresh in a new room, just to see the difference between the two machines. Now – we had been forwarned at Home Depot that the belt sander would absolutely rip through the wood, so we 1) had to keep it moving at all times (if you let it sit, it will gouge) and 2) had to be extremely cautious in how we operated it for said aforementioned reasons and 3) whatever you do – go with the grain of the wood. Not going to lie – this situation made me shake in my boots just a bit.

So we reeved this guy up, all ready for things to get all speedy Gonzales around here, and do you know what happened? This.

Refinishing Floors with Belt Sander

And that, that is not much better than the situation we had before, right?! I may have said a bad word here. Actually – I did. I think I said two bad words in fact.

I kinda looked up at Jay all Crazy Eye’s and said – dude – what are we going to do. Neither of the sanders are working!! Thank Jesus for Google, since it our moment of pure desperation, it rescued us. And do you know what Google told us to do. To go against the grain on a slight diagonal. WHhhhhaaaa? Hold the telephono – didn’t we establish that rule #3 from the depot dudes was to go with the grain. Well ya know what, we got a little rebellious and it totally worked.

How to Use a Belt Sander

Do you see how Jay is going on a slight angle in the photo above? It turns out, since we had so many low points on our floor (which caused the sanders to miss spots) this method enabled up to bite into the wood a bit more and get more poly and stain up with each pass. Now, mind you we only did this once for each section of floor, and we always (always!) made sure to come back through the second time (with the same grit) on a straight angle. We found that with these two passes (once on a slight angle) and once straight through, that we were able to get all of the poly and stain up with our initial 36-grit pass.

Whee to Use Edger

Now when you use a belt sander, you actually need to also rent a small little edging machine, which allows you to get to all the spaces that the belt sander couldn’t access i.e. the edges πŸ˜‰ After we’d sanded through all our floors with the 36-grit, we then came back through with 36-grit paper on the edger and took care of the periphery and doorways as well.

Using an edger, is basically like picking up a tornado and then trying to control it enough to actually sand the small sections of floor you’re aiming to sand. This thing has got torque with a capital T, people. I tried using it – and we’ll just say it was an epic fail. The edger won and Mary lost. Jay, who’s a pretty fit/buff dude would be sweating buckets after a 5 minute sesh with this thing. I told him that he was getting his workout in for the weekend πŸ˜€

How to Use Edger

The 36-grit took all of our first day (Saturday), but we got back at the house bright and early on Sunday to finish up our weekend warrior project. Last time I bribed Jay with beer, this time, it was Biscuitville. #SouthernLiving

Sanding Wood Floors

So, when we walked in the door Sunday morning to assess our handy work, we noticed something that kind made us revert back into panic mode. Remember that tornado of an edger? Since it was an orbital movement instead of the straight sanding that we had with the belt sander, we noticed a megalicious difference between our floor and our edge.

How to Edge Wood Floors

Hello Dolly. That is going to officially look like crap once we stain it, isn’t it. So I call Home Depot and I’m all like, what what?! Could y’all tell us if this is going to subside with each grit? What’s happening? How do we fix this? They were pretty lackadaisical about it and basically just told us they didn’t know what we were talking about, and that we should be just fine. Well, color me confused, cause that floor just didn’t look right.

We decided to take a hybrid approach that landed up making a huge difference. We used the edger for one more grit (60) and then came back with a block 80 grit hand sander and finished off the rest. I’ll go into the details of how we edged everything in the next post (to show the steps we did to prep for stain), but the good news is, crisis was averted. Exhale.

Refinishing Hardwood Floors

To get the floors looking mighty nice, and completely ready for stain, we opted to do 3-grits. 36 to start out, 60, and then 80 grit.

Here are some shots of how the floor looked after our weekend of slavery. πŸ˜‰

Grits to Use When Refinishing Floor

So beautiful! So sanded!

Here is another shot, looking out toward our kitchen (which is the new wood). Blends pretty well, if I don’t say so myself! The final test now will be seeing how they both take the stain. Cross your fingers for us, people!

Matching Up Wood Floors

It was a lot of work, but I’ve got to say it was totally worth it for all the money we saved doing this all ourselves. I’ll do a complete cost breakdown with our staining post, but right now it looks like we’ll be well under a 1/4th of the cost we were quoted – just to sand the floors! Huzzaahhh!! We’re also super happy to have taken care of this DIY project pre-movin, before we had to relocate all of our furnishings. That would have been a legit hassle.

Anyone else refinished floors lately? It’s a hairy beast! πŸ˜€


9 thoughts on “Rub Me the Right Way

  1. Wow. All I thought it took was one pass of sanding and you are onward bound to staining! I am going to remember this post when we tackle our floors… Yours already look fantastic; you can’t tell the difference between the old and the new. I bet you guys are sore. πŸ™‚

    1. I think that it is supposed to only take (more or less) one pass with each grit – our floors we’re kind of a problem child πŸ˜‰ None the less – I would say that refinishing floors is a 9 out of 10 in difficulty, mainly because of all the grunt work involved. It’s exhausting!

  2. holy cow! definitely warriors! that job would have intimidated the heck out of me! way to go, guys! i can’t wait to see how they look when y’all are done! πŸ˜€

  3. Pingback: The Wall that Wasn’tLemon Grove Blog | Lemon Grove Blog

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