Wood Floor Refinishing Tips | Complete Expert Guide

Here are some helpful tips and valuable information for any homeowner considering refinishing hardwood floors by Atlas Wood Floors Inc, of Damascus, Maryland,  hardwood floor refinish and installation experts.

Restoring the buried treasure of your hardwood floors is a labor of love, and what Atlas Wood Floors Inc does best. The before and after pictures below show a professionally sanded and finished heart pine floor that received 3 coats of oil based poly and TLC by Atlas Wood Floors Inc. Looks good as new doesnt it! If you have any questions about having your old floors transformed into something like this, read on, or just give us a call!

 

Before & After Pine Floor Refinish by Atlas Wood Floors Inc

wood-floor-refinishing-before-and-after by atlaswoodfloors.net

 

Wood Floor Refinish Tip 1

Check the gaps between the floor planks. If they’re widening and you can see the nails that hold the floor down, check with the professionals at Atlas Wood Floors Inc.

Wood Floor Refinish Tip 2

Some newer hardwood floors are only 1/4 inch thick with a laminate coating on top and can’t be sanded and refinished.

Wood Floor Refinish Tip 3

Some floors are easier to refinish than others. Pine and oak, the most common, are easier to work with than harder woods such as maple, mahogany and walnut, which take more time.

STEP ONE: How To Refinish Wood Floors
Clean the Wood Floor

 

step one clean the wood floor
We remove all furniture, sweep and remove debris, like nails and tacks, connected to the hardwood, and spray the floor with a hardwood flooring cleaner ( such as mix 10 parts water to 1 part white vinegar).  The floor is wiped with a terry-cloth mop or towel wrapped around a mop head, windows and doors are closed to keep dust contained in the room. If there are areas that won’t be treated, we protect them from wayward sanding or stripping refuse by covering them.

STEP TWO: How To Refinish Wood Floors
Prep the Wood Floor

wood-floor-refinishing-prep-wood-floor
We make sure every single space in the house is taped off so dust won’t get everywhere. Gaps and cracks in flooring are filled before sanding or striping because we want an even surface with which to work. Using 180-grit sandpaper, we hand-sand the perimeter of the room and any nooks that the buffer can’t reach. Rubing with the grain 4 to 6 inches out from the baseboard, we work over each board until the finish dulls and a powder forms.

Wood Floor Refinish Tip 4

Always avoid wearing shoes with black soles that would complicate the sanding and stripping processes.

 

STEP THREE: How To Refinish Wood Floors
Sand the Wood Floor

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The most important decision is usually how we’ll sand the floor. There are two basic options: drum sanding or an orbital sanding. The best type of sander to use depends on the condition of the floor, and the level of refinishing we would like to achieve.

Drum sanders use a sleeve of sanding paper that slides onto a square drum. The paper slides on the floor as the drum spins. Only a small portion of the paper and drum is in contact with the floor at all times, and you get an aggressive cutting action that quickly cuts through finish and wood. Orbital sanders, on the other hand, use a grinding action. The sanding pad oscillates back and forth in an orbital motion, which results in a slower, lighter sanding action.

Drum sanders work fast due to their aggressive cutting action. If you have a large room or several layers of finish, this type of sander saves time. In tight areas, however, you sometimes have to sand across the wood grain. This can result in scratches with a drum sander. Orbital sanders are gentler and require less physical exertion from you, but they take longer to remove heavy finishes.

When using a drum sander, the speed of the drum, the pressure applied by you, the grit of the sandpaper, and the pace at which you move the sander determines the cutting and finished look of the floor. Getting all of these elements just right takes practice. Orbital sanders, on the other hand, rely on the weight of the sander itself to provide the necessary pressure to sand the floor. Because orbital sanding is random in its sanding pattern, the operator doesn’t have to follow the grain of the wood to get a smooth finish.

Hardwood floors that are cupped, damaged or covered with several layers of finish require an aggressive sanding tool to smooth them out again. This is when drum sanding is ideal. If your floors are in good condition and your goal is to lightly sand and refinish the floor, then less aggressive orbital sanding is preferred. Orbital sanding is also preferable when you have to sand across the wood grain, which is usually necessary in narrow hallways, closets or entryways where the flooring runs at opposite angles.

In the image, we used a buffing pad on the buffer, put on a dust mask, and moved the buffer from side to side across the floor in the direction of the grain, overlapping each course by 6 inches. The old finish turned to powder as we progressed. We keep the buffer moving at all times, stopping every 5 minutes or so to vacuum the pad.

STEP FOUR: How To Refinish Wood Floors
Sweep/Vacuum the Wood Floor

wood-floor-refinishing-step-four-sweep-vacuum

We leave the room for 10 to 15 minutes to let the powder settle, then put a clean filter in the vacuum, vacuum the floor, then sweep the floor using a felt-bottomed attachment. We work in line with the flooring strips, then sweep across them to get any powder that settled between the boards. Finally, dry-tack the floor with a microfiber cloth pushed with the grain.

STEP FIVE: How To Refinish Wood Floors
Cut-In

wood-floor-refinishing-step-five-cut-in
We cover our shoes with special protectors, and cover nose and mouth with a respirator using organic vapor canisters. The poly finish gets strained through a cone filter into a clean plastic watering can, minus a sprinkler head, and poured into a small plastic container. A 3-inch-wide stripe is brushed beside the baseboards at a point farthest from the exit door.

Wood Floor Refinish Tip 5

While sanding a floor may require you to use earplugs and place a device over your nose and mouth, removing the finish from a floor using a polyurethane stripper can require more safety precautions because of its highly toxic chemical content. Invest in safety goggles and rubber gloves. Maximize ventilation by opening as many windows as you can. Set a fan in the room to encourage that the fumes make their way away from your work space.

STEP SIX: How To Refinish Wood Floors
Applying the Polyurethane Finish

wood-floor-refinishing-step-six-apply-finish

 

Today, applying polyurethane floor finish is a little more tricky than it used to be. Polyurethane finishes are better, safer, and dry much faster, but drying faster means a shorter open time.
Polyurethane finishes with short open time has a thick viscosity, so you have to do everything with one try. Less is more.  One back and forth brush stroke is the key to applying these polyurethane floor finishes. Any more than that, you’ll thin out your wood finish and cause brush marks, lap marks, flashing, bubbles or ridges.

Wood Floor Refinish Tip 6

Stir the polyurethane, don’t shake….to avoid problems.

Shaking increases the chance of producing bubbles. Keep a wet edge, when you’re coating, and try and minimize your brush strokes.   The best brush method to use, when applying polyurethane floor finish is a Zig-Zag brush method for edging.

After cut in, brush out in a zig-zag motion. Draw a “Z”, while brushing out and overlapping your passes, Snow plow the finish out towards you and brush the excess finish to the next area. When open time is short, coat the area with the least amount of brush strokes possible. Fixing ridges, splashes, puddles, and touching up missed spots along the way.

When applying polyurethane floor finish with a lambs wool applicator. Coat the floor back and forth, from right to left, once only, creating a W pattern. Whether it’s left to right or right to left, continue the same direction, you started, using whichever method that’s most comfortable to you.

Brush marks, lap marks and flashing are most likely to occur with a satin sheen more than any other sheen.

We cannot brush over dried, semi-dried or tacky polyurethane.  A hardwood floor polyurethane rollers is much easier to manage and deal with the thick viscosity and fast drying finishes.

A Polyurethane floor roller is more balanced than a paint roller due to the design of the roller. It helps prevent the roller from losing shape and skip rolling. It’s a foolproof floor applicator, and you don’t have to be a professional to do well with this flooring tool. Use the same basic technique as you would for painting a wall.

Just use a quality polyurethane finish, and apply a generous amount and the floor finish will level itself out, leaving you with a nice smooth gleaming finish. If, you end up with an orange peel look, then you applied too thin of a coat.

Wood Floor Refinish Tip 7

Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tips: Use a shed resistant type roller, so you don’t end up with fibers in your finish.

Applying polyurethane floor finish with a roller, we’re not pushing our polyurethane finish around. A floor roller will plop the finish onto the floor, so we are not thinning it out or creating premature tack time. Eliminating a whole list of problems – brush marks, lap marks, flashing, drips, puddles, splashes, and ridges.

 

How to apply a polyurethane floor finish with a polyurethane roller

Cut in the edge with a brush, using a Zig-Zag brushing method, plow out, keeping the edge wet. Roll over the edge, with your hardwood floor roller, to introduce the orange peel look. Fully submerge your roller in a 5 gallon polyurethane filled pail. Coating with the length of your floor boards. Roll out a “W”, then start rolling from one side using a uni-directional coating method, zig-zag out to the opposite side. Roll a final pass to make sure that your floor is completely coated with polyurethane. When, your backed up into a wall, just roll perpendicular or across the grain, towards the exit. And your done, It should’ve taken you no more than 15 minutes to coat a 200 sq. ft. area.

Wood Floor Refinish Tip 8

Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tip: Use 180 or 220 grit screen to sand in between coats. Wear down the screen with a piece of sandpaper before using so it’s not so aggressive.

Get to know your finish, so you can adjustment to your technique when applying polyurethane floor finish. This will help you achieve a smooth, quality polyurethane wood floor finish at the end. Test out your polyurethane finish see how well it levels,

Brush across the grain on the first coat in a few areas, see how well, it levels after it dries. Some finishes will level itself, leaving no brush lines and stop marks. By splurging a little on high quality polyurethane. You will save a lot of time, because you don’t have to brush with the grain. Or worry about trying to workout certain flaws. The wood floor finish will fix itself.

Test out the set-up time

Test out the set-up time to see how fast your finish tacks up.
This will help determine your start and end point. You’ll be able to avoid flashing, brush marks, stop marks, and lap marks. Room temperature and work condition will have an effect on set-up time. Determine whether you need to add a finish retarder to slow down the set-up time or get extra help to apply the coating. When applying polyurethane floor finish, whenever possible, avoid adding a retarder or thinning your finish. Use as is for best durability.

Test out your Applicators

Some applicators are no good. Don’t rule out your applicators, when applying polyurethane floor finish. You can purchase the highest quality applicator. But even the best sometimes provide bad polyurethane applicators. If, you’re left with a lot of loose fiber or brush hairs in your polyurethane floor finish. Toss them out and use new ones. You shouldn’t get any loose fibers or hair after coating a quarter of a room – 1 rst coat.

Test out the Sheen

Semi-gloss from one manufacturer is different from another. If, you’re matching a sheen, see how well your finish matches the existing one. If, you want a more exact match, tone it, by adding a satin wood finish to dull it or add a gloss wood finish to make it shinier. Make note of these things and make the proper adjustment.

What To Expect

Your polyurethane wood floor finish is not going to look perfect on the first coat.  As long as you have done everything right, sanding and cleaning, it’s going to look great.

First Coat: Expect raised grains, rough surface, loose fibers, uneven sheen, uneven coating, flashing, brush marks, lap marks, and bubbles or trapped particles. This is common. Simply give your polyurethane finish a good buffing with a new 180 or 220 grit screen. This will remove flaws such as brush marks, lap marks, bubbles, raised grain and any particles left on the polyurethane finish.

Wood Floor Refinish Tip 9

Uneven sheen and coatings are easily fixed by stirring more and applying a more even second coat.

For brush marks and lap marks, buff and apply a heavier coat and change the order or direction that you are brushing. Apply your polyurethane floor finish with the grain of the wood.
Second Coat: You should start to see a smoother finish, fewer to no bubbles, possible brush marks and lap marks, depending on the quality of the finish being used. Adjust room temperature to assist the finish to level. Continue to brush with the grain.

Use a new 180 or 220 grit screen to buff your polyurethane finish. This will remove all the flaws left behind. Give this coat a good cleaning and tacking, before applying polyurethane floor finish.

Wood Floor Refinish Tip 10

Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tip: The smoother you buff your hardwood floors, the smoother your finish will appear.

Third Coat: This is the most important coat.  No flaws should appear on the finish coat. Any flaws can be touched up by spot buffing and coating, otherwise buff and re-coat entire area.

Wood Floor Refinish Tip 11

Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tip: Before applying the final polyurethane wood floor finish coat, clean and tack well a dry microfiber mop, repeat if necessary.

Oil based polyurethane wood floor finishes are a traditional, quality finish with a great reputation. When choosing an oil base polyurethane wood floor finish, invest in a high quality polyurethane finish. This will save money and time having to refinish your wood floors too often.

Wood Floor Refinish Tip 12

If, you have a more contemporary style, consider using a water based wood finish, for a more natural look.

Wood Floor Refinish Tip 13

If you’re located in the Maryland, DC or Virginia area, let the pros at Atlas Wood Floors Inc refinish your hardwood floors for you to guarantee an amazing result! If you don’t have a lot of experience refinishing wood floors you will likely end up with an unprofessional result.

1 Comment

  1. Mark Lovett on December 16, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    There is quite a lot of valuable information about how to professionally refinish a hardwood floor that I couldn’t find anywhere else. I’m not confident in my ability to do the job myself so I’ll contact the pros at Atlas Wood Floors Inc in Damascus,MD to do it. Thanks much for writing this helpful post!