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Floor Refinishing Question (with pics!)

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Floor Refinishing Question (with pics!)

Postby MrGrady on Sat Apr 28, 2012 9:28 pm

So I'd like to refinish the floors in my parlor, foyer, and living room. They're hardwood with a pretty nice patina to them that I really don't want to lose. How have you guys gone about refinishing your old floors? I'd almost like to just throw some poly over the existing floors without sanding to maintain the patina. There are obvious traffic patterns that have some wear to them and are kinda rough.

Take a look! I'd love to hear what everybody thinks.

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Re: Floor Refinishing Question (with pics!)

Postby Texas_Ranger on Mon Apr 30, 2012 5:37 am

Honestly? I'd call someone with a drum sander and good references. Those floors have far more patina than I like. I mostly quit sanding floors myself as all the rental sanders we've had here left nasty patterns on the floor (weird 1/2" wide rounded grooves on one side of each pass). One DIY store has a new type of drum sander now though, so I might give it a shot again.

Now back from matters of personal taste to technical issues. Slapping down another coat of poly just might or might not work. Some finishes can react with each other and just bubble and come off. We had moderate success keeping our well-worn floors looking decent for several years using paste wax, even though it's absolutely not recommended to wax over a poly finish - hey, it worked!
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Re: Floor Refinishing Question (with pics!)

Postby MrGrady on Mon Apr 30, 2012 11:04 am

Texas_Ranger wrote:Honestly? I'd call someone with a drum sander and good references. Those floors have far more patina than I like. I mostly quit sanding floors myself as all the rental sanders we've had here left nasty patterns on the floor (weird 1/2" wide rounded grooves on one side of each pass). One DIY store has a new type of drum sander now though, so I might give it a shot again.

Now back from matters of personal taste to technical issues. Slapping down another coat of poly just might or might not work. Some finishes can react with each other and just bubble and come off. We had moderate success keeping our well-worn floors looking decent for several years using paste wax, even though it's absolutely not recommended to wax over a poly finish - hey, it worked!


I hear you, and don't disagree... I'm just worried they'll look TOO new if they're sanded. I have no problem attempting pretty much any task around the house, but I have zero interest in doing the floors myself.
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Re: Floor Refinishing Question (with pics!)

Postby Texas_Ranger on Mon Apr 30, 2012 1:41 pm

In my opinion old-growth wood won't ever look too perfect or new, a possible exception being bumpy worn wide plank pine floors - these do look odd if you sand away all their bumpyness and discolouration. An oak(?) strip floor like you have should look GORGEOUS with a good sanding and a nice oil finish (tung oil or something similar, those finishes really show the colour and grain of the wood).

Apparently one reason why old floors looks so great is the original finish, wax or oil. Some guy on the German old house forums told me that pre-WWII finishes deeply penetrated the wood and gave it character that's almost impossible to sand away and can't be achieved with modern poly finishes.
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Re: Floor Refinishing Question (with pics!)

Postby Neighmond on Tue May 01, 2012 12:37 am

If it is 3/8ths inch thick, be careful when sanding or you can go clean through to the tongue and groove. I see you have radiators, so if you take one of the grommets up around the pipes you can probably see how thick the boards are.
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Re: Floor Refinishing Question (with pics!)

Postby Hoosier Foursquare on Tue May 01, 2012 12:26 pm

We just (about 2 months ago) had our 110 year old, 3/8" thick oak, w/ maple & walnut inlay refinished and they turned out great! The floors still retain the "old look" with a bright and shiny new finish.

As noted above, you definitely want to do some investigating to find out what the actual thickness of your flooring is prior to refinishing. If removing the radiator grommets doesn't show you what you need to see, I would recommend removing (if possible) a section of baseboard, that should tell you what has been sanded and how far down you can go before reaching the tongue.

Out of our entire house, the Parlor had seen the most "old floor work". It had been refinished 2 times prior and this time would definitely be the last. We determined this by looking at a few border peices of the original flooring. If you looked at it from the side it stair-stepped down twice and only provided enough wood to sand it one more time before it would be junk.

Our guy that did our floors has been doing since the late 70's. His drum sander is a 1950's 220VAC model and still going strong. I think he said the only thing he had replaced on it was the maind drive motor. The sucker is so big that the motor and base unit seperate to make it lighter to carry! He tackled the bulk of the main floor are with the drum sander and his two sons got the corners with smaller hand operated sanders of the same era as the drum sander. They also used DeWalt random-orbital's and hand sanded some areas as well.

After all the sanding was done and clean-up was finished, they wiped down all of the raw floor with mineral spirits to get any grease or residual bad stuff up before applying the finish. I asked Ron what type of floor finish they used. He said back in the day they exclusively used "Gym Floor Finish" and had recently (a few years ago) switched over to a Sherwinn-Williams Oil-based polyurethane . The floors turned out great. I'll take some pic's and post them when I get a chance.
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Re: Floor Refinishing Question (with pics!)

Postby MrGrady on Tue May 01, 2012 2:17 pm

I think I'm going to have them redone. I have a local company coming over Thursday to take a look...

Logistics will stink... there's so much crap to move around.
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Re: Floor Refinishing Question (with pics!)

Postby Hoosier Foursquare on Tue May 01, 2012 9:45 pm

Good luck with the company.

Here are a couple of before & after.
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Re: Floor Refinishing Question (with pics!)

Postby MrGrady on Wed May 02, 2012 8:49 am

Oh nice!! I love floors with inlays... they came out beautifully.
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Re: Floor Refinishing Question (with pics!)

Postby MrGrady on Tue Jun 05, 2012 10:01 am

Just wanted to update folks on this...

We had the front foyer re-polyed. It evened them out, but probably should have just sanded them.

The heart of pine in the other hallways I had the guys redo is ok now, but what a disaster. I ended up going with a couple guys that could get there sooner that the more reputable company (per my wife's persistence) and it was a nightmare. They ended up renting their sander, it wasn't dustless, and I ended up spending two days fixing their botched work. There are even sanding marks in the planks.

Office finished-
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Upstairs Hall finished-
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I'll probably do them again in a year or two. Blah.
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