How to refinish hardwood floors (Part 1-Sanding)

The day has finally arrived!  My 1920’s duplex I have been laboring over for MONTHS now is finally ready to have its floors restored!!!   The original hardwoods are luckily in pretty decent condition with a few areas where the finish has completely worn off.  In order to renew the finish and restore the floors to their full beauty potential, I must first sand the old finish.   ** Disclaimer ** I have never attempted to refinish a floor before.  I’ve refinished furniture, sure, but floors?  What do I have to lose??  I hope I do not eat those words!

Belt Sander from Home Depot

Step 1:  Tool Rental

Home Depot thankfully rents large tools that would normally cost the regular weekend do-it-yourselfers a small fortune to buy the same.  For 4 hours and $32, I rented a belt sander which comes with a large dust collection bag.  I also purchased a 60 grit belt and a 100 grit sandpaper belt for $9.97 each.   The tool rental people will ensure that it works before you leave and demonstrates how you will operate the tool and how to install the sandpaper.  In this case, it is very easy since you simply slide the belts right on the sanding drum on the sander, no tools required.

First swipe-Bedroom

Step 2:  Sanding first swipe

Using the courser sandpaper first, start on one side of the room and work your way across, always sanding with the grain.  The sander has a handle that you can use to raise and lower the sanding drum while you maneuver the sander to each new row; *TIP* I did not do this at first and began noticing some unevenness in my sanding pattern so once I began raising and lowering the drum as I moved, it did much better.

2nd Swipe-the floor looks much more even

Step 3:  Sanding second swipe

Once the room is finished with the first swipe, change to the lower grit sandpaper belt.  Follow the same steps as above and you will notice that some of the unevenness is now easier to make disappear.

Living room-before sanding; surface scratches disappear!
Living room-after second swipe

Step 4:  Sanding the edges

Upon my tool return, I inquired about the next step, edging.  Unfortunately, the gentleman explained that most people actually begin with the edges so that any imperfections can be concealed with the larger belt sander.  Just my luck!  Instead of renting a large orbital sander that may cause round sanding marks, I purchased a smaller 4″ handheld belt sander for $40 that I plan to use to go straight down the edges.  I will use my hand sander to get into the corners.

After I sand the edges, my next step will be applying the new stain, so I hope you come back to see the finished results.   I must say, having spent 3 1/2 hours to sand 700 SF, it went fast and was very easy. I would definitely rate this job an easy one for a do-it-yourselfer.


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