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A Guide to Refinishing Hardwood Floors

You’ve spent half the morning washing and polishing your hardwood floor and it still looks old, tired, and worn.  If this has happened to you, then it might be time to give it a new lease on life…..


Refinishing a hardwood floor is not as hard as you might first think.  However, the key to success is preparation and patience.  Although a relatively easy job, refinishing can be a dusty and messy task, so take time to remove curtains and blinds, seal off all adjoining openings with plastic, close doors, and then seal them with rolled-up damp towels.  These simple precautions will make cleaning up the house a lot easier at the end of the job. 


To get the best possible end result, any repairs that are needed should be dealt with before you begin.  Scan the entire floor area, checking carefully for cracks, protruding nails and squeaky boards.  Squeaking boards can be fixed by driving a nail, at an angle, into the joist below.  This will draw the boards down tightly onto the joist.  Angling the nail will prevent the board from riding up again.

Boards that are badly split will need to be replaced.  Firstly, drill into the broken section, and then cut out with a jigsaw.  Ideally, the floorboard should be removed and rejoined at the center of the joist, to provide the necessary solid support.  To insert a replacement board you will need to remove the underside of the tongue, and then pre-drill the board ends, to avoid splitting and creating more filling work. 

Sanding and Final Preparation

The idea here is not to remove all the existing finish, but only to cut back the top layer and produce a clean, scratch-free surface.  For a large floor area, hiring a rotary orbital sander certainly makes life much easier.  However, the edges of the floor – adjacent to the skirting boards – are best done with an orbital sander, which is much easier to control. For tight little corners – around the base of architraves, for example – a mouse sander is the perfect tool.  When you’ve finished sanding, the dust must be completely removed. Do this by vacuuming, and then washing down the entire surface with mineral turpentine. 

Applying the Finish

It’s a good idea to check that your new finish is compatible with the existing one.  Determining what finish you have is not always easy.  If you applied the original finish yourself, you’ll have more chance than most, but if you don’t know what’s there at the moment, you’ll need to do a small test match.  Most floors are finished with an oil-based polyurethane finish.  If the new finish is not compatible, you will immediately see a bubbling, blistering reaction. 

Apply the new finish with a lambs wool mop, overlapping with each stroke slightly to avoid a ‘tram-line’ effect.  Keep coverage consistent, and avoid letting the applicator dry out at the end of each pass.  Keep the area well ventilated during the application and drying process.  Observe the manufacturer’s recommended re-coat times, sand lightly and then apply your second and third coats, following the same procedure.  That’s it! You’re all done.  Just take care not to scratch the floor when moving your furniture back in. 


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