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Restoring Hardwood Floors

Make your old hardwood floors like new again by bringing back their original charm and shine. Here are the basics to refurbish hardwood floors to their original luster.
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Adrienne van Dooren’s living room before floor restoration. Photo credit: David Galen
Adrienne van Dooren’s living room before floor restoration. Photo credit: David Galen
The old adage “what once was old is new again,” also applies to old wood floors that are in desperate need of attention. Don’t rip them out and start from scratch. Instead, consider restoring and refinishing them. Most experts say that restoring hardwood floors is a do-it-yourself project, with sanding the floor being the trickiest part. With a little preparation and hard work, you just might find a hidden treasure.

“I hear many people talk about ripping out floors to put in bamboo and help save the Earth,” says Gregg Steiner, founder of greenlifeguru.com. “But if you have a perfectly good hardwood floor, restore it and make it beautiful. It’s already installed, you’ll save a fortune and you’ll be using resources that are already there.”

Adrienne van Dooren of Asheville, N.C., and author of the book, The House that Faux Built: Transform Your Home with Paint, Plaster & Creativity, bought a fixer-upper to benefit Hurricane Katrina victims and realized that she didn’t have to rip everything out and start over. Instead, she worked with a team to restore a 1940s parquet floor that was badly damaged by cats, water and paint.


Adrienne van Dooren worked with a team to restore a 1940s parquet floor that was badly damaged by cats, water and paint. Photo credit: David Galen
Adrienne van Dooren worked with a team to restore a 1940s parquet floor that was badly damaged by cats, water and paint. Photo credit: David Galen
“The damage was so extensive that two floor companies said ‘no hope, rip it out,’ but instead we sanded, bleached and used Modello Designs stencils to make the floor look like an inlay wood Oriental carpet,” she said. “We went from eyesore to stunning without ripping it out!”

Proper Preparation
Before starting, van Dooren prepared by reading up on the process of restoring hardwood floors and talking with experts. The project took only two days, although van Dooren did get some professional sanding help.

Your first step is to remove existing flooring that is covering the hardwood. Then, clean the floor with a standard wood floor cleaner, allowing it to dry thoroughly. Steiner recommends using earth-friendly wood floor cleaners that are non-toxic. Rich Morrell, brand manager of Cabot, says to turn off the heating and air-conditioning or it will make the dust and contaminates airborne.

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