“Review the floor by getting down on your hands and knees,” says Morrell. “Then, reset the nails to below the surface of the floor and fill any holes with wood filler.”
Another view of Adrienne van Dooren’s restored hardwood floor. Photo credit: David Galen
The floor then needs to be sanded, or smoothed out, but this is the tricky part because using a commercial sanding machine improperly can leave tragic results on your beautiful floors.
“Those are pretty aggressive machines that are better left to a pro,” says Morrell. “They are heavy and cumbersome and, if not used properly, they can leave gouges in the floor. Once you make one, there’s no going back.”
There are several sanding choices: Hire a professional to sand the floor or rent a random orbit floor sander, which, says Morrell, is far less risky. “Guide the random orbit sander in no particular pattern until all of the finish is removed,” he says “Take finer grit paper, and repeat the process. Then, go to an even finer grit, 80 or 100, to smooth the wood before finish is applied. Be sure the surface is completely clean and wipe the floor of sawdust and surface contaminants.”
If your floor is in good condition and just needs a new coat of urethane, you can also lightly buff the floor to remove the top layer before reapply. Liquid sanders are another option, which are poured onto the existing floor and eat away at the lacquer, leaving a residue that is just wiped away. However, liquid sanders cannot be used on bare wood and may have other limitations so be sure to read the bottle.
Successful Staining Before staining the floor, which Morrell says is a fairly time-consuming process with no shortcut applications, spend some time thinking about the color and sheen of stain you want. There are several options to consider, including sheens ranging from dull to satin and durable oil-finish or water-based finishes, which have a tendency to dry quicker. Water-based finishes may also take several coats of application before achieving the color you desire.
“The dull stains are more popular in the hallway and kitchen because they don’t show scuff marks as much as the high gloss finish,” explains Morrell. “The high gloss finish—or the wow factor—is really used on sports floors or where there is a low traffic area.”