Hardwood floor refinishing questions....

Old 06-16-07, 06:00 PM
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Hardwood floor refinishing questions....

Friday morning, my wife and I will close on a house we are purchasing. Our plan is to refinish the oak floors on the main floor before we move in. I've read several great articles on the web detailing most of the steps involved, but have a few remaining questions:

Which oil based finish to use? I don't intend to redo this anytime soon, so I want to make sure I'm using something that we can expect to last for many ears. We like the look of the oil based finishes better than the water based finishes, but haven't found reviews for the finishes anywhere. Right now, we are looking at the Super Fast-Drying Polyurethane for Floors by MinWax. Has anybody else used this? What was your experience? What other finishes have you used and did you like them?

I paid somebody to refinish floors at a house I used to own, and I remember them using some wood filler to fill the gaps and nail holes. Which of these products would you recommend?


Old 06-16-07, 09:20 PM
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You can go to www.nofma.org and click publications and download for free the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers' technical manual for finishing wood floors. Filling gaps between boards is not recommended because of expansion and contraction that will push any fillers out and make for an unsightly mess. Nail holes, such as from carpet strips, can be filled with wood putty.
Old 06-18-07, 07:40 PM
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Tips I've Learned..the hard way

I'm actually right in the middle of refinishing our living room and foyer's 50 year old white oak hardwood. Hopefully this will help someone, and hopefully someone can give me advice to the problem I have at this stage. This is my first time working with real hardwood, and by trade I am not in the business, so I'm sure alot of what I did was incorrect.

We pulled the carpet up when we moved in 8 years ago, and I did a basic light sanding/waxing at the time. The foyer had 2 layers of linoleum on it that we just pulled up for this project. We used CitrusStrip to completely strip away all the old finish, using a putty knife and a bucket to contain the residue. It took about 2 days to get it all off, and even the linoleum clue came up without a problem. (Hint: To take up Linoleum easily we found that using a heat gun on it and pulliing up with a putty knife worked great, fast, and no fuss. The glue stayed on the wood floor, but that came up with CitrusStrip).

After we scraped up as much finish as possible, I washed the floor with mineral spirits until I was satisfied that there was little if no stripper left over. At this point it was easy to see the many scratches, dents, etc, and I used basic white chalk to highlight high areas and a blue chalk to highlight valleys.

The foyer wood was pretty shot from years of abuse, and the final straw was my cat deciding to pee on the raw wood, so the wife & I pulled it all up and replaced it with new wood. It doesn't match the old wood, but we did a pretty good job of transitioning it, and for our first time we did a damn good
job with a cool design. I'll post pictures in a follow up post when it's all done.

From HD I rented a Random Orbital Sander that is not round but rectangular, a number of 60, 80, 100, and 120 sheets (about 6 each). I contemplated using a drum sander, but all I read (and was told by others) is that you can really screw your floor up if you don't know what you're doing, so I opted the safer way. Going over the floor and leveling it was easy since I knew that the white spots were high and the blue areas low. I went over the whole floor paying particular attention to the high spots using the 60 grit paper, and went through 3 sheets before I was satisfied. Then I vacuumed and looked to the low spots to decide if I should attack those; for the most part these were minor valleys and I decided to just go over the floor with the remainder 60 grit, then went to 80, then 100. All of this sanding took 2-3 days.

I picked up some Zar white oak floatable wood putty, and went over the whole floor with it to fill in any gaps, holes, etc. Let it dry overnight and then attacked the floor with 120 grit the next day, and for the most part picked up the majority of the filler, with the remainder being in the valleys. I attacked those with a Porter Cable hand sander, which was also used along the edges - it worked great.

Ok, now I cleaned it all up, prepped for staining. I wanted to keep to the original floor finish, so I did some research and found that in the 50's it was popular to use Linseed Oil as a stain, so that's what I used. It's a simpe application, however make sure the windows are open for ventilation, and wear a ventililator for the fumes. Once you apply it, have someone follow you and wipe up the excess, otherwise it will get gummy. NOTE: Linseed oil is combustive, and we made the mistake of throwing it into a plastic bin and setting it outside that night. I woke the next morning to a smoldering bin of plastic. Dispose of this stuff in a metal can only, or risk fire.

I was anxious the next day to start working on the varnish, luckily a friend advised me to wait 7-10 days for the stain to outgas. If you don't, once you put the finish on, it will bubble. So, the wife & I put down some cardboard where we had to walk, and waited 10 days.

Linseed oil raised the surface quite a bit, so I took my hand sander and went over it with 220grit to smooth & level, then vacummed, tacked, tacked, tacked, tacked. I didn't want to put anything else down on the raw wood (like mineral spirits), mostly because I didn't know what to expect.

We picked Varathane Floor finish, clear coat. I had to pick the oil base version, since our stain was oil base. I was told you need to keep the stain and finish the same base or problems will arise.

The living room is 20x25, a decent size, and the foyer is 8x8, so I figured on 3 gallons (one gallon is for 800-900 sqft, I bought extra because it was onsale). I found that there are 4 different ways of applying floor finish: Roller, Lambswool Applicator; Foam Applicator and a Brush. Oh yeah, and the 5th is have someone else do it

Everyone I talked to said the same thing - keep a wet edge at all times. I took this to mean, don't let one area dry before you get back to overlap that area. The professionals at Tom Duffy told me the Lambs Wool Applicator is their preferred method, using a "snow plow" process. You pour the finish on the floor, and push back and forth to cover your area, repeat until it's all covered. So, I tried this first. Of course, I didn't read the fine print, you are supposed to remove all the loose hairs from the applicator (duh) and rinse in mineral spirits (and let dry) first.

So, my first coat actually went well, I missed a few spots (or the wood absorbed the finish, not sure which), and did find quite a few bubbles and minute hairs. The wife & I went to Vegas for 7 days to let it all dry well.

On our return, I went over the floor with #000 steel wool, but I didn't do a good job, I should have used something a bit more gritty because the bubbles and hairs were still present after coat 2:

Coat 2 I decided to try the roller. Big mistake. Not only did it leave transistion lines, it left roller impression marks because I was never able to fully see where the wet edge was due to the previous finish being just as shiny. And, I noticed that the roller picked up quite a bit of wall dust as it was pushed and pulled along/to/from a wall, depositing on the floor. The good thing about the roller - a very uniform, even coat. With the Lambs Wool Applicator, you could tell some areas were thicker than others.

We waitied again 7 days. The instructions don't tell you to do that, but I've heard that it's best to give as much time to the drying process as possible to prevent gumming from occuring.

I sanded the entire floor with a 5" Random Orbital sander with a vacumm attached and 220grit, going over it lightly to prevent gumming on the paper. This took quite a while. I paid particular attention to any bubble/problem area, and didn't care if I had to sand down to correct it. I continually ran my hand over the areas I was sanding to make sure it was smooth. Again, vacuum, tack, tack, tack. Then I used Mineral Spirits to wipe the floor down to pick up any additional dust (which there was alot the tack cloth and vacuum did not get).

The latest coat, I decide to try the Foam Applicator. It's a cross between the other two, and really seemed to do a good job. Pretty even coat, went relatively fast. However I made the mistake this time of doing it in hotter weather, and it took MUCH longer to dry. It also showed signs of flow - where there was excess, it left lines that were much different than the roller ones, more like ripples in water. And, I didn't do a great job of covering the foyer, by the time I got to it I was getting weary and should have paid more attention to it (or done it first).

Here is where I am now. It's been 3 days, and I decided to begin sanding lightly to get ready for the final coat. What a mistake, I should have waited. Although the wife & I have been gingerly walking accross the floor since yesterday with no discernable affect, it's obvious waiting would have been more prudent. After lightly sanding again, I'm finding not bubbles, but more like think deposits that are not fully cured, and the sander caused them to gum up and they are very tacky. Much like a blister on your hand, it's feels fine on the outside but if pressured oozes.

I think at this point, unless anyone has any great ideas, I need to wait a few more days, for the stickyness to go away and attempt a light resanding and reapplication. This time I'm going back to the Lambs Wool applicator.

Hope this helps someone out there, and if anyone has any advice for me I'm all ears.


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