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Finish won't sand off

Rachael Silva's Avatar

Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 1

09-08-13, 01:18 PM   #1  
Finish won't sand off

My husband and I just bought a house. About 800 square feet downstairs is 3/4 solid hardwood. When we purchased the home, the hardwoods had some significant scratches and divots, so we decided to refinish them before we moved in. It was a bank-owned foreclosure, so we didnt know what type of finish was used. My husband attempted using a drum sander, which removed the finish, but we soon learned why they're used nearly exclusively by professionals...it got through the finish, but if you stopped moving at all, it beveled into the wood. Rental shop suggested an orbital sander, so we traded for that- it has an 18x20 pad and is about 100 pounds. We tried 60 grit and it barely touched the finish. We're clear down to 20 grit and its not removing the finish. We did a little research online that suggested a chemical assistance to removing it...we've attempted varnish remover, denatured alcohol, lacquer thinner, and multi-surface refinisher (supposed to remove poly, shellac, lacquer and varnish). We also attempted hand-held belt sanders, which had next to no affect. Any suggestions on techniques, tools, how to identify the finish (and, subsequently, techniques and tools for they type).... Anything?

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marksr's Avatar
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09-08-13, 01:28 PM   #2  
Welcome to the forums!

An orbital sander should sand just as well as a drum sander - just slower, not sure why it's not working for you. I'm not fond of using a chemical stripper on a large area like the floor .... and it still needs to be sanded afterwards. Have you checked to see what a pro would charge to sand the floor for you?

retired painter/contractor avid DIYer

GregH's Avatar
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09-08-13, 02:24 PM   #3  
You say an orbital sander "barely touched the surface" but it is possible there is a reason for that.
An orbital sander is the slowest of any floor refinishing tools and if your floor is fairly uneven it will bog down in trying to make the floor true.
An example is the spots that the drum sander gouged out.

Those sanding pads, even 60 grit have a very short amount of time sanding before the grit stops working.
We did a maple floor when we purchased our current home and went through an enormous amount of sand paper.
As the floor levelled out the sanding sheets lasted longer but when we started we barely got 5 minutes out of one sheet before material removal slowed to a crawl.
You could actually hear a change in pitch when material removal slowed significantly.

I think Mark has the right idea in that a pro would come in and do the whole floor in a couple of hours.
Likely for less cost than what you would pay for the rental and all the sanding sheets you will need to make the floor perfectly flat.

GregH.........HVAC/R Tech

chandler's Avatar
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09-08-13, 02:51 PM   #4  
And please discontinue the use of flammable liquids around a motor that has arcing brushes in it? Talk about a bad day

wildbill7145's Avatar

Join Date: Nov 2008
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09-08-13, 05:00 PM   #5  
20 grit must be like gravel glued to paper, I've never even seen that. I can't imagine any finish that could hold up to that kind of abuse. 60 grit should grind through anything, but you would go through a mountain of pads/belts/whatever when the stuff heats up and gums up.

illegalsmile's Avatar

Join Date: Jul 2012
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09-11-13, 08:43 AM   #6  
At this point do what Mark suggests and have the pro at least sand it to a finish level. Drum sanders can be tricky though you learn quickly, especially over 800sqft. You can see my post but I used 20 grit over ~3!! passes, any divots you make are generally around the edges and can be sanded out with an edger or hand sander. 60grit is a finish grit and is not used for removing anything other than 36grit marks IMO or as a starting grit on new unfinished floors though even then i'd still hit it with ROS 36grit and then move up to 60.

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