Sanding a hardwood floor with hand-held sanders

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  #1  
Old 08-21-14, 02:33 PM
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Sanding a hardwood floor with hand-held sanders

I'm a novice DIYer trying to refinish a hardwood floor for the first time. It's a very small area at the top of my stairs. Since using a stand-up machine isn't practical, I borrowed a couple of my dad's hand-held devices - a belt sander and a random orbital sander. Sanding off the old finish is taking a lot longer than I thought - especially after watching youtube videos of similar devices instantly taking finish off. So my question is do I need a coarser grit or more patience? Since starting the job, I've gone coarser and coarser. Currently, on my belt sander (the more powerful of the two devices) I'm using 36-grit and on the random orbital I'm using 20-grit. It's much more effective than what I started with (120-grit) but it still seems like it's taking forever. Do I even have to go coarser (16-grit, for instance) or this just a really long job?
 
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Old 08-21-14, 02:47 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

Generally speaking, a belt sander is not the right choice, as they can remove too much material quickly. Hence, the random orbital sander is generally preferred.

How big is the area? I can't imagine this taking all that long unless something is gumming up the paper.
 
  #3  
Old 08-21-14, 03:21 PM
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Thanks for the reply, Mitch. The area is about 45-50 square feet. Approx how long do you think that would take if I was using 20-grit with the orbital sander?
 
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Old 08-21-14, 04:25 PM
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I've never used 20 grit paper, I would think that would be too harsh and removing too much material.

How long have you been at this, how far have you progressed and what are you sanding through?
 
  #5  
Old 08-21-14, 05:11 PM
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The bad thing about a common vibratory hand sander is that you should have good knees and a good back.

If it is old floor that has seen a lot of traffic, you may have remove many coats.

Dick
 

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  #6  
Old 08-22-14, 03:55 AM
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It's difficult to control a belt sander well enough to get an even cut all the way across the floor. It would be better to rent an edger and sand the floor with it, then do the final sanding with the orbital sander.
 
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Old 08-22-14, 09:29 AM
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It's hard to say how much time I've put into it because I've been working on it here and there over the past few weekends, no longer than 15 min to a half hour at a time because I get frustrated, thinking I'm not accomplishing much. I've attached a couple of pictures of what I've done so far. Regarding the close up, any idea if those streaks are part of the stain that still needs to be sanded off or part of the wood? Hey, I said I was a novice... Name:  IMG237.jpg
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Old 08-22-14, 09:55 AM
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There's actually a third device that I borrowed from my dad that I haven't mentioned because I wasn't going to use it until I had to do the edges and the corners. It's a Dewalt 1/4 sheet palm sander. I thought it was considered an edger, but it sounds like you might be talking about something else. Are you? In any case I've used it a bit with really coarse paper and it hasn't worked any more effectively than the others, unfortunately.
 
  #9  
Old 08-22-14, 11:48 AM
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A floor edger is a powerful disc sander that is capable of sanding close to the wall. Normally a drum sander is used to sand the majority of the floor and then the edger is used to get what the drum sander couldn't. I have used an edger to sand small rooms and/or hallways. It's probably been 10 yrs since I rented one and I don't remember the cost but it wasn't much ..... and should knock out that floor in short order.

You still have a good bit of sanding to to do before you get it all down to nice clean raw wood.
 
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Old 08-22-14, 03:52 PM
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Thanks - I think I'll take your advice and rent a floor edger from home depot. Considering that the orbital sander didn't make so much as a dent with 20-grit paper, what grit would you suggest I start off with?
 
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Old 08-23-14, 04:35 AM
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80 grit might be coarse enough for an edger although it wouldn't hurt to buy a couple 60 grit discs, you can always take the unused ones back for a refund.
 
  #12  
Old 08-23-14, 10:02 AM
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Thank you and thanks all.
 
  #13  
Old 08-23-14, 10:14 AM
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Not a pro on sanding floors, but just a comment. If you get tempted to get a full size floor sander, don't. From my experience they are used with the grain and should not be used cross grain. In your narrow configuration a walk behind unit would not fit. A 4" belt sander might help if the edger doesn't take care of the job. The pros are welcome to correct me as needed.

Bud
 
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Old 08-23-14, 12:29 PM
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Here is an example of they type of edger I referred to - Floor Edger 7"
 
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Old 08-25-14, 09:52 AM
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Thanks for your advice! Is it easy to use?
 
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Old 08-25-14, 11:30 AM
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define easy

It's powerful and you have to have a firm grip on it but it isn't difficult to use. Basically you start with whatever coarse grit you need and evenly run it across the floor then switch to a finer grit to dress it off. You might need to do the final sanding with your orbital sander.
 
  #17  
Old 08-25-14, 12:14 PM
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Take a scrap piece of plywood and practice a minute or two to get used to the machine. What you don't want is to make any gouges that can't easily be sanded out. Remember, course is leaving scratch marks that the next finer grit will be exchanging for finer scratches so step up to finer grits as quickly as possible.

Bud
 
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Old 08-29-14, 03:30 PM
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So I've gotten started and I'm really glad I took your advice because it's definitely making a difference. Now I'm getting all the way down to the wood. However, I still think that I might benefit from an even coarser grit. But the problem may be that I feel like I'm going through discs really quickly. Each one is lasting only 5-10 min. Does that sound right?

Also, because I'm going through discs so quickly, I ran out and got some more, but now I'm afraid they're not the right ones. They're not like the Diablos I initially got at Home Depot. The Diablos are much more like paper and the new ones are much stiffer. They're like these: https://www.airgas.com/product/Tools...NOR66623357278

Safe to use with a floor edger? Thanks again for pointing me in the right direction.
 
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Old 08-30-14, 03:46 AM
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Your link didn't work but the sanding disks I've used with an edger have always been fairly stiff.
 
  #20  
Old 09-05-14, 07:22 AM
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sanding corners

Using the floor edger, I was able to sand off the previous finish and stain and get down to bare wood. (Ended up having to go down to 36-grit, but worked nonetheless.) My latest issue is with the corners. I'm using a DeWalt 1/4 sheet palm sander with 36-grit, but not making any progress. Any suggestions?
 
  #21  
Old 09-05-14, 07:57 AM
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You probably need a little sharp scraper to get in the areas that a sander won't reach. Be sure to pull the scraper in the same direction as the grain!
 
  #22  
Old 09-05-14, 08:55 AM
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The palm sander reaches - it just isn't effective.
Do you mean something like this? Husky 14-in-1 Painter's Tool-DSX-G14 at The Home Depot
 
  #23  
Old 09-05-14, 11:49 AM
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No something on the order of this - Buy Carbide Tipped "Pocket" Scraper at Woodcraft.com
Most any brand or size will work although small is IMO better, you scrape off the old finish or dirty wood, then sand best you can.
 
  #24  
Old 09-09-14, 03:19 PM
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Per your suggestion, I've started a final sanding with the orbital sander. Not sure if this is an answerable question, but how smooth should I aim to get the wood before moving on to the stain? I've been going upwards from 60 to 80 to 100 grit. Sanding that way, it's not smooth as glass but it's definitely a good deal smoother than it was after I used the floor edger.
 
  #25  
Old 09-09-14, 03:31 PM
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I would test a less obvious area with the stain. Stain doesn't create a hard surface like you dealt with so if you don't like what you see you can continue sanding. However, stain will bring out any scratches, so you will definitely see how you are doing.

Bud
 
  #26  
Old 09-10-14, 03:47 AM
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Providing there aren't any cross grain scratches in the wood, generally a final sanding between 100-150 grit is fine enough. The wood doesn't need to be perfectly smooth at this point. If all the sanding scratches from the coarser grits are removed it should stain nicely. If you sand it too smooth the wood will have a hard time absorbing the stain. After the stain and first coat of poly has dried, you'll lightly sand, remove the dust and apply another coat of poly. The slick smooth finish comes from sanding the the poly.
 
  #27  
Old 09-11-14, 01:06 PM
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To stain or not to stain

I've completed the final sanding and now I'm debating whether to apply stain or go directly to the finish. I've read that staining can be difficult and easy to screw up. Being a novice I prefer to not screw up all the work I've already done. Also I read that some woods are easier to stain than others and I don't know what type of wood I'm working with. I've attached photos with the hope that someone could tell me or at least guess what type of wood it is. Regarding the last photo, I believe that those black streaks are bleedback from a previous stain job. Agreed or is it more likely pet urine? In any case, no way to get rid of them, right?

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  #28  
Old 09-11-14, 02:22 PM
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A few of the boards look like oak but I can't say for sure might be white oak.

It's likely that those dark areas are water or urine stains, sometimes they can be bleached out but I'm not very familiar with the process.

IMO staining is easy, the main thing is to apply it somewhat evenly and wiping off all the excess stain. Staining is always best done with just 1 coat! If the stain doesn't dry completely, the solvents in oil base poly can partially dissolve the stain and redistribute it while you apply the poly.
 
  #29  
Old 09-12-14, 10:25 AM
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I guess my concern is that because I've never sanded a floor before I don't know how good of a job I've done, and I read that stain tends to magnify any scratches. Based on the photos, do you think the wood looks nice enough to just finish or would you definitely stain if you were doing the job?
 
  #30  
Old 09-12-14, 12:17 PM
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It's hard to say from the pics I'd base whether or not to stain on the look I wanted. Scratches from cross sanding will show with stain more than they will with just poly. You might try wiping the wood down with a rag wet with paint thinner and see if that highlights any bad spots [while the wood is still wet with thinner]
 
  #31  
Old 09-12-14, 12:37 PM
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My guess is the same as Mark - looks like oak.

Personally, I would just apply three coats of oil based polyurethane and not stain - the poly will add a little amber to the color of the wood. You want darker than that, then you'd want to stain.
 
  #32  
Old 09-12-14, 01:09 PM
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The floor is quarter sawn Oak. It's one of the most appealing floors you could have.
The pictures look like red oak, but this is rare. It's more likely white oak with a little patina left in it.
If it is red oak, this is a jewel.
The black streaks are most likely water damage, especially if there is a shower to the right of that photo.
I wouldn't stain it because there's no going back. As Mitch said, oil based poly. You won't believe how good these floors look. The amber really brings out the difference in grain and is simply beautiful.
You will still see stained area. If you want, you can change out a few of the stained boards, but not all. If you change them all it would be too obvious.
My house was built in 1956. All rooms except kitchen and bathrooms are white oak. When I bought house, floors were all covered in carpet. I had floors refinished shortly thereafter and just couldn't believe how nice they looked. No stain. That was 16 years ago and I still get compliments.
 
  #33  
Old 09-17-14, 03:25 PM
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nails and staples

I'm going with the prevailing advice and just putting down semi-gloss oil-based poly without stain.

The sanding is done, but before I get to the finish I have to take care of a few loose ends and need yet more advice. See the attached photos. In some parts of the floor there are some nails with flat heads. Can I safely countersink them just as I would a finishing nail? Also, in few sections of the floor there are ugly, exposed staples. I can't see removing them without damaging the wood. So I guess I just have to leave them?? There aren't a lot of them, but still... Lastly, there is one board that squeaks. To fix, do I just find the joist and hammer in a finishing nail?

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  #34  
Old 09-17-14, 04:22 PM
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You can countersink nails and fill with putty. Same with staples (remove staples and fill).
Try to find a putty that somewhat matches floor, or a neutral color.
This floor can have imperfections and still look very nice. One thing, I don't want to open a can of worms here. You might consider putting down a paste wood filler. It fills any voids and also fills the pores of the wood. This is old school filler.
I'm not too familiar with it, I know it needs to be applied and wiped off with course rags before drying. Maybe a light sanding after that.
Check out info at link below.

National Wood Flooring Association | NWFA
 
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Old 09-17-14, 05:37 PM
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Thanks. The staples are really in the wood snug. Any thoughts on what tool I could use to pry them up? Why would they be in the wood in the first place?

Btw, I think the wood is indeed red oak because it has a pink tinge to it. Thanks for help identifying.
 
  #36  
Old 09-17-14, 05:46 PM
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That's a good question, I haven't seen a staple with such a large head.
Try to pry up gradually with screwdriver and help it out with needle nose or adjustable pliers. Use a thin backer against floor when prying, such as a thin piece of metal to prevent denting.

A Red Oak Floor, you're in for a treat.
Quarter Sawn White Oak is beautiful and what you have is even better.
 
  #37  
Old 09-17-14, 06:06 PM
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Here's a picture of my floor. White Oak, 58 years old. Finish is about 14 years old. It gets quite a bit of traffic and is hanging in there.
I really don't do much to maintain it, sweep.

Attachment 38466
 
  #38  
Old 09-18-14, 05:19 AM
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Try to find a putty that somewhat matches floor, or a neutral color.
Colored putty should be applied after the 1st coat of poly as they are best used over sealed wood. There is an oak filler paste that can be applied over cracks and nail holes, it gets sanded off when dry and then you can stain or apply the 1st coat of poly.

Sometimes it can be difficult to determine the species of oak. I've seen white oak that was redder than red oak and vice versus. The soil and weather conditions that the tree grows in has a lot of influence in both the color and the grain ..... but most any hardwood floor can look nice and wear well!
 
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Old 09-22-14, 09:19 AM
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I countersunk the all of the nails (those staples are impossible) and I made my own wood filler by mixing sawdust from the project with glue. I tested it in one spot and the application was smooth and the cover matched. However, by the time it had dried, the nail hole had turned black. Any ideas why? I looked into it and heard that can happen with a steel putty knife, which I had used. True? I suppose I should just buy oak wood filler instead. And I thought this was supposed to be one of the easy parts!
 
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Old 09-22-14, 12:12 PM
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I suspect the water in the glue caused the issue. It's best to either use a stainable oak filler before staining/poly or a colored putty after the first coat of poly has dried.
 
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