I recently moved into a 90-year-old home in Lansing. It’s been well taken care of throughout the decades and while it shows wear, it is in excellent condition. One feature did not fit in with our vision for the home, the vibrant orange carpeting on 400 square feet of the first floor. When my husband and I got the keys to the home, the carpeting was number one on our Honey-do-list.
The first day we owned the home, we ripped back the carpet, revealing hardwood floors that were beautiful….in the corners. As we exposed flooring further into the room, we saw all the years of wear with water stains, stuck-on carpet padding, and uneven treading. Our hopes of avoiding the refinishing process were dashed. Hence came our first Home Depot trip of many to come.
With the old carpet padding stuck on as thick as it was, we were concerned about how many passes and sanding pads we would go through to remove it. When talking to the rental assistant at Home Depot, he recommended a Dima-Brush to remove the old padding, dirt, and stain that was ingrained in the old floors. The Dima-Brush cost $100 to rent for the day and does not have any sanding pads attached to it, it has only metal prongs that will scrape up old materials on the floors.
Our second trip to the rental department proved a little more successful as we rented both a drum sander at $60 and an edging sander at $40. We started with an 80 grit sanding paper costing $12 each. As it got late, we decided to retire for the night and rent again later that week. Renting both sanders a second time, we finished up with the 100 grit papers and then 120 grit papers.
We encountered a couple hiccups when sanding, once accidentally running over the corner of our brick hearth, taking the red color to a sandy rust. There was also the issue of evenly sanding each part of the space, including a closet which we never got to match. Overall, the sanding process was physically exhausting, stretched over four days, and ended up costing more than anticipated, having to rent multiple sanders multiple times.
With the difficult sanding process behind us, we were happy to take on the project of staining. We chose a gallon size bucket and bought three lamb’s skin applicators as well as a brush to do the edges. We also tore up old rags we had in the home instead of purchasing new. In total, it cost $75 for materials.
After watching the YouTube video, “How to Stain Hardwood Floors” from a handy guy with a southern accent, we felt well-prepared. As instructed, we stained in small chunks, going with the grain. Instantly, our grooves from the Dima-Brush are apparent as well as the unevenly sanded spots. We keep going till the whole space was done and left for 7 hours while it dried. Upon inspection of our work after the drying period, we could see the difference of my staining versus that of my husband’s work, with little patches darker than others.
We decided that trying to correct the staining imperfections might only make things worse so we moved on to the next step. We watched yet another YouTube video on how to apply polyurethane onto hardwood floors and got to work with the $40 bucket we purchased and two lamb’s skin applicators at $6 apiece. This part of the process was the easiest so far, as all you have to do is throw the poly on the floor, then evenly spread it across the floor boards. Halfway through, we realized we are almost out of the polyurethane and might have gone too thick, so we began to apply a little lighter and even had some to spare at the end. We left again for almost 20 hours so it could dry.
Looking at the floors after the polyurethane had dried, we saw that a lot of little dents and scratches were filled in and were less noticeable. Unfortunately, the uneven staining color remained, but overall the floors look refreshed and pretty good. I don’t know if this project is for everyone; once price, time, and labor are all factored in. Between all the processes of sanding, staining, and sealing we ended up spending a grand total of $535 on materials alone. Obviously, this price is better than what you would be spending to have a professional come into your home and do it for you. However, had we gone with a professional, we could have avoided a lot of the problems we ended up causing. The deep grooves are not only evident to us, but to the next homeowners who will move in after us, and the ones after that. The obvious patchy staining and uneven polyurethane coat would not have arisen with a professional either. Another issue when you DIY, is the time it takes. If you are able to take a full three or four days (once you factor in dry time) of a weekend or time off work, it may be worthwhile for you to refinish your floors yourself. If the project is not cut-and-dry or you have doubts about your ability to do a good job, go to a professional! I cannot stress enough that if you have the financial resources, hiring out the job of refinishing your floors is the right decision every time. We have many professionals at the HBA who are qualified and more than happy to help you with your next home project. Contact a pro like Old to Gold Hardwood Floors at (800) 531-0449, for a refinishing job you can’t replicate.