How to Restore Wooden Floorboards

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When you signed the contract, you decided you would redo the floors in the new house before moving in. You expected a big job; you didn't expect the heart pine floorboards revealed when you pulled up the old carpet. There might be slight water staining and maybe some loose boards, but you're confident you can restore the wooden floorboards to their original beauty, with a little hard work, over a weekend. Here's how.

Things You'll Need

  • Hammer
  • Finishing nails
  • Respirator
  • Safety glasses or goggles
  • Gloves
  • Ear plugs
  • Extension cord
  • Drum sander
  • Edger sander
  • Drum sandpaper rough, medium and fine grit
  • Edger sandpaper rough, medium and fine grit
  • Scraper
  • Vacuum
  • Plastic bags
  • Wood filler
  • Putty knife
  • Urethane or polyurethane finish
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paint tray
  • 4 inch paint brush

Preparation

  • Examine the floor carefully for loose floorboards and protruding nails. Pound any protruding nails flush. Tighten loose floorboards by hammering finishing nails into the board as close to the original nail as possible; take care not to damage the wood with the hammer.

  • Remove the old finish from the wooden floorboards using the drum sander loaded with rough grit sandpaper. Use the raise/lower lever to ensure the sandpaper is not touching the floor before turning on the machine to prevent cutting grooves into the wood. Lower the lever so the sandpaper makes contact with the floor after turning the sander on. Work corner to corner in the direction the floorboards are laid, moving the machine constantly forward and backward, with the wood grain. The drum sander will not reach into the corners. When you reach the end of a row, turn off the sander; turn it around and work back the other way. Remember to ensure the sandpaper isn't touching the floor when you turn the sander back on. Repeat until you have sanded the entire floor and you have removed all the old finish.

  • Load rough grit sandpaper into the edger sander to sand the perimeters of the room. Hold the machine so the sandpaper just brushes the wood and work in a back and forth motion.

  • Repeat the process using both sanders loaded with medium grit sandpaper. Then remove the old finish from the corners using sandpaper or a scraper.

  • Vacuum up the sawdust and empty the vacuum and sanders into plastic bags for disposal. Check the clean floor for holes and cracks. Fill them with wood filler; smooth with a putty knife and allow to dry.

  • Sand the wooden floorboards with fine grit sandpaper, using both sanders and the same process. Vacuum the floor.

Finish

  • Pour your finish into the paint tray, and apply it to the perimeter of the room using the paint brush. Then, working towards the door so you don't paint yourself into a corner, apply your finish to the rest of the wooden floorboards. Let it dry.

  • Lightly sand the floor to remove any air bubbles. Repeat until you've applied three coats of finish to the wooden floorboards. Allow each application to dry at least six hours before you sand it.

  • Read the finish manufacturer's directions for final drying time. Urethane can require up to 40 hours to dry completely; polyurethane takes longer.

  • Clean up --- you're done!

Tips & Warnings

  • If there are a lot of holes and cracks in the wooden floorboards, use the putty knife to spread a thin layer of wood filler on the entire floor. Polyurethane is the more durable finish, but prone to yellow wooden floorboards. Urethane does not yellow and has a more natural look, but is less durable.
  • Protect yourself from sawdust injuries. Wear safety glasses, gloves and a respirator while working with the sanders. Do not turn on the edger sander on the floor; it will skip and gouge the wood. Urethane and Polyurethane are toxic; use a respirator, wear rubber gloves and open the windows when working with either of them.

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