Best Hardwood Floor Finish for Oak
LESLIE: Heading out to Iowa where Andrew has got a question about a wood floor. Tell us what you’re working on.
ANDREW: My fiancée and I just sanded our floors and we are getting ready to put down some product on our floor. And I just wanted to know what kind of product I should be using. It’s probably an oak floor.
TOM: That’s a great project, Andrew. There are choices to be made now. Did you have a finish on this floor before?
ANDREW: It did. It was a reddish tint.
ANDREW: So it’s still showing through a little bit. We didn’t take it all the way down to bare wood.
TOM: What did you use to sand it with?
ANDREW: It was a machine that had – it was like a giant hand-sander, basically. It had a handle on it and a big sheet of sandpaper on it. It took down the old varnish that was on it.
TOM: OK. So was it a belt sander where the big, white belt spins around or was it more of sort of like a vibrating sander?
ANDREW: It was a vibrating sander.
TOM: Alright. So here’s the thing. This floor was stained before and I’m concerned that if you just put a clear finish on it – if you’re happy with the look of the floor, right now, with a little bit of the red showing through, then you can just put a clear finish on it. But if you’re not, it gets a little bit tricky because to try to add more of that color in, it’s hard to get the exact same color. And you would almost probably have to go a couple of steps darker. And then you may have some issues about some areas have more of the old varnish on it than other areas and they’re going to absorb differently.
So, it’s a little more difficult to refinish a floor like you’ve done if it had stain on it. Now, if it didn’t have stain on it and you’re just sort of sanding off the varnish and you’re putting a fresh coat of varnish, you don’t have the issue.
The issue that you might have is, because it was stained before, you might have some of that blotchy color coming through. If you have stain on a floor, generally, you can’t use that type of approach to sand it. You have to use the belt-sander approach, which is a big machine with a very wide belt that you should not do yourself. Because if you sneeze while using this thing, you’ll just ruin the floor. It’s a very hard machine to use as a do-it-yourselfer. It’s really something a pro has to use all the time.
So the first question you have to kind of ask yourselves is: are you happy with the look of the floor? If you reseal it and finish it just like it is, if that’s going to work for you guys. And if it is, what I would do is I would put on at least three coats of oil-based polyurethane or solid, solvent-based polyurethane. Do not use the water-based products – the acrylic-based products – because they’re just not durable enough. They’re great on doors and trim and furniture but on floors, I would always use the oil-based product.
Now, you apply it, not with a brush but with something called a “lambswool applicator.” And basically, it’s kind of like a mop on a stick. And you dip – so dip it into a tray of this urethane, then you sort of mop it on and work your way out of the room and then find something else to do for at least a half a day, maybe even longer to let it dry really, really well. If it’s the least bit tacky, do not put second coats on it. This may take a couple of days, depending on the humidity level. Wait until it’s really, super dry.
If you try to recoat it and it’s still tacky, it has even a harder time drying the next time around. So make sure it’s super dry before you put the next coat on. And about three coats of that, try to stay off of it as much as you can for the first month or so. And by that, I mean don’t drag the furniture around, put some pieces of carpet or something underneath the legs. Just try and treat it gingerly because it does take a while for it to really, really harden. And you’ll be good to go.
ANDREW: Great. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.