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How to Refinish a Hardwood Floor

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Now with our number one topic question asked here at The Money Pit – flooring – we’ve got Jim in North Carolina. What’s going on with your floor?

    JIM: Yes, we have a house that’s about seven years old and we have hardwood floors on the entire first floor. And over the years, you do get wear and you get scratches and so forth. We used to own apartments and it seemed that when we had hardwood in the apartments – this is many years ago – we could go in there and we could just put a varnish on the floor and the floor would be great. But today, when I put the same type of varnishes – I think same type – on the floors, they don’t work. They end up, after you put on the varnish, that you can take your fingernail and rub your fingernail across the floor and they will lift.

    TOM: Are you using varnish or polyurethane?

    JIM: Polyurethane.

    TOM: OK. Well, a couple of things here. First of all, are you using an oil-based polyurethane or water-based?

    JIM: Oil-based.

    TOM: Alright. A couple of things. First of all, I agree that the polyurethanes of today are not as durable as the polyurethanes of yesteryear. That’s what happens when you take VOCs out of finishes.

    JIM: Yeah.

    TOM: The paints are actually getting safer now but, to some extent, they’re not nearly as durable; the one exception being the prefinished hardwood today because that’s done in a factory with an aluminum oxide coating. But for the rest of us that just have regular hardwood floors, not so much.

    Now, the exception to that is sometimes when you hire a professional floor finisher there are still commercial products available – the kinds that are used in gymnasiums and places like this – that are actually two-part finishes that, with the help of a chemical reaction, are far harder than what you can buy over the counter, so to speak. But if you don’t do it correctly you can also make quite a big mess. So one option is to have it done professionally. If you’re not going to do that then what I would recommend is the following process.

    First of all, if you have just a worn floor, you don’t necessarily have to pull all the old finish off. What you want to do, Jim, is rent a floor buffer with a sanding screen. That will take off sort of the upper surface of the floor. And then what you want to use is a good-quality, oil-based urethane and don’t brush it on but apply it with …

    LESLIE: Want to use like a woolly mop?

    TOM: Yeah, you’d apply it with a lamb’s wool applicator. Correct. And you sort of mop it on; work your way out of the room. You’re going to need three to four coats and that’s the best way to finish floors …

    LESLIE: And you need to make sure that it fully cures and dries between coats because if you go ahead and put the next one on while the other one isn’t fully dry or cured, they’re never going to dry.

    TOM: Jim, let me recommend a website for you that has somewhat more industrial products on it than what you may find at the average hardware store or home center. It’s called Duraseal.com; D-u-r-a-s-e-a-l. And there you’ll find some of the two-part products that we talked about as well as some of the products that are recommended for gym floors, for example, or stages and that sort of thing and those are going to be far more durable than what you’re going to be able to find at any local home center or hardware store.

    JIM: OK, well that sounds great. I will look those up.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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