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Sanding Tips for Hardwood Floors

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Talking floors with Fred in Illinois. How can we help?

    FRED: I have an older house with the 3/8-thick tongue-in-groove flooring.

    TOM: OK.

    FRED: And my widest crack is about 3/16 of an inch wide. I was just wondering when I sand this down, do I pick up the sawdust? Do I let it go into the cracks or what?

    TOM: No, you’re going to want to pick it up because it’s going to mix with the finish and make the finish really uneven. Now you said it’s 3/8-thich flooring?

    FRED: Yeah.

    TOM: It’s not 3/4? It’s 3/8?

    FRED: No, it’s the thin stuff.

    TOM: It’s thin stuff. Alright. Now, why do you want to sand it down all the way?

    FRED: Because the previous owner allowed (ph) paint splatters all over it and it does have a real slight unevenness.

    TOM: I’m going to recommend that you sand as little as possible.

    LESLIE: Because it’s already so thin. And especially if it’s been refinished ever before in its lifetime – I know it seems like with hardwoods you can refinish them as often as you want, but even they sort of reach a breaking point. So you want to make sure you don’t take too much off.

    TOM: Let me give you some equipment recommendations here. First of all, I do not think you should use a regular floor belt sander because it’s going to be way too abrasive for a thin hardwood floor. What I would like to see you use is a floor buffer with a sanding screen on it. A sanding screen – you can get a fairly rough grit on the sanding screen and you put it on the bottom of the floor buffer like a 60-grit sanding screen. What that’s going to probably do is that will probably be abrasive enough to cut through the paint splatter that’s on there. And you may have to do a little bit of hand sanding by yourself. But it’ll sort of take off the top finish. And I like it because you can sort of stand in one place and, you know, really not damage the floor. And once you get that surface down where you want it, you vacuum the whole thing very carefully; possibly even damp mop it. Let it dry really well. Then you could put a new finish on top of that.

    If you find that you need something that’s more abrasive than that, then I would rent a machine called a u-sand – u-s-a-n-d. And a u-sand is a machine that has four disc sanders – four six-inch disc sanders – underneath one large, square head with a vacuum attached to it. That’s also good because it takes off more floor material than the floor buffer with a sanding screen but not nearly as much as the belt sander.

    I would definitely not go with a belt sander because I think it’s going to take off way too much and if you use that thing and you hiccup you’re going to damage your floor. And I don’t think you need to take off that much. As long as you get that surface off, then you could refinish the whole thing.

    Do you want to stain it, too, or is it just going to be natural?

    FRED: No, I was wanting to stain it.

    TOM: OK.

    FRED: But I was wanting to bring it back as close as I could to the original.

    TOM: OK. Well, that’s why we’re trying to tell you to do just a little bit and not a lot. You want to do as little as possible. Once you get that surface off, you could do a stain coat and sort of rub it in, make it all nice and even and then put the finish on top of it.

    FRED: OK. Now the other problem I have with it is my ex-wife … (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: No, we can’t help you with your ex-wife now. (laughing)

    FRED: (inaudible) This is the problem that she created, though. She put down some self-stick tile.

    TOM: OK.

    FRED: And I have started with a putty knife lifting the tile. And the glue is still there.

    TOM: Yeah, you’re going to need an adhesive remover. You’re going to need a solvent.

    LESLIE: Ooh, and it’s stinky.

    TOM: Yeah, you’re going to need a solvent to remove the glue.

    FRED: OK.

    TOM: And that’s the only thing that’s going to do that. You know, you’re not going to want to scrape that up. And that’s going to be a real impediment to the sanding process, too, because it’s going to get really gummed up. So you’re going to want to use an adhesive solvent and I’m trying to think which one I would recommend. I think you’re going to need something fairly strong.

    LESLIE: Like almost even commercial grade.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Because that adhesive – that contact adhesive used for those tiles – is very sticky.

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    LESLIE: You keep in mind you want to sort of – even as you apply this adhesive remover, you know, there’s going to be a lot of aggressive peeling and sort of scratching at with, you know, maybe a spackle knife or something. So you want to be really careful with the floor. I mean you’re already going to be sanding it so you don’t want to create any deep gouges. So be cautious. And open windows.

    TOM: Alright, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    So, his wife left but just a little bit of her stuck behind.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) And I’m sure it annoys him every day. (laughing)

    TOM: Every scrape of the tile he thinks about her. (Leslie grumbling) (laughing)

    LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit.

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