The saga of the great floor refinishing adventure

Our floor had holes, scratches, dings, grey paint, and lots of Klaus pee… It was not in good shape. Something needed to be done. Ken hates carpet, so that wasn’t an option. Ken hates any sort of hardwood laminate or even engineered wood. I hate the cost of new hardwood. We were also uncomfortable with basically throwing away a perfectly serviceable floor just because it was ugly. What a waste of wood! So, it got refinished.

We didn’t want the piano to go rogue, so we had to tie it to the fireplace.
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Ken fixed the biggest holes by routing them out square and filling them with new wood.
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I spent my time ripping off baseboards, moving everything off the floor, and chipping the plaster from between the boards from the previous attempted fix. Please note, plaster is not the right way to fix holes in a floor. Klaus assisted.
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Here’s the colors we tried. We ended up using 1.5 cups of Minwax red chesnut and 1.5 cups of Minwax sedona red in 2 gallons of Waterlox (furthest to the right) to color the first coat.
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We used Waterlox, which is more expensive than the standard polyurethane. We decided to use it because it is a tung oil based finish and the idea is that it soaks deeper into the wood than polyurethane does. This accomplishes two things. One, it hardens that top layer, which is great because…soft pine. Two, hopefully when the dogs inevitably start playing together and dent it up, hopefully the finish dents with the wood, rather than popping off. We’ll see how well it works in practice, but those were our reasons.

The internet scared us away from using a drum sander saying you could chew holes in your floor easily if you don’t know what you’re doing and that they’re hard to control. So, we first rented a rotary sander, which was just a floor polisher with a grinding disc attached. While it had no problem taking the finish off, it wasn’t beefy enough to cut through the unevenness that the boards had developed over the years. This was the result after an evening of sanding. Not great.
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Incidentally, for those of you who might live in Albuquerque, we highly recommend Frank’s Supply. When Ken returned the rotary sander and asked for a drum sander because the rotary sander wasn’t cutting it (hehe, cutting it, get it?), they didn’t charge him for the full day we had the rotary sander!
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During the great sanding effort, we both ran the drum sander (which worked MUCH better than the rotary sander), and I did most of the edges with the belt sander. Which is not the proper way to do it, but it saved us around 100 bucks because we didn’t have to rent an edge sander.
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So I spent my entire day off sanding edges, and after Ken got home there were still edges to sand. So I sanded. And he did this. I have no idea what he was doing, but it was incredibly important and he claims he wasn’t napping. I’m not convinced. It’s been two weeks, and I may still be vibrating from all that sanding.
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After an extensive cleaning effort:
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The first coat goes on. Note that it is night. We have just spent an entire day finishing little spots and sanding. Imagine the exhaustion.
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And after all that work, we got up in the morning and the floor was a distinctively pinkish salmon color. It may not show up in this picture well, but it was definitely pink. Disaster.
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Happily, plain waterlox has a bit of a brown tint to it, so after the second coat the color started looking more like what we were anticipating. I believe this after the third coat had dried.
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Final finish upstairs.
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And downstairs. The shine will dull a bit over the next couple of months as we use the floor
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I haven’t yet totalled up the whole cost of the refinishing job, but we spent about $700 on the finish, although we had about a gallon and a half of Waterlox left over. We spent around $250 on renting the sander including all the paper, about $70 on buying little vibratory sanders, and probably $50 on sanding belts and sandpaper, and maybe $40 on the lambskin applicators. So, it cost us somewhere in the vicinity of $1100 to refinish 874 square feet of flooring, which comes out to $1.26 per square foot. The internet told me that paying someone just to sand was going to be around $3 a square foot. I didn’t investigate how much it would have cost to get someone to refinish as well, but since we wanted Waterlox, which needs 24 hours between coats, and four coats, I imagine it would not have been cheap. New hardwood starts at somewhere around $4-5 a square foot. It was a lot of work, but I think for those sorts of savings I’d be willing to do it again. Especially since now I know what I’m doing!

Since it’s just soft white pine, this refinishing job may not last for generations what with our 70 lb dogs and our propensity to throw tools around, but we’ll get what we can out of it. Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. That’s our motto around here.

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July 2013
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