Refinish Wood Floors

Let's start the refinish wood floors conversation by eliminating the noise, shall we? You are among old floor guys who probably still have their ear plugs in, anyway.

We don't review any product that hasn't been on the market for at least five years, so that also quiets the discussion. Many products come and go that we don't even know about. We hardly look up.

The content of this section is an attempt at consensus among us and is not to be taken as gospel despite the fact that redemption of your wood floor is the goal.

Can it be sanded? Should it be?

Sand wood floors to the nails and/or joinery and you have effectively killed them.

SO, determine the wear layer before you start, (that's the amount of wood that remains above the nails,) because your wood floor may not have enough wear layer to sand.

You say, "I have a thick wood floor. Three quarter inch. The good old fashioned stuff." That's terrific. Your wood floor was probably built to last.

But even when it was new, it never had more than a quarter inch, 6 mm, above the tongue and groove. Two-thirds of your flooring, you understand, is below the nails!

Once you know your wearlayer, then you can select your floor sander, then your floor color, either natural or custom stain, and finally, your floor finish. Keeping the goal in mind:


"So, how do I determine my wood floor's wear layer?"

This requires some detective work, especially if you want to refinish wood floors that came with your new house. What follows are the questions you must ask:

What kind of wood floor do I have?

If it is a pre-finished floating floor, (each piece glued or otherwise joined to its neighbor, but not to the subfloor,) then case closed, because almost without exception, your wearlayer is only 2mm to 3mm thick.

To refinish wood floors like this means extra care. The visible hardwood veneer is glued to plywood or some other scrubby material as a backer or substrate.

First, consider single-board replacement(s) if the issue is a dent here or there AND you were smart enough to save a few boards from the original installation.

Then, sand only what is necessary using a rotary or orbital type machine that tends to be less aggressive than continuous belt machines or split drums.

Refinish wood floors with a thin veneer, (2mm or 3 mm,) using a thin, supple, yet resilient floor coating or a hardening oil instead of a coating. Why?

Because the hardwood will delaminate from that substrate when sanded and refinished with a fat polyurethane, (as opposed to thin.)

Fat finishes cover 350 to 400 feet per square foot. You can check the can for these coverage rate numbers.

Fat poly's are never a good idea for any wood floor. I know that seems counter-intuitive, but they resist a wood floor's ability to breathe from side to side.

These finishes harden to a plastic shell. Resilient, yes, but as polys cure from liquid to solid they pull laterally, across the boards, and this is what pops the veneer--not on the tongue side, but the groove side.

So, instead of 350 to 400 square feet of coverage per gallon, look for 600 to 800. Thin polys also harden to a plastic, but the acrylic in them provides

plenty of elasticity and is less likely to delaminate engineered hardwood floors or panelize solid hardwood floors, as long as you apply no more than three coats, initially.

Do not overlook switching to a hardening oil like Monocoat.

If your wood floor is solid, then, chances are it was nailed down or possibly glued.

If shiny nails are visible, then your detective eyes have spied the tell tale sign of a dead wood floor. Replace or cover

and tell all your friends that you wish you would have found this website sooner.

If no nails are visible, but each board's edge is micro-beveled, then here again, your detective work is over. To refinish wood floors made this way, you must sand down to the bottom of each microbevel for an even appearance and color.

What's left is a wearlayer 3 mm thick or less.

Delamination won't be your issue, of course, but panelizing will. So here, again, avoid fat finishes.

Still stumped? Cold case, have you? Well can you get a side view, a profile perspective of the floor? Your vantage point would be a supply or return air duct, an electrical outlet, or gravity heat opening.

If not, then how far do you want to take this, Columbo? Because as a last resort you could always resort to removing a sacrificial board from an inconspicuous place...

At this point, doesn't calling a professional sound pretty good? Not a professional salesman, but a journeyman from

The Floorwrights, Local accredited by The Wood Floor Conservancy's School of Lower Learning?

Again, the concern here is that wood floors can only be sanded so many times.

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