Our New Old House

1918 Bungalow


Archive for the ‘flooring’ Category

Andronicus, stain not thy floors with blood.

Clouds and eclipses may stain both moon and sun but it was our job to stain these floors with Cherry Minwax.


But first, Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. (Does anyone else think that sounds a little dirty?)


When I did the front bedroom floor back in (omigosh) 2010, I applied everything using a brush. It was a small room and I wanted to be very careful about how much and how evenly everything was applied.


Ha! Remember that hair?

This time around I had a much larger area to cover and I also had help to keep things moving so we wouldn’t leave the stain on too long. We used wooly pads on the end of broom handles to spread everything on the floors.

Here’s the Pre-Stain going on in the bedroom. (Tee-hee!)


I still wiped everything by hand to make sure I got even coverage.

2012-11-05 21.45.23

We had some fun with the rag bag.


Then we started applying the stain a section at a time.


Once that was done we used basically the same technique to apply polyurethane. We used a variety specially made for floors. It was a little thicker than usual polyurethane (it looked and felt like maple syrup) and allowed application of a second coat without needing to sand in between.

Here are some more pictures of the staining and sealing process, in no particular order.

2012-11-05 19.10.27





Hardwood Floors: To Sand or Not to Sand?

A lot of deliberation went into my decision to sand the finish off the hardwood floors.

Once I got the carpet padding up, I got some help from a couple of experts in identifying what issues I’d have to consider. I knew that the floor had been refinished at least once and had been sanded very aggressively. When I removed the quarter-round trim from the baseboards I could see the original surface of the floor as it had been installed under the baseboard. There seemed to be a drastic difference between the original surface of the floor and the present surface. Whatever the actual measurement was, it made me worry that there would not be much left to sand before getting down to the tongue and groove between the boards.

I wasn’t able to get a very good picture illustrating this but if you look closely you can see a dark line just under the baseboard. That’s the original surface of the floor.

IMG_5818 Zoomed In

One expert took a razor blade and placed it between the boards at several points around the living room and dining room to see how far it would go in before hitting the tongue of the next board. In some places there was about a sixteenth of an inch, in some places more or less. It was very inconsistent. That led this expert to be very wary about the prospect of sanding the floor with a belt sander. He said that whoever sanded it so aggressively in the past probably did it to even out some “cupping” which means curving of the boards to make a wavy texture across the floor. They took off a lot of wood and didn’t leave us much to work with. He suggested removing the varnish using chemicals and only doing a light sanding before staining. He gave me a bid on what he would charge to do the chemical stripping and refinishing. I don’t remember how much the bid was but it was quite a bit more than I was hoping to pay, since it’s a very labor intensive process.

Since I have the skill to do it myself I thought about how long it might take me to do that but since I am only working on these things after my day job I decided I wouldn’t have the time to get the whole thing done if I did it myself.

Next I spoke to someone who is an expert at running a belt sander. I wanted to know how much the belt sander actually takes off if the floor doesn’t need leveling or anything. I hoped that just sanding enough to take the finish off and prepare it for staining would be possible with the amount of wood we had to work with. He took a look at the floor with me and assured me that with the right grade of sandpaper we could do what we needed in just two passes. One to take the finish off and one to smooth it for the stain. It would require a bit more detailed sanding by hand using a handheld orbital sander to get into areas that had cupped, but since cupping wasn’t a big problem, that wasn’t too daunting.

I rented the belt sander from Des Moines Rental and it came with an edge sander. They sold me a bunch of belts and pads for both sanders and promised to buy back whatever I didn’t use.

Over the next two days, our expert, Brian Smith, ran the belt sander while K.O. and I ran the edger and a handheld orbital sander. We did one pass with 80 grit sandpaper to get the finish off and then one pass with 100 grit sandpaper to prepare the floor for stain and sealant.





Because Brian went so easy with the belt sander, there were lots of spots where the floor had cupped a little where I needed to use the handheld orbital sander to get the rest of the varnish off. I did that detail work while K.O. did the edges and the corners and in three days or so we had the whole floor sanded and ready to be cleaned and stained.

Next post: “Andronicus, stain not thy floors with blood.”

The Last of the Carpet Pad from Hell

Remember the carpet pad that I painstakingly rehydrated and scraped up so we could preserve the floor underneath? It looked like this:


The reason I took such great care in removing the carpet pad but not removing the finish underneath was that I didn’t know when I’d be able to refinish the floors. Removing the finish would have left the wood vulnerable to stains and wear. I wanted it to be protected in the meantime.

I got nearly all of it done and then decided to buy an area rug. It looked like this:


But I knew the time would come when I’d have to finish the job. This time, however, I’d have a plan for refinishing the whole floor, so my methods in getting the last of the carpet pad up could be more aggressive.

Here’s what I had left to finish under the area rug:


I started back in with the rehydrating technique I’d used before (see “Carpet Padding Monster Meet Thy Doom” for more details) but since this was a high traffic area, the carpet pad was especially resistant.

I decided to bring in the big guns so I used Zinsser StripFast Power Stripper, a caustic 5-layer chemical gel that required adequate ventilation. Even that took multiple applications. Here’s how it looked as I removed the first layer:


Note the nitrile gloves. This type of chemical stripper gives serious burns very quickly. Do not try using it with regular latex gloves. Go for the heavy duty chemical resistant gloves with long cuffs. I got one or two tiny splatters on my skin above the cuffs and they started to burn instantly. Fortunately, it’s soap and water washable, so a quick dash to the bathroom sink and I avoided any real injury.

Once I got most of the carpet pad off with the chemical stripper, there was still some residue left behind.


I learned from past experience that the rubber content in the carpet pad would gum up sandpaper really quickly, so I used a heat gun to take up the last of the residue and the varnish underneath.


Once the last of the carpet pad was up, it looked like this:


Now I was ready to sand off the rest of the finish and apply stain and sealant.

But first, a little victory dance.

Kelli: 1, Carpet Pad: 0

BONUS: Before and after floor refinishing



Under Foot Part 3: Behold its Shining Glory!

Now that I knew that the color was right, I was ready to start staining the freshly sanded floor. I used some pre-stain conditioner first.


It evened out the finish on the wood in preparation for receiving the stain.


I started doing sections, a few boards at a time so I could make sure the timing was even.





The color came out beautifully!


I was ready to give it a protective coating. I used Minwax Polyurethane for Floors in semi-gloss. Here it is with the first coat drying:


And here are some photos of it all done!





Overall, it was a good experience! This room was my test room to see if I could do the rest of the floors in the house myself. I feel pretty confident that I can do the rest, so check back again sometime in the future when I tackle the big project of the living room and dining room floors!

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