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Recoating a Polyurethane Wood Flooring Finish

One of the nice things about a polyurethane wood floor finish is that, when it becomes scratched and dull, you can usually recoat it without having to sand the entire floor first. paintbrush-3-inch

Whether or not recoating your floor is a possibility depends on a couple of factors: The existing finish must be polyurethane, and it cannot have a buildup of wax or other chemicals because these will cause the floor to reject the new finish.

You can determine whether your floor qualifies for a recoating by making a patch test on an area about 4 inches square. Though you can do this in an inconspicuous place, such as a closet, it’s better to test along a wall near windows, where cleaners may have collected.

1) Thoroughly clean a small section of flooring using a wood floor cleaner.

2) With fine (120-grit) sandpaper, lightly sand the area, working in line with the wood grain. Wipe away the dust thoroughly.

3) Apply polyurethane floor finish to the patch test area and wait 24 hours.

4) Check the finish. It should be smooth, not rippled or an orange-peel texture. Using a coin, scratch the surface with moderate pressure; the finish shouldn’t flake or peel away.

5) If the surface isn’t smooth or flakes with this moderate scratching, you’ll have to have the floor completely sanded and refinished.

Find a Pre-Screened Local Wood Flooring Refinishing Pro

Tools for Sanding a Wood Floor

Thinking about sanding your hardwood floor? You can rent these 3 critical tools for sanding a wood floor: drum sander, random-orbital sander, and edge sander.

sanding a wood floor adviceSanding a wood floor is not something to take lightly. Though an experienced do-it-yourselfer can often handle this job, think twice if you’re a newbie at home repairs.

sanding a wood floor

Think twice before sanding floors yourself unless you’re experienced at this job. It can be difficult and prone to costly mistakes.

Sanding a wood floor is a difficult job that has potential for disaster. A poor job can result in permanently wavy bumps or visible scratches on what otherwise could be a beautiful wood floor. Our general advice is to hire a professional floor refinisher unless you’re accomplished at this work.

Tools for Sanding Floors

Unless you’re doing a couple of small repairs or working in a tiny area, you’re going to need professional tools for sanding a wood floor. Three main types of floor sanders are available, as discussed below. To do a complete job, you’ll need all three. To buy these, you would pay thousands of dollars; fortunately, you can rent them from a tool rental supply or major home improvement center.[GARD align=”left”]

You will also need a heavy-duty vacuum for keeping the dust down—most of these sanders are designed to be connected to dust-control vacuums. Talk with the rental desk about a vacuum that can be connected to the sanders.

Also buy enough sandpaper for your job. The amount and grits you will need depend upon the size of the floors and the nature of the finishes you’ll be removing. (Ask the dealer for recommendations.) When using any floor sander, you will be working from rough sandpaper that removes a lot of material (20-grit) to progressively less abrasive sandpaper: 60-, 80-, and 120-grit to eliminate scratches and produce a fine finish.

Other supplies you’ll need include masking tape and plastic sheeting for protecting areas from sanding dust. You can buy or rent the necessary safety equipment: a respirator, hearing protection, goggles, and work gloves.

Drum Sander

Drum Floor Sanders

A drum sander is used for the first stage of a floor-sanding job. You stand to operate this very heavy upright machine. It rolls an 8- or 12-inch-wide sandpaper belt across a series of drum rollers so that the sandpaper moves in a straight line. On unsanded new wood flooring, a drum sander may be operated on a diagonal to the wood grain at first to flatten the irregular surface. But for refinishing and finer sanding, it should be operated only in line with the direction of the wood grain to avoid leaving scratches, skips, or chatter marks. To rent a drum sander, expect to pay from $50 to $75 a day.

Random-Orbital Sander

Random-Orbital Sanders

A random-orbital sander is used to remove scratch patterns created by drum or rotary sanders, in preparation for the final finish. In addition, it is used in small areas and tight spaces where a drum sander would be difficult to maneuver and on herringbone, parquet, and ornamental floors. This sander is also used with fine-grit sandpaper for “screen and recoat” jobs, where minimal sanding is required.

At the orbital sander’s base, sandpaper is fitted to a flat pad that moves in minute back-and-forth and oval vibrating motions. Because of these tiny movements, this type of sander is much less prone to scratch the wood than sanders that move the sandpaper in one direction.[GARD align=”left”]

You can get types with a rounded base or a rectangular base. Floor models can be rented for about $30 to $50 per day. For very small work, you can buy palm-sized models for from $50 to $100.

Edge Sander

Edge Sanders

An edge sander, or “edger,” is a smaller sander that you typically operate from a kneeling position. The edger is designed to work right up to base moldings and walls and go into tight spots where a drum sander can’t go. It includes a dust bag and has an orbital motion, like the random-orbital sander above right. You can buy an orbital sander for around $200 or rent one for about $30 per day.

Featured Resource: Find a Pre-Screened Local Wood Flooring Repair Pro

Cleaning Dark or Dirty Wood Floors

Expert advice on how to deal with dark or dirty wood floors, including how to test for the source of the problem and how to deal with specific finishes such as urethane.

Dirty wood floors that don’t come clean usually result from one of two things: The surface finish (Swedish oil, wax, varnish, polyurethane, etc.) has not been stripped in too long a period or the surface finish is missing entirely. scratched dirty wood floors

Test an inconspicuous area with a few drops of water—if it soaks into the wood, the finish is gone. If the water turns white, there is wax on the surface. If the droplets bead up, the floor has probably been oiled or coated with polyurethane or varnish.

The best way to prevent wood floors from getting this dirty in the first place is to use a quality cleaner on a regular basis. Be sure to choose a cleaner that is gentle enough to be used regularly without damaging the finish but strong enough to remove dirt and stains.

Use a commercial wood floor cleaner to strip away oil or wax finishes that have become discolored by ground-in grime. Dark stains in the wood may have to be sanded out using a professional floor sander.

Surface finishes like varnish and urethanes sometimes can be revived by buffing with steel wool or a special pad made for this (rental stores have the machines and replacement pads). If that works, recoat the floor with the same type of finish. If the dirt doesn’t come out, the floor may have to be sanded to remove the topcoat and then refinished.

Featured Resource: Find a Pre-Screened Local Wood Flooring Refinishing Pro

How to Fix a Squeaky Floor

Squeaky floors are very common in older homes. Wood floors creak when something—usually a board—works loose and rubs against another board or against the subfloor. Whether you have access to the area under your floor or not, we’ll cover techniques for reducing the noise from a loud floor.

 

How to Stop Floor Squeaks from Above

If you live in an apartment or have a basement with finished ceiling (meaning, you can’t view the underside of the floor clearly) you’ll be limited to the following techniques.

 

Use Dry Lubricant Between Floor Boards

Lubricating floor surfaces to reduce the friction caused when they rub together can be a great place to start. Especially if you live in a dry climate, the lack of humidity can cause wood floors to dry out slightly, which can make squeaking louder.

This is an easy solution but not always effective. Try working a little powdered graphite, talcum powder, or baby powder between floor boards and then cleaning up the surface. Work the powder in by stepping on and around the noisy board to generate movement, and see if you notice any improvement.

As an alternative, you can try squirting small amounts of wood glue into cracks between boards and working it in with a putty knife. Wipe up the excess glue and weight down the surface until the glue dries.

 

Fix Squeaks Beneath Carpeted Floors

If the floor is squeaking under a carpet, we recommend trying a The Squeeeeek-No-More Kit which can be purchased at Amazon.  To use this kit, you’ll need to:

  1. Locate the Joist by tapping a hammer around the problem area and listening for a dull “thud.”
  2. Load one of the waxed, break-away screws into the tripod assembly.
  3. Using a power drill, drill the screw into the joist as far as it will go.
  4. Place one leg of the tripod fixture over the exposed screw head and break it away at floor level. The screw will break below the carpeting, and below the surface of the wood subfloor. This prevents it from sticking up past the plane of the subfloor.

The following video will show you how to use the Squeeeeek-No-More on carpeted, vinyl, and wood floors.

 

Carefully Drive Nails through Flooring

If you can’t get beneath the floor, another option is to drive ring-shank nails (nails with circular ribs similar to screws) at a slight angle into floor joists, as shown below. Before driving them in, drill pilot holes so that the wood won’t split. Using a nailset to avoid damaging your flooring, sink the heads slightly below the wood’s surface.

(Note: If you re-sand the floor in the future, these nailheads can be troublesome because they may tear up the sandpaper on the power sander.) Fill the nail holes with wood putty colored to match the flooring.

Eliminate floor squeaks from above with ring-shank nails.

Secure flooring by driving ring-shank nails at an angle.

 

Fix a Squeaky Floor from Below

Stopping the movement of flooring components altogether is a more permanent solution to floor noise. To determine exactly what is making noise, go under the floor, to a basement without a finished ceiling or to a crawlspace, and then listen while somebody walks above you. You might have to remove insulation that’s under the floor or between the floor joists to gain better access.

 

Check for Errant Nails

Check for nails that have missed the floor joists and are rubbing up against them, causing a squeak to occur. If you find incorrectly-placed nails, cut them off with a good pair of diagonal cutters.

Also look for areas where the subfloor may not be nailed down with enough nails. If there is a gap between a joist and the subflooring, drive a glue-coated shingle or shim (a small wedge) between the joist and subfloor just tight enough to stop the squeak.

Insert Shims into Gaps Between Joists and the Subfloor

Creaky floors occur due to a separation between floor parts like joists and the wood subfloor. To fill these gaps, apply some carpenter’s glue to a wood shim (a wedge-shaped piece of wood), and gently hammer it in to the opening. Be careful not to push it too far though, you could end up creating a bulge in the flooring surface above.  If you find that this silences the creaky spot in the floor, repeat for other problem areas.

To clean up the shims, wait for the glue to dry and carefully use a utility knife to slice into the wedge along the joist line. Then simply break it off so it’s even with the joist.

 

Drive a Screw from Underneath the Floor

If the floor is still squeaking, you can try driving a short screw through the subfloor into the underside of the flooring surface. (Important: Be sure the screw is not too long or it will pop through the surface!)

Insert it through a fender washer (a circular metal washer) before driving it. It’s easiest to use square-drive or drywall screws and a power screwdriver or cordless power drill with the appropriate tip. You can also choose wood screws which are slightly less likely to break during installation.

 

Check the Bridging Between Joists

Squeaks coming from between joists may be caused by inadequate bridging. Re-nail any loose parts and, if necessary, install a piece of bridging against the subfloor to reinforce it, as shown here.

Nail bridging between joists to eliminate a floor squeak.

Add bridging for additional support beneath the squeak.

 

Nailing solid blocking between floor joists can strengthen support for the subfloor, reducing movement. If the joist is sagging and the subfloor is flat, cut a piece of 2-by-4 long enough to extend 12 inches beyond the gap on either side. Nail it to one side of the joist.

 

Tighten Flooring to the Subfloor

Finish flooring (the exposed flooring material) that does not fit flush with the subfloor can also be tightened from below. Drill a couple of 1/4-inch holes through the subfloor, taking care not to drill through the flooring surface.

Press the nozzle of a carpenter’s glue bottle into the holes and force glue up into the space between subfloor and finish flooring. Then have someone stand on the raised spot while you drive screws through the subfloor into the finish floor. Be sure the screws are long enough to grip the finish floor without going all the way through, and use washers to ensure the screws will not be pulled into the subfloor.

Another method is to pre-drill pieces of 2 by 2, 18 inches long, at convenient angles for driving 2-inch or 2 1/2-inch screws into the subfloor and joists. Partially drive the screws into the pre-drilled holes. Coat the screws with carpenter’s glue and power-drive them into place.

Find a Pre-Screened Local Wood Flooring Repair Pro


Reclaimed & Salvaged Wood Flooring

Homeowners who have environmental concerns about installing wood floors but like the beauty of oak, maple, and pine now have options due to a relatively new industry that is quickly gaining traction. Reclaimed and recovered wood floors are now available in almost every market in the United States and can provide a second or even third life for timber.

Reclaimed wood floors are loaded with natural character. Photo: Clay Gilpin | Dreamstime

Reclaimed wood floors are loaded with natural character. Photo: Clay Gilpin | Dreamstime

Salvaged wood can come from a surprising number of sources. While old barns have traditionally been a reliable source for reclaimed wood, this resource is becoming scarce. But, as demand for reclaimed wood has risen, companies have started to find other sources for the material and expanded the definition of reclaimed wood.

Today, industrial buildings slated for demolition, condemned structures, and even bowling alleys provide an increasing amount of reclaimed wood for the home improvement market.[GARD align=”left”]

Wood pulled from the bottoms of creeks and rivers is another source for flooring. In the past, logging operations often floated timber down rivers and creeks to be milled. During the process, a certain percentage of the timber would sink to the bottom. Until just recently, salvaging this wood was too expensive, but, as the demand for reclaimed and recovered wood has risen, some companies are now plumbing the depths for these sunken treasures.

Recovered timber from forest fires can also be salvaged and milled for flooring. Often this wood is stained or marked by the intense heat of the fire, giving it a unique look.

Though sometimes twice the cost of traditionally milled hardwood floors, reclaimed wood floors combine an aesthetic quality with environmental responsibility. Black walnut, cypress, redwood, cherry, and even the now-extinct American chestnut can be sourced, as can traditional oak, pine, and maple.

The look and feel of reclaimed and recovered wood is often varied and irregular, with natural knots, worm holes, saw marks, and color variations. Newer recovered wood can be scraped and stained (distressed) to create an antiqued look.

Whenever possible, reclaimed wood is milled into wide planks to highlight the age and feel of the wood. Though some reclaimed wood has tongue-and-groove edges, most often installation is slat style. Rough edges and gaps in the flooring between planks is to be expected (if not encouraged) to enhance the authentic appearance.

The SCS has created the “100% SALVAGED WOOD from Recovered Submerged Timber” designation. SmartWood is another third-party certification body that evaluates forest product operations that are reclaiming, recycling, and/or salvaging wood materials.

Find a Pre-Screened Local Wood Flooring Contractor

Reclaimed & Salvaged Wood Flooring

Homeowners who have environmental concerns about installing wood floors but like the beauty of oak, maple, and pine now have options due to a relatively new industry that is quickly gaining traction. Reclaimed and recovered wood floors are now available in almost every market in the United States and can provide a second or even third life for timber.

Reclaimed wood floors are loaded with natural character. Photo: Clay Gilpin | Dreamstime

Reclaimed wood floors are loaded with natural character. Photo: Clay Gilpin | Dreamstime

Salvaged wood can come from a surprising number of sources. While old barns have traditionally been a reliable source for reclaimed wood, this resource is becoming scarce. But, as demand for reclaimed wood has risen, companies have started to find other sources for the material and expanded the definition of reclaimed wood.

Today, industrial buildings slated for demolition, condemned structures, and even bowling alleys provide an increasing amount of reclaimed wood for the home improvement market.[GARD align=”left”]

Wood pulled from the bottoms of creeks and rivers is another source for flooring. In the past, logging operations often floated timber down rivers and creeks to be milled. During the process, a certain percentage of the timber would sink to the bottom. Until just recently, salvaging this wood was too expensive, but, as the demand for reclaimed and recovered wood has risen, some companies are now plumbing the depths for these sunken treasures.

Recovered timber from forest fires can also be salvaged and milled for flooring. Often this wood is stained or marked by the intense heat of the fire, giving it a unique look.

Though sometimes twice the cost of traditionally milled hardwood floors, reclaimed wood floors combine an aesthetic quality with environmental responsibility. Black walnut, cypress, redwood, cherry, and even the now-extinct American chestnut can be sourced, as can traditional oak, pine, and maple.

The look and feel of reclaimed and recovered wood is often varied and irregular, with natural knots, worm holes, saw marks, and color variations. Newer recovered wood can be scraped and stained (distressed) to create an antiqued look.

Whenever possible, reclaimed wood is milled into wide planks to highlight the age and feel of the wood. Though some reclaimed wood has tongue-and-groove edges, most often installation is slat style. Rough edges and gaps in the flooring between planks is to be expected (if not encouraged) to enhance the authentic appearance.

The SCS has created the “100% SALVAGED WOOD from Recovered Submerged Timber” designation. SmartWood is another third-party certification body that evaluates forest product operations that are reclaiming, recycling, and/or salvaging wood materials.

Find a Pre-Screened Local Wood Flooring Contractor

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