Category Archives: Sanding and Refinishing

Refinishing Flooring Checklist – Top 3 Things

Here is a Top 3 Things checklist of some basic things to consider when refinishing a hardwood floor:


1. Do I really need to sand the floor or is a recoat an option. A recoat is a less expensive, no sanding and faster option that is appropriate for many situations. Finding out if a recoat will give you that fresh feeling is an important first step.

2. Select your stain ahead of time, but have the crew sand and show you a larger sample as they begin the job (at least a 4’x4′ area) so that you can double check your own choice. Larger samples in the actual room are often very different than small swatches.


3. Onsite finishing is not like a factory finish. Be prepared that you may see some swirl marks under direct lighting from the buffer that is used between coats. Set reasonable expectations going in. Although Swedish Finish which basically means site finished can be a great process it is not like a factory sealed environment.



Flooring vs. Feline

Q: It seems we have inadvertently turned one of our bedrooms into a cat box. As our cute little feline would have it, the carpet is now destroyed. Under the carpet was once beautiful hardwood. I had bought a nice Berber to replace the carpet, but have since thought twice about installing it towards its certain doom.
Is there something I can lay on top of the hardwood that can withstand frequent “spills” and daily mopping? Something that won’t totally destroy the hardwood underneath? (If not already destroyed)
Is there something I can use as a sealer / protector for the existing hardwood after its reconditioned? Like several gallons of shellac?
Your help and advice is greatly appreciated.

A: With wood floors, pet urine can do some pretty nasty things. Unlike normal spills of other moisture, pet urine tend to causes a blackening when absorbed into wood as well as any other warping issues. Assuming the floor is still in good shape once you remove the current carpet, you will want to have the wood flooring sanded down to prepare for a finish. Before applying any finish, if you wish to stain the floor, make sure you apply your stain.
As far as a finish is concerned, this will act as a seal to prevent moisture from getting through to the wood, but it is not fool proof. Even with multiple layers of site applied finish, there is still a chance that some moisture can get past the finish layer to the wood beneath. Now if messes are attended to fairly quickly, within a couple of minutes or so, then you should have a slim chance of any problems happening to the flooring, but if its likely some messes will be left for several hours, while at work for instance, then you might be better off looking into a product which is waterproof such as vinyl or linoleum.
Unfortunately, despite what is applied to the top of the wood surface, there is no way to make a floor truly prevent any chance of moisture damage despite sealing products and finishes – so if you will be having to keep up with your feline friend, your best bet is to look into a flooring option which is built to take this type of abuse.

Westhollow Cork: Labrador

Q: I recently purchased and installed your Westhollow: Labrador Cork floating flooring and need some technical advice regarding sealing. I know that sealing is not required, but from shopping several other kinds of cork flooring I also know that several manufacturers recommend sealing the floor once installed to protect the seams. Would you advise that I apply a seal coat for added protection? And if so, what – lacquer, polyurethane?
If sealing is not advised initially, can I reseal the floor later when/if it starts to show signs of wear? And with what?
Chris Rauth

A: Westhollow’s floating cork does not require sealing, which is part of why it is great for residential and commercial use. This being said, you will not need to seal it as the floor should naturally fit rather snugly together. In the future, should you see a certain amount of wear that you deem is more than desired, rather than reseal the floor, you will want to screen it an apply a couple of new coats of finish. In this case, Westhollow’s current finish is a lacquer on the Labrador, although more recent floors are featuring a UV cured acrylic. In this case you will want to buff away the top layer of finish using a 220 grit screen (sand paper) then apply new layers of finish. Typically you want to use the same finish as the one featured on the floor, but I would lean towards a water-based urethane, such as Bona Traffic, or acrylic.
Keep in mind that it should be years before its necessary to screen the floor, as cork is fairly giving when it comes to high traffic levels as long as proper care and maintenance is done on a regular basis.

Refinishing Bamboo

Q: Is is possible to refinish a solid bamboo floor? If so, would you use the same techniques as refinishing any hardwood floor?

A: Solid Bamboo floors can be refinished and you do the same process as refinishing a hardwood floor, but before you go ahead with refinishing let’s go over a few important bits of information for bamboo floors.
As with most floors which can be refinished, typically all that is necessary is to screen the floor and apply new coats of finish to remove scratches or dull appearance. This can be the case just as commonly with bamboo floors, but a note of caution is important here. Many bamboo floors have aluminum oxide finishes and when aluminum oxide finishes cure it becomes very difficult to get new finishes to adhere over the top of them. The good news is, Bona has brought out a product they call Prep that reactivates the finish, giving you a window to apply new finish which will adhere more effectively, even aluminum oxide finishes.
If your problem is solely at the finish level, so scratches, lack of gloss level, scuffing or marks, then you will want to screen the floor with a 220 grit paper, then add new layers of finish. If your problem actually does to the bamboo itself, such as dents or gouges, then a full refinish is in order. You will want to go through the standard process of refinishing wood floors, keeping in mind to sand in the direction of the grain.

Greasy Residue on Brazilian Cherry Floor

Q: We have a Brazilian Cherry floor that has developed an almost “greasy” residue on it. The floor is 4 years old, and has never been cleaned with anything other than Bona floor cleaner.
The floor was originally acid-cure finished (not our choice) and then it appears two coats of polyurethane were applied over that. We have tried everything from windex, TSP, acetone, lacquer thinner and naptha, and nothing will remove the residue. It almost seems as if the surface coat has softened and has become a greasy, smeared mess.
I have had a wood floor installer look at it, and also a mfrs rep for the finish company looked at it, and neither of them have any idea why the floor looks like it does.
Have you ever seen this problem and, if so, do you have any ideas on how to correct it?
Thank you.

I did a bit of follow-up to find out where this residue issue is occurring, how long it has been a problem, and where in the country the house is located, to help get a better idea of what is likely causing this problem.
Follow-up: The residue appears to be primarily in the high traffic areas throughout the first floor (kitchen, hallway, office, family room). Areas that are under throw rugs do not have this on them. Areas that do not have throw rugs but don’t have a lot of traffice like the dining room and living room, look perfect, like they did when we moved in.
We do not wear shoes in the house, but we usually have socks on.
We are in the Chicago area.
The home was new construction in June 03. The floor was site-finished with Synteko acid cure first. When we bought the house, we asked for an additional coat of finish because we have dogs. We can’t be sure, but we think they then put two coats of polyurethane over the acid cure.
The residue seemed to start appearing in about Oct 07. I had thought it was from a new detergent I used that maybe left a residue on our socks, but I stopped using the detergent and the residue seemed to continue to get worse. Everything we’ve tried to remove it has failed. You can actually take your nail and scrape into the surface and get it shiny again, but then if you wipe the floor down after that, it goes right back to having the greasy, smeared look again.
I would agree that it appears to be on the surface. I actually had a tech from Synteko look at it and he is the one who thought the surface coat is a polyurethane. He suggested screening the floor and re-coating with polyurethane. Quite frankly, after I read about acid-cure finishes, I was mortified that it was used on our floor. My wood floor guy isn’t real excited about trying to screen the floor and put poly over it, since he’s not sure how that will react with the acid cure.
Any ideas you have would be greatly appreciated!
Judie S.

A: You have quite the conundrum here, but there is a solution and some explanations. I sat down for a chat with Tad A., iFLOOR’s director of install, to discuss what is going on. Before we get into a solution, let’s do some background to explain the most likely cause of this issue.
Now if the polyurethane coats were added shortly after the acid cure Synteko was applied, this is the most likely culprit. With any acid-based or acid cure finish, you are applying a two-part compound which is mixed, then applied. Due to how this is made, typically a hardener and sealer as your components (Synteko is this with a high enough gloss to not require further acid cure mixtures, but rather just multiple coats of this mixture over time). This initial layer only takes a few hours to dry, but it requires 90 days to cure – this is critical! During this cure period the acid-base finish off-gases. If another finish is applied over the top of this layer before it cures, even another coat of an acid cure finish, the escaping gas will get trapped, meaning that it causes a orange peel like effect with lots of small dimples across the finish. In the case of polyurethanes which are applied over the initial layer of acid-base, this off-gassing can break down the urethane. This residue you are encountering is then, broken down finish which has occurred as the formaldehyde found in the acid cure finish continues to off-gas during its curing period.
To fix this, you can try to screen the floor and apply a new coat of polyurethane, but your floor guy should be able to tell right away if a screen is not enough. When screening, if the current finish layer does not powder, but rather stays greasy and gums up the screen rather quickly, you will need to do a full sand and refinish. Screening will save you about $2 – $3 per square foot, but your floor may require a full sand down to the bare wood, then new finish applied. If this is the case (and even in the case of a screen) apply new polyurethane, water-based being your best bet. As far as finish choices, I would look into Bona Traffic as it is one of the best water-based polyurethanes in the industry. Now the good news here is that if you only need to screen, a polyurethane will adhere to an acid-cure finish (once it has finished curing), so you can stick to a environmentally safe finish.
The other cause of this residue is typically due to environment. If you happen to cook quite a bit, especially if you do a decent amount of frying (this is common in the south), then greasy residues can accumulate on the floor, but typically the cleaning regime you have tried will resolve this. Another environment issue is climate while the floor is being finished. Overly moist environments can cause problems while a finish is curing, which can result in similar issues as to what is occurring.
Basically, you will need to screen, if not fully refinish, your floor in order to rectify this problem. Once a finish gets to this point and cleaning will not remove the residue, it typically means it has affected the finish itself.

Refinishing Parquet Flooring

Q: I have refinished hardwood floors before however I have never done parquet. The house we have just purchased has 20 Year old parquet that has never been touched and is showing the wear of time. I enjoy doing this type of work very much and would like to refinish the floor before we move into the house.I have read much about this but every one seems to have varied opinions. Advice and direction would be very much appreciated.

A: It is possible to refinish parquet, but it can be difficult. The big problem with refinishing parquet is that you have a floor with multiple wood grain directions, this means you run a larger risks of a sander marring the surface of the wood. Let’s look into what you can do to make this come out right.
First of all, keep in mind that patience is key when refinishing any floor, but especially with parquet. Unlike most wood floors, large drum sanders will get a job done fast, but there are problems with them. Unless you are a real pro and rather experienced with these types of sanders, they have a high potential to mar and even put gouges into wood floors. Big orbital sanders pose similar dangers; however, they are a bit easier to control than a drum sander, so the potential for problems drops some.
Your best bet is to get a smaller, hand-held orbital sander (especially one with the vacuum-like dust collector attachment), and put in a bit more time doing the work. With a small sander you have much more control and you can work to go with the grain direction to minimize chances or marring the flooring. This will add quite a bit of time to your job, but it will give you a much more controlled sanding.
From here, much like with any other floor, start with lower grit papers and move on to finer sanding. 60 grit paper is a good start, then move to 100, then 150 and finally finish with 220 before applying any stains and your coats of finish. Don’t forget to buff between each coat of finish to ensure proper adhesion and a smooth layer and you should be all set.

Refinishing Hardwood Floors

For May’s editorial we’re going to go into a bit of depth about refinishing floors. As the DIY season is coming around, many people will look into various remodel projects and other ways to spruce up their home. Many times, giving the current hardwood floor a face lift is a great way to freshen up a room.
Refinish or Re-screen?
Before beginning a refinishing project, it is important to know whether or not your floor needs to be refinished or re-screened. Re-screening is a process which involves removing the top layer of finish, and then applying new layers of finish over the top of the remaining finish coats. Typically most floors which receive any work only need a re-screening, as a majority of scratches or surfaces marks are only in the finish and have not damaged the wood itself.
In the case where gouges have occurred, or very deep dents which have effected the wood, then this is a more likely candidate for an actual refinish job. You may also decide to refinish a floor if you wish to change or remove the stain currently on your floor.
It is important to note that most pre-finished floors have between 5 and 8 coats of finish on them normally, this means that once you refinish them, you will never have a finish layer that is quite as long standing as the initial finish, as most site applied finishes are 2-3 coats. Also, most pre-finished floor warranties will be void as soon as you refinish or re-screen them, so keep this in mind before deciding to proceed with any refinish or re-screen work.
Re-screening Process
Re-screening a floor is far more simple than the refinish process. You will need to buff the floor using a 220 grit sand paper or screen to abrade the surface of the finish enough to allow for new finish to adhere to the floor. Before you begin buffing, it is highly advised to rub two piece of sand paper against each other to slightly dull them before going to work on your floor, this will help prevent swirls in the finish, layer. Using a buffing machine with 220 grit screens are heavily suggested here. Once you have finished abrading the floor, you will then want to ensure all dust is cleaned up. Any debris or dust left on the floor can cause major problems with the finish when it is applied.
Remember, it is best to apply multiple thin coats of finish, lightly buffing between each coat rather than a few thick coats of finish. If your previous finish is an aluminum oxide finish it can be very difficult to adhere new finis to the aluminum oxide – so use a product like Bona Prep and any adhesion worries should be eliminated.
Refinish Process
Refinishing is a bit more work than re-screening, but the methodology is the same. You will want to rent a floor sander and get a good range of screens, typically 36 or 40 grit, 60 grit, 80 grit and 100 or 120 grit. Most refinish jobs will only use 3 screens, but if you want to be a bit more thorough, use the 4 listed.
Before you begin sanding make sure to mask off all of the door ways (painters plastic or visqueen taped up along all door ways to corridors or other rooms). Turn off any heating or air conditioning circulation systems to prevent dust from getting pushed throughout the house. Also ensure you wear proper eye protection and a dust mask or respirator. Sanding a floor will produce a lot of dust and you do not want to breath this in nor have clean it out of other rooms. At this point lightly use the sand paper/screens against each other or some concrete, much like you do for screening, before you begin sanding.
Start by attaching the 40 grit screen to your floor sander (typically a drum sander) then evenly sand your floor. Make sure that you are not moving cross-grain with your flooring as this can mar the floor. Always keep the sander moving while it is active to prevent swirl marks from occurring. Once you have sanded the entire floor, make sure to use an edger if your sander can not cover the edges of the floor, then vacuum up any remainder dust, then move up to the next screen (60 or 80) and repeat your sanding and vacuuming process. Once you have finished with this screen, simply repeat the process until you have used your final screen, which is either 100 or 120 grit. If you are going for a natural finish, finish with 100 grit, if you are going to apply a stain to your floor, use 120 grit be fore applying the stain.
Once this is finished, apply sealant and stain if you plan on staining the floor, then apply your first coat of finish. Allow the finish to cure per its instructions then buff with a 220 grit screen. Buffing helps to lightly abrade the finish so that the subsequent layer of finish can properly adhere, preventing flaking and dulled or milky looking finishes. After buffing, apply the next layer of finish and repeat the process until you have applied all of your finish coats. Do not buff the final layer of finish.