The Floor // Wood Floor Refinishing // The Neverending Story


We've redone floors before.  Remember this?  How these gorgeous oak floors polished up like nobody's business in record time?  Well, we were expecting something of the same results this time.  We were waaaaaay wrong.  Crazy wrong.  Absurdly wrong.

Our first problem was the oh-so-awful blue carpet that was super stinky.  Remember this post?  We had a bit of a mess on our hands.  After removing the carpet and dealing with the mold, we found a few other problems.  Mainly, weird holes, bad patch jobs, and the finish in general.
First, we patched wood - a lot of wood.  We found a man on Craigslist selling the exact same flooring as we had (4 in or so wide southern yellow pine) that he had torn out of a school built around 1900.  We purchased enough from him to fill the holes and blend some of the bad patches in.  What we hadn't realized though, is that the wood we bought was waxed.  It came out of a school - so that makes sense.  The other thing we hadn't realized was that our own floor had been waxed - but only in certain areas
There's this thing about floor wax:  some people love it and some people hate it.  I'm definitely in the hate it category.  I have furniture wax in my cupboard, but only for very special antiques which have been waxed their whole lives and need to keep their lovely patinas.  But there's no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks I'd let anyone near my wood floors with floor wax.
When you wax wood floors it is basically saying you're never going to refinish your wood floors again - just going to keep adding wax.  While ideally, this could work, but people seldom keep up waxed floors, the wax fails, and the floor needs to be refinished.  When this happens the wax needs to be stripped, then the floor cleaned, sanded, and refinished.  Had we been smarties and tested the finish for wax, we could have done it the "easy" way and stripped them first.   Buuuuuut, we didn't.
From what I can surmise, our floors were part waxed, part varnished, party polyurethane-ed, and part raw wood. Goodie.
So, with joy in our eyes and excitement in our steps, we headed off to Home Depot to rent the floor sander. 
We hauled it home and excitedly plugged it in to the wall, slapped a sanding pad on and got to work in the library.  The library sanded off like butter and peas, and we were so excited to get on with the whole floor.
However, once we slid in to the living room, we realized something was very wrong.  The pads started lasting shorter amounts of time and getting these large gooey globs on them.  This wasn't what normal varnish or poly does!  So, we just kept switching pads and sanding away.   It felt like the sander wasn't doing anything.  Heck, it looked like the sander wasn't doing anything.  In fact, I'm pretty sure it just plain old wasn't doing anything.  We sanded until 3 in the morning, went to bed hoping it would look better, aaaaand, nope.  Still looked like crap:
In leui of driving 45 minutes to Home Depot to buy more sanding pads and rent the sander for another day - we just returned it and bought them out of sanding belts for our hand-held belt sander.  We also bought a $20 palm sander (which I can't believe I didn't have before mudding and sanding THE ENTIRE FIRST FLOOR).  The man hand-sanded the entire floor.  I did the touch up with the little palm sander, and a week later, we finally had it sanded well enough to call it quits.
We decided to go dark with the stain, mainly because that is the color the old varnish had turned to and we really liked it.  Another reason was to cover up stains and areas were we couldn't get all the dark finish off.  The dark stain was Dark Mahogany by Minwax.  I think it really helped to bring out the natural grain and color of the pine without looking like a gym floor.  We decided to go with an oil-based finish this time.  Last time we refinished a floor, we did a water-based poly in satin.  I really liked how it looked on unstained oak - but this floor needed the oils to bring out deep, rich warmth.

Once I actually have the house clean and floor swept, I'll have pictures of the whole thing - but until then, enjoy the little sneak peak!

Moral of the Story:
Before starting anything figure out what you're up against and get the right tools to kick its bum.