Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How We Refinished Our Painted Hardwood Floors

I figure, while I’m not finishing the fireplace, I should go back and tell you a little bit about other things we’ve done to our house so far.

Refinishing our hardwood floors was one of the best updates we've done to the house, and it was all lucky happenstance.

Refinishing Hardwood Floors

When we bought the house, it was carpeted with some dingy old berber. (Was it really berber?) We'd only seen the house at the initial showing and the home inspection, and we already had big plans for various updates, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with the floors. Get new hardwood installed? Expensive. Put down new carpet? That we might only want to tear up again later? Find another alternative hard surface? I spent many many days on the internet researching flooring prices and products.

So imagine our amazement, astonishment, and surprise, when we peeked under the carpeting, and found hardwood! It was all marred up and absolutely painted, but it was hardwood!! I was so excited.

We were kind of jerks and made Grandpa help us tear up the carpeting.
We were kind of jerks and made Grandpa help us tear up the carpeting. :)

Our painted hardwood
Here is the hardwood floor, in all its painted glory.

But on to more research: to refinish it ourselves? To hire it out? And what products to use? We've got 2 dogs and I am not one to every be "worried" about floors. Floors get walked on; I don't want to be having a minor heart attack about the finish every time that happens.

I talked to my mom's neighbor, did more internet research, and started to decide that we could do it ourselves. But then, what kind of finish to use? Again, there were so many possibilities.  I'm pretty sure I Googled something like "dog friendly hardwood finish". I definitely referenced dogs. Because you know, there were all those Pergo commericials (was it Pergo?) about the dog's claws not being able to scratch the finish. (Except we'd had Pergo before and my dog couldn't sit on it. He kept sliding down into a laying position. And his nails made an awful hollow, echoing clicking on it.)  And that's where I found Waterlox.

Waterlox

If I could talk to you about Waterlox all day long, I would. It's amazing. And now, we've had the floors for 2 years with 2 dogs, a cat, and 2 messy people, so I can feel I can speak to its durability and longevity. It was amazingly easy to apply. And I've actually already had to touch up some places and add extra coats to our kitchen counters (all due to my actions, not the failing of the Waterlox) and I can tell you that the touch up is just as easy as they claim.

Maybe I should just do another post on Waterlox. :) But really, Waterlox.com and PaintSource.net will tell you all the reasons I ended up choosing Waterlox.

Anyway, here’s how we refinished the floors.

I ordered the Waterlox (and the Waterlox recommended cleaner) from PaintSource.net, and I got the application tools (lambswool pads, thick and chunky natural-bristle brushes) locally.

We rented a drum sander and edger from the Home Depot.  Since the floors were painted, we really had to start with the heavy grit sandpaper to try to remove all that paint.

Using the drum sander
Our first pass with the drum sander, using the heaviest grit sandpaper.

We barely skipped any of the grits, and each pass took just a little more paint off. It was slow work.  For each grit of sandpaper, you have to go over the floor with the drum sander, and then use the same grit of sandpaper on the edger.  Then you move onto the next finer grit with the drum sander, then with the edger, and so on.  The edger was so terribly physical! My back and legs would ache each night.

Sanding with the edger
Sanding the edges was so terribly physical! But the results were well worth the effort.

But finally, as the paint reluctantly came off, we revealed some beautiful red oak.  

Our red oak, sanded
Our sanded floors.

I got this picture with the floor in all three stages: painted, sanded, then Waterloxed.

Three stages of progress
Flooring in three stages of progress.

(Sometimes I kinda wish I would have stained it, but Brandon says I don't wish that, and really, we were on such a high of finding these floors and being able to refinish them - and we were trying to get it all done in a short amount of time – for our silly New Year's party!! :)

First or second coat of Waterlox
The first and second coat of Waterlox soak into the wood and dry matte.

Above is the first or second coat of Waterlox.  The benefit of Waterlox is that it really soaks into the wood and seals it, which leaves a matte-type finish for the first and second coats. The third coat is where you really see the final finish.

Third coat of WaterloxWith the third coat of Waterlox, you can finally see the shiny, smooth finish.

Here’s the living room, after we finished applying the Waterlox.

Waterlox finish

Over time and with wear, the Waterlox actually dulls to a satin/semi-gloss type finish, (that’s really in the wood, not just a plasticky finish on top of it) which looks gorgeous.

Our hardwood floors, finished with Waterlox
Our refinished floors today.

Are our refinished floors perfect? No. :)  I know there are some divots in the floor from the drum sander - no matter how much we tried to heed the warnings and avoid this - we're just not professionals, but I call all the imperfections "character" in this not-new house, and really, they're all hidden under furniture and rugs, etc. What I can tell you is that they are gorgeous, they've been so durable, it was all so easy to apply, I'm so not worried about keeping them up or touching them up in the future (as long as Waterlox is in business), and I can't even imagine living here with carpeting!

(In this post, you can see pictures of the carpeting before we bought the house and the refinished hardwood in our living room in progress.)

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