Many home owners, with old houses, are finding that once they remove the carpets, which became so popular in the 70’s, that there are lovely solid wood floors beneath. After so many years of being trapped beneath a carpet, they do of course need some sanding and sealing in order to bring them back to their previous splendour. Most often there is nothing wrong with these floors and all that is required is a sand and seal to bring them back to new. At times one might find that some of the boards are lifting as the adhesive has given way in which case you will need to clean up the surface and re-adhere them to the substrate. Some of the older floors were stuck down using linoleum glue and I have found floors where this has all come off and left the boards loose. It then needs to be cleaned using mineral spirits. It is best to remove all of this and then use a modern-day adhesive to re-apply them.
Most contractors who installed solid wood floors of yesteryear used top quality timber and therefore you will find that the timber itself is quite all right to last another 100 years, if not longer. Because floors are generally not exposed to much water and weathering, their condition will remain almost as original and all that is required is a good sand and seal.
We use an industrial floor sander with a rough grit paper to remove all old sealer and any dirt and blemishes that may have taken hold over the years. The floor sander cannot reach all corners and once we have the majority of it off we use belt sanders and a rotex sander to reach the corners and up against the skirting or wall. Once it’s all off we come back and sand to a smoother finish using a smoother grit paper on all machines until we have reached the desired smoothness.
Once the floor is sanded to the desired smoothness by slowly taking the grit of the paper up, the floor should be completely swept to get rid of all dust. Be careful not to wet the floor with water. Water will cause the fibres in the wood to rise which will result in it going out of smooth and the sanding process will need to be started all over again. A good industrial vacuum cleaner will do the job and will lift all dust to get your floor ready to seal. There are dustless floor sanders available which either work by containing the dust in a bag or they connect to a vacuum cleaner that sucks the dust up as it is being sanded. The latter of course is the better option as then there is much less cleaning after sanding.
Once your dust is up you are ready to start sealing. There are various sealers on the market but the best to use is a polyurethane sealer. You can get a good quality water based one which will allow you to apply subsequent coats more quickly as it dries much quicker. You can get all three coats down in one day using water based polyurethane. The other polyurethane is a two pack one which contains a catalyst so that it dries extremely hard. The choice is yours. Two pack polyurethane will take longer to get your coats down so will cost more due to the time factor but will probably last longer, but will also be more harmful to the environment. Water based coating technology has come a long way these days and I wouldn’t completely shy away from it. But chose a well know brand to make sure that you are getting quality all the way.
You will need to lightly sand after the first coat to get rid of the fibres that stand up after sealing. As mentioned above water will make these fibres rise, so you will find with water based polyurethane these fibres will be more prominent resulting in a rough finish. So lightly sand them off, suck the dust up, and apply the second coat. Feel the wood between coats 2 and 3 to see if that step needs to be repeated as the last thing you want is a rough finish after all that sanding. Take your shoes off too as you don’t want to damage the finish.
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