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Refinishing Your Hardwood Floor

by Crystal Hosking - Hosking Hardwood Flooring, Inc. © 2013, Copyright protected. All Rights Reserved

Is your hardwood floor showing a lot of wear and tear lately? There are different levels of wear when it comes to hardwood flooring. A good hardwood floor cleaner will help take everyday grime off hardwood flooring. For more of a deep clean, you can use a refresher to get the shine back to looking like new. For hardwood flooring with more drastic surface damage, you may need to look into other solutions in order to revitalize your hardwood.

Sure, you can rip up your old hardwood floor and replace it with new hardwood flooring, but a more cost effective solution may involve either screening or sanding the hardwood floor. Screening and recoating a floor takes care of finish scratches, while sanding and refinishing will get ride of or minimize deep scratches and stains.

Screen and Recoat

With a screen and recoat, the finished surface is lightly buffed using a screen to roughen up the finish surface. The mesh screen used is significantly less abrasive than sandpaper and works well to create a surface textured enough for a new coat of finish to stick to. Screening hardwood flooring is only meant to buff up the finished surface of the hardwood floor and therefore shouldn't take all the finish off or get through down to the top layer of real wood. Screening and recoating diminishes any light finish scratches and dull patches from everyday use.

Most hardwood flooring is eligible for the screening process, with a major exception: waxed and oiled floors. A hardwood floor which has been treated with a wax or oil product is very difficult to screen and recoat, and most times the new coat of polyurethane just won't stick. This even applies to waxed floors where a flooring stripper has been used to take the wax off. The best option if you have a waxed floor that needs a new coat of finish is to have the entire floor sanded and then refinished.

Sand and Refinish

When you have a hardwood floor sanded and refinished, the original finish as well as a thin layer of the actual wood will be sanded off. This will remove surface or shallow scratches as well as any stains on the hardwood flooring. When the flooring is sanded, if there was originally a stain color on the floor, the stain color will be taken off and the natural wood color will show. During the refinishing process, you can choose to either restain the floor the same color, a different color or you can leave it natural and just choose to have a clear coat of finish applied.

It's important to keep in mind that while most solid and engineered handscraped hardwood floors definitely have the wear layer thickness to be sanded and refinished, since you're taking off some of the surface, you'll be removing some of that handscraped texture from the boards. Handscraping texture will most likely still be there, the intensity of the scraping will just be subdued a bit.

 

 

Finishing

Once the hardwood floor has been screened or sanded, new coats of finish are applied. Two to three coats of polyurethane is typically recommended. There are two types of polyurethane finishes: water-based and oil-based. Water-based polyurethane takes about 3 hours to dry before another coat can be applied. Oil-based polyurethane is typically less expensive, but takes longer to dry before another coat can be applied. Additionally, oil-based finishes will generally amber slightly over time, while water-based finishes remain clear for the lifetime of the finish. The ambering effect of an oil-based finish typically is only apparent with natural flooring (like natural maple) and not with floor with stain color applied to them. Oil-based finishes are generally easier for beginners to work with, although they also emit more fumes than water-based polyurethane finishes.

Floors That Can Be Sanded and Refinished

When you sand and hardwood floor, you're taking away some of the actual board. Because of this, it's important to know what kind of hardwood floor you have down in order to make sure it can structurally take having this small layer off the top removed.

If you have a standard 3/4 IN. thick solid hardwood floor, the life expectancy can generally run anywhere between 80 and 100 years, with standard residential use. Over the lifetime of the solid wood floor, it can usually be sanded and refinished anywhere from 3 to 7 times total before the planks begin to lose their structural integrity.

With an engineered floor, the number of times it can be sanded and refinished is dictated by the thickness of the wear layer. If you sand an engineered wood floor through the entire wear layer, you're going to start exposing the crosslayer plywood base of the engineered floor and your flooring will be ruined. As a general rule of thumb: a wear layer of 2mm can generally be sanded and refinished 1 to 2 times over the lifetime of the floor, a wear layer of 3mm can generally be sanded and refinished 2 to 3 times over the lifetime of the floor, a wear layer of 4mm can generally be sanded and refinished 3 to 5 times over the lifetime of the floor.

Floors That Cannot Be Sanded and Refinished

Not all hardwood flooring is able to be sanded and refinished, and it's important to know what kind of flooring you have before you choose to go this route in order to avoid problems during the process.

Engineered hardwood floors with acrylic impregnated wear layers cannot be sanded and refinished. An acrylic impregnated wear layer is a super durable surface created when the entire wear layer is saturated with acrylic resin, filling the pores of the wood. Acrylic impregnated wear layers offer increased performance and therefore the need to sand and refinish is pretty much diminished, but if you ever do need to enhance the finish a bit after years of use, these engineered floor are able to be screened and recoated.

Additionally, engineered floors with wear layers that are 1mm or thinner cannot be fully sanded and refinished. A screening and recoat will restore the original finish shine, but a sand and refinish will take too much of the wear layer off and you run the chance of exposing the crosslayers of plywood the wear layer is fused to, ruining the floor.

Finally, laminate and vinyl flooring, even if they have the appearance of a real hardwood floor, cannot be sanded or screened. These are fabricated materials and will be destroyed if you try to restore the shine in this way. To revitalize laminate and vinyl flooring, look into stripper, cleaner and refresher products specifically made for laminate and vinyl flooring.

Do-It-Yourself Refinishing

Screening, sanding and refinishing can be an intensive do-it-yourself product; sanding and refinishing more so than screening. It's highly recommended to hire a professional rather than trying either process yourself (especially the sanding and refinishing). But, if you are set on tackling this home renovation project yourself, machines can be rented and many screen and recoat tutorial videos and sand and refinish tutorial videos can be found online.

Preventing Damage to Extend The Life of Your Hardwood Floor

If you do choose to refinish your hardwood flooring, there are many steps you can take to make sure you don't have to go through the process of screening or sanding for awhile. Primarily, just keep the floor clean. Dust and dirt caught under shoes, chairs or mats are the leading cause of scratches on hardwood flooring. By simply vacuuming regularly, you'll significantly reduce the appearance of wear on your hardwood. Additionally, using chair glides under chairs, tables and other pieces of furniture is really a hardwood flooring life saver.

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An excellent article! I am in NYC, and this article will make me a better evaluator of companies providing hardwood floor care services.

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