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Refinishing Wood Floors with an Oscillating Sander

Materials List
Sand paper for sander
Finishing nails
Clearcoat finish
Masking tape
Tools List (click item to shop)
Oscillating sander
Edge sander
Palm sander
Claw Hammer
Nail set
Pry bar
Carpenters square
Installing Resilient Floor Tile
Installing a Tongue & Groove Floor
Installing Ceramic Floor Tile
Refinishing Wood Floors with a Drum Sander
Patching Hardwood Floors
Edge Flooring
Edge Flooring Product Demonstration

Plytanium for Floors

Epoxy Flooring
Varathane Floor Finishing

IMPORTANT: Read this before you start

Hardwood floors in older homes can be hidden treasures. You may not realize it, but under the dark finish, scuffs and scratches is probably a beautiful hardwood floor just waiting to shine through. Sanding off the old finish gives you a chance to get down to the bare wood and erase many of the scratches and dents. Then you can choose a stain that is more to your liking, or just put a clearcoat on the floor for a pleasant, warm appearance.

An oscillating floor sander is essentially a 100 lb. palm sander. The sanding pad moves in an orbital direction. This type of sander is usually the easiest to use. However it is not a very aggressive sander and is appropriate if you are sanding off old finish and the floorboards are not warped or cupped. If your floor has adhesive from another floor that was over the hardwood or if you need to sand extra deep to remove flaws, you should consider using a drum sander. In that case, check out our tutorial on refinishing hardwood floors – drum sander.

Restoring the hardwood floor in a room can be done in a weekend. Plan ahead and have some helpers lined up to move out the furniture in the room. The finished floor will need to cure for a week, so find an out of the way place for the furniture. You will also need to rent sanding equipment, so make sure it is available on the days you plan to tackle this project.

Skill Level & Time To Complete
• Beginner - 1 to 2 days
• Intermediate - 1 to 1-1/2 days
• Advanced - about 1 day

Always wear eye protection when working with power tools and striking tools.

This is a very dusty project. Make sure you wear a dust mask while operating the sander.

Common Mistakes
Close all doors leading to the room while sanding. If you don’t have a door, hang a sheet of plastic over the door opening.

Helpful Tips
Don’t try to remove all scratches and dents. It may require you to sand deeper than you need to. Besides, they really do add to the character and charm of the floor.

1. To prepare the room for the project, remove all furniture. There should be nothing left on the floor of the room. Remove pictures and other items hanging on the walls to prevent them from getting dusty. Using small sheets of plastic and masking tape cover all air vents in the room to prevent dust from spreading through the house in your HVAC system. Remove any hardware on the floor, such as doorstops. Search the floor for nail heads that are sticking up and sink them with a hammer and nail set.
2. If you have shoe molding or quarter round along the floor and baseboards in the room, you should remove it to get the best sanding results and to avoid damaging this molding with the sander. Use a pry bar and a hammer to carefully pull up the strips of wood. Be careful not to damage it so that you can reinstall it later. Pull all the nails out and store the material in a safe place.
3. To use an oscillating sander, start with a coarse piece of sandpaper. Work your way back and forth across the room. Since the sander oscillates, you don’t need to worry about following the grain of the wood. Get as close to the walls as you can. Use the coarse paper until you are all the way down to bare wood and the dents and scratches are mostly gone.
4. Repeat the sanding process with the medium grade of sandpaper. To achieve a smooth finished surface, sand the entire room again with the finest grade of sandpaper. Sandpaper can wear out, so you will need several sheets of each grit of sandpaper. Put in a fresh piece when the current piece loses its bite.
5. Once the room is sanded, use an edger to get even closer to the walls and into the corners. An edger works well in smaller areas such as narrow hallways, closets and steps.
6. Any areas that can’t be reached with the edger can be sanded with a small handheld oscillating sander or a piece of sandpaper. Finally vacuum up the room to prepare it for staining and clearcoat.
7. If desired, stain the floor to match an adjacent room or to a chosen color. Allow the stain to dry before applying the clearcoat finish.
8. Applying the clearcoat finish is a lot like mopping. You should use a lamb’s wool applicator with a handle and a paint tray. Following the direction of the grain, apply a thin, even coat of the finish. Apply 2 or 3 coats of clearcoat, allowing each coat to dry for several hours in between. The final coat should dry for a week before any heavy traffic or before you move the furniture back in the room.
9. The final touch is to reinstall the base molding along the floor.



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