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Did you just buy a house and realize the hardwood floors you thought were beautiful are actually scratched up and discolored, or have you lived in your house for some time and now your floors don't have quite the same appeal as they used to?
Hardwood floors can easily be brought to life with a little sanding and refinish work. Though it is definitely work, if you can mow your own lawn and do basic yard work, the odds are you can refinish your floors yourself and save a lot of money, while greatly improving the appearance of your floors.
If you truly want to refinish your floors, you might first try getting some quotes from professionals. If it is worth having people come into your home and refinish your living room floor for 1000.00 or more, then by all means have it done professionally. Professionals know what they are doing and can get in and out in the least amount of time. But if you could save about half the money, wouldn't it be worth it to do your own floors?
Prior to sanding you should figure out the best method of dust control for your situation. Dust from sanding floors can travel throughout the house. Sealing off doors and using fans to expel dust through windows is a favorite way, but each setup differs in some ways. Remove all the baseboards you can unless you want to spend a great deal of time on your hands and knees with a palm sander.
There are basically two different types of floor sanders widely available at most rental yards and home improvement stores. The first one is a large pad sander. The bottom is flat and the sandpaper sticks to the bottom pad and it is very easy to use. For initial sanding with a pad sander the best grit to start with is 36 or 60 grit depending on the existing finish. The pad sanders are relatively slow as far as removal goes and the fact that the bottom is flat makes this the best option for most do it your-selfers. Also available at most rental places are drum sanders. Drum sanders remove material real fast, which is great if you know what you are doing and don't stay in one place for too long or "ride the edges". Drum sanders can be quite dangerous and one wrong move can literally destroy your floor. Special care needs to be taken when starting or stopping a sander; they tend to jump around a bit at first, and can easily bump into stuff. You do need to maintain control of the machine at all times, you have been warned! Remove all the old finish and use finer paper to smooth the entire floor. Hand sanders should be used in areas where the pad or drum sander can't reach and special attention needs to be taken to ensure that all the sanding is uniform. Any nail holes or separation of boards should be patched with trowlable wood patch prior to finish sanding and all patches require special attention to ensure as little patch is left as possible.
Wear adequate eye and lung protection whenever around sanding particles and whenever handling tools or when cleaning up.
The regulations on paints and floor coverings were once thought to be the end of descent finishes, but in actuality it has been the best thing that has happened to the industry in some time. The latest waterborne formulas for water-based polyurethane are nothing short of miraculous. Within an hour of applying a coat you can walk on your newly finished floors, (you should wait much longer). You can literally do 4 coats in 2 days, where oils require 24 hours dry time between coats. The water-based polyurethane also won't yellow like oil based does and looks as good as the day you did it for much longer than oil based products. The smell of water-based polyurethane while wet is bearable whereas the oil based products stinks and lingers for days.Although your floor may seem dry to the touch, it won't really be dry for at least 24-36 hours and won't completely harden for a couple weeks, so it may be more susceptible to scratches and nicks for the first week after finishing, so be careful.