before/after: wood floors

It only took me four months, but I finally did it.

The first thing I did when I bought my house was move the original furniture out of the way and paint. The next thing I did was tear up the horrible carpet pictured below.

Is it just me or does that chair look like it has a face?

It’s very weird looking at this photo now because I am so used to – and in love with – the finished room that I cannot believe it looked like this.

After ripping up the carpet, I spent several months with it looking like the below photo. I kept shifting the furniture around, trying not to scrape the floor or spill anything on it. I put off doing it for too long because I wanted to make sure I was ready to do it myself. I’m like my Dad – or maybe I learned it from my Dad. If I’m going to do something on my own, I want to do it right, and I want to know what to expect. So I watched dozens of YouTube videos about sanding wood floors, both old and new, to make sure I didn’t screw it up.

before: post-carpet, pre-sanding

The before of one half of the living room.
The before in the office room.
The before of one half of the living room.

The first place I looked to rent the sanders no longer rents equipment so I had to find another place – and a day when I could ditch work. The company that offered rentals had the drum sander (pictured) and an orbital edge sander. I started with 60 grit paper on the drum and did the outer edges of the room. Underneath the carpet, I had found a linoleum “rug,” and the wood around the edges of the “rug” had been stained. So there was a thick sticky layer on those sections.

The outer edge was heavily treated.

Another reason I waited so long to finish this project was that the boards had shifted away from each other. A lot of old homes sink and shift. In the photo above, you can see where there is a big gap in the floor boards. Looking at the floor from the basement, Dad realized there was no sub-floor under the wood. They had installed the wood directly on the floor beams. This was probably why some of the boards were so uneven and warped. Also, the one side of the house wasn’t level with the other. I bought a floor jack from my uncle, and Dad had been turning it a little every week for me. It still isn’t flush, but I was careful with the sanders near that lip. It’s close enough now that someone can’t trip over it. As for some of the warped and uneven boards, I hand-sanded some of them and left the others. I liked the dimension they added to the color and texture.

Obviously ended up with more dog hair in the stain than I wanted. The boards with dark spots are those that are uneven and warped.

I had watched a video that suggested that uneven floors should be done with a really low grit paper, like 36. After going through way too many 60 grit papers – and driving 100 miles back and forth to get more paper – I decided to go over the whole floor with 24 grit and work back up to the 60, 80, and 100. Sandpaper starts in the low numbers as course and as you increase the grit, the paper becomes finer and smoother.

I should have started with 24.

The edger I rented was powerful but not powerful enough to get through the gummy stain that was on the edges of the floor. I did a few edges with this sander (below) before running out of paper and deciding that I was either going to do it by hand or have to ignore the edges under the baseboard heaters.

This edger was powerful but not for long.

Luckily, my dad had a selection of sanders for me to try, and I, additionally, bought a Black and Decker mouse sander for the finishing touches. Turns out, the Makita belt sander was the best to do under the baseboard heating. You can see in the photos below how the long, narrow nose could get right up to the edge of the wall. It is a really powerful sander that made my life so much easier. I even recorded a video.

All the sanders. The one pictured at top was the most helpful one for the edges. That thing was powerful. I’m so glad I had one available to me. I wish I had it when I started!
All the paper before I took the leftovers back.

So I had the floor finished before my trip to Atlanta in early May. I didn’t have time to put the first coat on, but I vacuumed it and had it ready to go. The second I got home on the tenth, I ran to Lowe’s to buy the Poly for wood floors in a satin finish. It was at this moment I should have vacuumed again, but I was too excited and tired.

after: sanded and treated

First coat!
Second coat!
Final coat!

There’s a lot of dog hair in the threshold between the living room and the kitchen. Apparently, it had got caught in and around the plastic. I really should have vacuumed again. Also there are a few spots that aren’t quite even, but with the furniture in the rooms, no one will notice. Also, I think the dog hair will wear away after awhile.

The floor is imperfect. It has dark spots and uneven spots and dog hair in it.

BUT LOOK AT IT. It’s beautiful.

I can’t believe there was wood under that carpet. I lucked out. Here’s another reminder of what it looked like when I bought it – in case you forgot already like me: