It’s the law of the Universe that when you plan for a project way ahead of time and have a reasonable time frame and strategy set out, you will then randomly decide to do that project one Friday afternoon between about 5-5:30.
As of last Friday, we’d been planning to refinish the floors in our TV room for quite some time, for reasons that will be clear below. Since we weren’t sure we felt like taking on a big project this fall, we decided to wait until spring when the weather would be warm and the windows could be left open nice and wide. But, when we downsized our couch, the imperfections in the floor became more visible and more bothersome, so last Friday we took an innocent outing to Home Depot to “look into” the cost of renting a floor sander. About an hour later, we walked out of the store with supplies, the sander, and 24-hours to get the job done.
A word of advice to novices out there who might be thinking about refinishing your own floors: you may think you want to rent a drum sander, but you’re probably better off with a square buff floor sander. We went in asking for a drum sander ourselves, but luckily we were helped out by a cool cat named Michael in equipment rental who warned us that these machines are not meant for newbies. And I have to say, even though the buff sander took significantly longer to clear the floors, we were glad we went that route. As the stain came off, we realized that a lot of the problems in our own floor happened because someone incompetent previously refinished them with a drum sander. As a result there were scratches, gouges, and curly cue marks all over the floors that we then had to remove by hand with an orbital sander. So avoid the risk that you will fudge up your floors and piss off your home’s future owners: just SAY NO to the drum sander.
One of the biggest issues with our floor was that there was a floor to ceiling “art” installation in the room when we bought the house. As it turns out, the “art” was not only glued to the floor, which left some nasty residue, but the previous owners had also refinished around it. Plus, it was in a weird spot only a foot or two from the door, so regardless of what furniture or rug you had in there, it was very hard to cover up.
Before: Crazy Art
After: Crazy Mess!
You can see some of the swirls and gouges from the drum sander in this picture. These were made when the previous owners tried to maneuver the sander around the art.
1. Half a quart of wood conditioner (pre-stain) – $8/qt
2. Half a quart of Rust-oleum American Walnut stain – $8/qt
3. A gallon of Min-Wax water-based oil-modified polyurethane – $50 (Water-based poly is significantly more expensive than oil-based, but it doesn’t smell and has a much faster drying time.)
4. Two staining pads and half a sponge for the pre-stain – $3
5. A wool mop-head for pushing poly (must be attached to a broom handle) – $8
6. 10 pieces of 80-grit round sand paper for the orbital hand sander – Already had
7. 11 pieces of sand paper for the square buff floor sander (six 36-grit, three 80-grit, and two 120-grit) – $6-7/ea
8. Sander rental – $55/day
Total cost – $200, give or take a few bucks. Compare this with the $3-4/sq ft you might expect to pay a professional, and your cost to DIY is just about half.
On the whole, this project was a little more time consuming and a lot dirtier than I was expecting (because sanding 120 sq ft of wood shouldn’t be dirty at all, right?), but the end result was totally worth it. The only problem now is that the TV room floors have gone from the worst in the house to practically the best!
Somebody hold us back. Home Depot has a floor sander, and we know how to use it.