They said it couldn’t be done — that this floor could not be saved. At times, I didn’t believe it was possible myself. But…we did it! We refinished our poor heart pine floor ourselves!
The kitchen/breakfast area combined is about 225 square feet. I had spoken to a contractor a few months ago — prior to our decision to tackle this beast ourselves — and he quoted me $2,775 to patch and refinish them. This seemed high to me — though once we got into it and realized how much work it was, we came to understand why he gave us the price he did. It was, to put it mildly, an awful lot of work.
But doing it ourselves proved well worth it. We’re extremely
satisfied overjoyed by the outcome and we saved some serious scratch. The breakdown of costs and materials is as follows:
Tools (i.e., screw extractor, wood plugs, nails, counter set, sand paper) = $75
Wood for patching = $60
Drum sander and floor edger rentals (from Home Depot) = $100
Stain and polyurethane = $50
TOTAL = $285
That is, you’ll note, approximately one-tenth of the quoted price. Not too shabby! Now, it took us about eighty to a hundred man hours or so to do it. As I described in a previous post, we spent a lot of time patching the floor, extracting screws, and scraping decades of junk off of them.
So I see why another contractor I talked to said we needed to just tile over the original floor. “Not worth it,” he said when we asked about saving it. It’s all relative, of course. But we were pretty keen to keep what was original to this house.
(The “before” image above shows the floor post patching. The area on the “after” picture still covered with plywood will be covered by cabinets; it didn’t make sense to spend a hundred dollars or more on materials to patch what will be covered up in the end. The dark parts at the edges will be covered with cabinetry too and not visible in the finished kitchen.)
Full disclosure, the final product has its mild imperfections. But we knew that would be the case before we started, and we’re okay with it.
Also, we’d never refinished a floor ourselves before. We’d seen people do it on tv. But we had no idea what to expect. To prepare, we watched some videos online and did some reading up. Many of the pros online caution people against doing this themselves, because it’s possible to gouge the floor with the massive drum sanders one needs to use. I totally respect, in other words, that to do this really well certainly takes some serious skills and practice.
I am proud to report it isn’t necessarily brain surgery — that with adequate prep and caution normal humans can do this.
(Tilly modeling with the floors post-sanding, pre-staining. I’m telling you, this basset needs a runway.)
Manny did almost all of the sanding, so this is really kudos to him, by the way. My role was to be the annoying *helper* that says things like, “You missed a spot!” while standing around and occasionally moving the power cords.
Given that there are numerous sites with how-tos for floor refinishing, I will be brief on process here — we are not, after all, anything close to pros. But this was such a great, rewarding learning experience for us.
Firstly, we guided the drum sander at a diagonal to remove the worst of the grime and gunk:
Watching those lines emerge from sanding was a beautiful thing. Anyway, after passing of the entire floor at an angle, we went over it again following the grain:
The difference was immediately apparent!
In this image, Manny is on his second sanding. You can still see, in the area at the center-left, where the most extensive patch was made — the wood is a little redder and has a slightly different grain. But it’s all coming together!
We changed the sanding belt on the drum sander FIVE TIMES before we were done. Anyone who has sanded floors before will probably concur that that’s a lot of sanding. But… parts of this floor had clearly never been refinished in the hundred years the house has stood. And, man, they needed it.
After the alchemy of the drum sander, we moved on to phase two: edge sanding. Don’t be fooled by this little guy either — he might be smaller than his big brother, but he still packs a powerful punch.
Here’s a shot of Manny with the edge sander in action (er… sort of… I asked him to pose for a photo before turning it on). As its name implies, it’s for use on the edges that drum sanders can’t reach.
After we finished with the edge sander, we used a palm sander and some good old fashioned elbow grease to get to the rest of the nooks and corners that still hadn’t been touched.
Following all of this, it was time for the fun stuff. Here’s a shot of our weapons of choice for the staining and sealing:
I’m not necessarily endorsing these products — after all, I don’t have experience with anything else to compare them too. But they worked liked a dream for us. Manny and I are especial fans of the stain color. The kitchen floors now have the same warmth as the floors in the living and dining areas, but they aren’t *quite* as dark (a good thing since heart pine darkens over time). It’s somehow wonderfully seamless between the two spaces.
Before we stained the full floor, by the way, we tested the color on a part of the floor that will be covered with cabinets:
I think this image does a great job of showing the color difference between the stripped-down, natural beauty of the unfinished floor and the stain, which warms it all up in a simply delicious way.
Staining the full floor took less than an hour (we only applied one coat of stain and it took not quite two quarts). The next morning, I applied the first coat of poly, waited a few hours, then applied the second coat. That evening, we applied the third coat together.
We chose a water-based poly in a semi-gloss finish (Manny is anti-super-shiny floors) and applied it with lambswool applicators.
Over all, we’re really, really pleased with the results. We’d read that pine is often hard to deal with because it can soak up stain and poly unevenly. Maybe we were just lucky, but given our novice understanding of the whole process, our floors turned out even better than we could have imagined!
What about you? Anyone with experience refinishing their own floors?