Sanding and refinishing procedures--our job process
show up on the morning of the job and begin hanging plastic and sealing off
doors. We also put down tarps and blankets so that we can store equipment on
countertops, hearths, and other surfaces above the floor. The 8" drum sander does the large floor areas. There are up to three sandings, with coarse,
medium, and fine sandpaper. The edger is a small machine that does
closets, the sides of the rooms, and any area too small for the bigger
sander. The buffer is used for the final overall sanding. It burnishes the floor, removes sanding
marks, and blends the separate areas that the other sanders have covered. Sanding with the buffer is called screening. Nailholes and cracks are filled throughout the
sanding and refinishing portions of the job.
We spread putty over the entire floor, and let it dry before sanding
it. Many times we need to apply it
twice. The average Bay area living room
and dining room have over 10,000 nails, and they appear in lines every 7”, all
across your floor. Trimming is scraping out
the corners, hand-sanding the edges and doorways, and making sure all sander
marks are removed. We use LED portable lights and 250-watt halogen lamps to
highlight any sanding marks and ridges.
all the preparation is done, we sweep and vacuum, and apply either a sealer or
a stain. When this is dry, we buff and
vacuum this coat, and apply the first coat of polyurethane. Between coats of polyurethane, we fill in all
the remaining cracks and nailholes. We
dust all surfaces with hand brooms,
rags, and compressed air. We then buff
the floor for the last time, vacuum it carefully, and tack the floor with wet
rags to remove any film of dust that remains.
The last coat usually needs to dry overnight before walking on it.
Sealing or Staining?
the sanding, we seal your floor with a sealer or a stain, and then we layer
protective coats of polyurethane on top of the base coat. A natural
look is achieved by using a clear sealer.
There is no color in this coat, so it allows the natural color of the
floor to come through. With oak, this is
a “honey-colored” or blonde appearance.
There are two choices for this, and I have samples of each. With pigmented stains, there is color added to the floor, usually in combinations
of brown and red tones. Stains require
more detailed sanding procedures, and take longer to apply. If there are to be many
repairs on a job, a stain is usually necessary to blend the new wood with the
How many coats of finish?
ordinarily use four coats total
finish on my jobs, which is the recommended procedure for the finishes that I
use. That is, I put down one sealer or
stain coat, and then apply three coats of protective polyurethane.
How dusty will it be?
parts of the house that are not being sanded will be sealed off so that no dust
escapes the sanding area. I use both 2
millimeter and 4 millimeter plastic sheeting, and I use blue painter’s tape. This is a specialized tape that has holding
power, but is designed not to pull existing paint from walls or woodwork. In doorways we install thick sheets of plastic
with zippered door openings, so that people can go in and out of the dust area
and seal up the plastic behind them. We
bring large fans in, and set them so that a continuous breeze goes through the
house. This helps keep the dust cleared
in the work area itself. The plastic
needs to stay up for the entire job.
Even though the sanding is finished mid-way through, there is still
light dust raised by the buffing that we do between coats.
cabinets, stairwells and floor-to-ceiling bookcases involve much more work to
seal. I charge on an hourly basis for
these situations. Sometimes we need to
long walls of plastic that are held up by telescoping poles. When the sanding process is done, we bring in
an air compressor and blow out the dust from the room surfaces. Then we sweep the job down. Good dust control can be time-consuming. Not only do we have to set up the barriers,
but we also need to maintain them during the course of the job.
Cracks and nailholes--a very
nailholes is probably the most disputed topic between flooring contractors and
customers. Standards vary widely on
this--when comparing prices, ask how thorough this process is going to be. I have found that most customers want all the
nailholes filled, and I advise this even if the job is a rental. It is a time-consuming process, but the end
result is worth the price.
of the cracks and many of the nailholes are filled during the sanding
process. The putty is troweled onto the
floor, allowed to dry, and then sanded off.
Usually we have to repeat the process twice during the job. There can be nailholes that remain unfilled
after even two trowelings. The sanders
knock out some of the new putty on each pass.
And before the floor is coated, it moves enough that putty can work its
way out of the holes. The only way to
fill the remaining holes is to wait until at least one coat of polyurethane is
applied. Then we go around with linseed
oil putty, and hand-fill holes and cracks.
On a 1,000 square foot job, it can take two men up to four hours to do
I price the nailhole work
between coats of polyurethane as a separate item. It makes it easier to compare my prices with that of
other flooring companies. As you can
see, there can be many definitions of “filling the nailholes,” and just
applying one layer of putty is usually not going to be sufficient.
The waves in existing floors
Almost all floors will have
waviness in them, due to subfloor deficiencies and the movement of the house
over the years. The floor boards also
sand unevenly because of hard and soft parts of the wood; the sander cuts
differently on different parts of the grain.
This waviness is not the same
as gouges and dips from the sanding machines.
It is part of the structure of the floor, and the sander will not get
rid of these on a normal job. You won’t
notice the waves and dips on your present floor, because over time the
darkening of the finish with age tends to mask them. I can point them out to you on the estimate,
so that you have some idea of the condition of your floor. Eliminating these structural features is
generally so expensive that it is not cost-effective on the typical sanding
job. It involves the use of heavy-grit
screen or sanding discs that attach to the buffer, and can add several days to
even a smaller job (500 sq.ft. and
under). The buffer is used to grind down
the floor, with three to four different grits of sanding material. This happens after the drum sander has taken
off all of the old finish, and the floor is down to bare wood.
Who comes first-sanders or
can be problems with both approaches to this.
Generally, there are fewer problems if the painters come in first. A compromise that I’ve come up with seems to
work well for many people. We come in
first, and do all our sanding work. We
then either seal or stain the floor, and we put on two of the three protective
coats. .Then the painters can come in,
and cover the floor. They don’t have to
be as careful of the floor as if it were completely finished--the “work” coats
on the floor are not the final coats, so they can get scuffed without
problems. The painters usually need to
lightly sand the walls, so any dust we leave on the walls gets removed along
with theirs. Then we come in a do the
final coat on the floor, after all other work is done. This works especially well for kitchens,
where cabinets need to be put in.
If the painting is done
first, the painters will need to come back and touch up the baseboards. Even quality
paint can fleck off when it is new, and we have to get right next to the
baseboards to remove all old finish.
Dust on the walls is usually not that big a problem, especially with
stained areas usually won’t sand out--these are urine stains from pets, and the
acid goes deep into the wood. Boards
that are crowned or cupped from water damage also need to be replaced. I charge an hourly rate for repairs, plus any
material charges. Repairs in prominent
places on a floor job sometimes mean that a stain will have to be applied. A natural finish has no pigment, and does not
hide differences in new and old wood.
Sometimes repairs need to be
put into the estimate on a “maybe” basis.
This occurs if I can’t be sure if a stain will sand out, or if there is
carpet or furniture in a room at the time of the estimate.
work is also an area for misunderstandings between contractor and customer.
actual replacing of boards is only half the job, and it’s easy to overlook all
the additional work that goes on. There
is a lot of preparation that has to go into doing repairs, and a lot of
clean-up work to do afterward. We have
to replace more wood than just the damaged area, for one thing. A good-looking patch is “laced in” to the
existing floor, and that means that the joints are staggered out in all
directions. If you look at your existing
floor, you’ll see that the joints are usually not less than six inches
apart. We charge for more material than
the size of the patch, too. When we’re
doing a small patch, we may have to go through twice the amount of material to
find the best boards. On a patch job,
every piece of wood counts! A repair has
to have a consistent appearance, and an ugly or discolored board will stand
Repair expenses can also
include these items:
1) Cleaning up the room or
rooms after the repair is done. We can’t
sand until every piece of repair equipment is out, and all the old wood and
debris cleaned up.
2) The extra sanding or planing needed to bring the height of the wood
down. The new wood is often thicker than
3) The time needed to carry repair equipment on the job, and set it
up. Even the smallest repair can
sometimes involve every saw that I own!
4) The nailhole filling that must be repeated several times.
5) The unexpected repair that pushes the job out of schedule. If an unplanned repair delays a necessary
procedure in the regular job, it can cost us more to do the job. This doesn’t happen often, but is something
that needs to be discussed before doing the repairs in question.
Matching existing finishes
I can spend a lot of time
trying to match what’s already in your home.
Stain matches require a good eye, and can require lots of testing. I have small wood samples that I can use to
get a general idea of the color, but the actual color that works on YOUR floor
can be a trial-and-error process.
apply a satin finish for all homeowner jobs, unless the customer specifically
requests a gloss or semi-gloss sheen.
There are samples of each that you can view. I charge more for high-gloss finishes, as
they take more work to apply, and highlight every defect in the existing floor.
The finishes I use are all
water-based. This technology has been
around for over two decades now.
Water-based polyurethanes are used on all major contracts for government
work, and are standard for sports arenas.
Bona “Traffic” is used for coating the Maples Pavilion gym floor at
Stanford, for instance. There are two
finishes I offer. This is a brief
description of them, and they are listed in order of cost. .
1) Bona Mega
This is an excellent finish. It is a good combination of cost and
durability, and comes in satin, gloss, and semi-gloss.
This is a one-part finish—it has no added
2) Bona Traffic
The latest in commercial water-based finishes. Traffic is very expensive, but it is a
state-of-the-art finish, and very popular. It does come in a low-shine matte
finish, as well as satin, gloss and semi-gloss.
Traffic is used for professional sports arenas,
dance floors, and stores. It uses a
two-part formula, with a separate hardener added to the finish.
Added cost: .32 per sq.ft.
coats usually dry within two hours, on first or second coats. Final coats can take longer. You can walk on a first or second coat with
shoes as soon as they are dry.
coats should not be walked on the day they are applied, and it is best to go in
stocking feet for the next two to three days after.
Dogs should be kept off the floor for a full
have almost completely stopped using oil polyurethanes. This is for my own well- being, as well as
for the health of my customers. The Bay
Area Air Quality Management Board begin phasing out their use in 1987, but
various loopholes in the law have allowed the sale of oil poly in quart
cans. If I need to use this product, I
charge more for applying it. I do use
oil sealers and oil-based stains. At the
present time, there are no professional water-based stains being offered.
Oil sealer on stains: I allow for the possibility of putting down an oil
sealer on top of the stain coat, if I think it is needed. The oil sealer can serve two purposes. It helps match the stain to an existing floor
better, in some cases. Oil products add
an amber tint to the color, and can also darken the color slightly. The sealer can also be used to even out
blotchiness in a stain coat. I do not
generally have to deal with this problem, but some floors will come up blotchy
in small areas, no matter how well we sand them. The sealer coat can even out most color
variations in a stain.
Care of the floors
the floor from scratches, dents, and wear is done by following these steps:
1) Use tracking mats outside all exterior doors
2) Placing throw rugs or small carpets just inside entrances, in
front of appliances, or any other high-traffic areas. The kitchen sink especially needs a mat in
front of it.
3) Buying felt pads and/or glides for all furniture and
fixtures. These come in many different
sizes and shapes, and are available at hardware stores.
4) Keep pet claws clean and trimmed.
cleaning and maintenance, you can vacuum the floor frequently with a brush
attachment. The less water you use for
cleaning, the better. Bona Hardwood floor cleaner is now
available at most Ace Hardware stores.
It comes in spray bottles, and is the recommended finish for the Bona
products that we used to refinish the floor. If you don't use the cleaner, then
damp mopping should work. Avoid the use
of soaps and oils, as these can interfere with recoating the floors.
Recoating your floors
you have sanded and refinished your floors, you can protect your investment by
having them recoated every three to five years.
If the heavy traffic areas are protected, floors can often go for longer
than this. Recoating with one or two
coats of polyurethane can bring back the original sheen, and re-establishes the
protection. We don’t have to sand, but
we do have to powder the original finish with a buffer pad. I use a special preparation liquid, which
cleans and helps soften the old finish.
Then I fill any open nailholes, vacuum and tack-cloth the floor, and
apply the new coats.
The most expensive floors to
Parquet floors These are block floors, squares of hardwood where
the grain runs in both directions. They
need an extra sanding with fine paper on the drum sander and the edger, and
then they have to be heavily sanded with the buffer at least twice, to cut out
the cross-grain marks the sander leaves behind.
A stained parquet floor needs the most work.
Maple floors Maple is an unforgiving wood, and needs to be sanded
very carefully. Even a natural finish
can show machine scratches, and has to be sanded with extra-fine paper. The finish also shows every defect and speck
of dust. Since maple floors are usually
in more modern houses, the lighting cans also highlight the floor.
Hallways For most work
per square foot, you can’t beat a hallway.
There may be as many as nine doorways involved, including closets,
cellar and garage entrances, and bedrooms and baths. We use vacuum cleaners and fans to sand each
doorway, trim it completely, and then seal off that entrance for the duration
of the job. Hallways can also be
installed sideways rather than lengthwise; this means that our big sander can’t
run with the grain.
work on a flooring job usually involves doing only the treads, which are the
horizontal surfaces that people actually step on. The nosing is the rounded front of each
tread, and is also sanded and refinished.
The risers are the vertical faces of each step, and are commonly
painted. The material is usually Douglas
fir softwood. A curved piece of wood
trim is attached just below the nosing.
This is called scotia, and is painted to match the
riser. Some stairs do have oak risers and oak scotia, and these are more costly
to refinish. Balusters are the
spindled pieces of wood that support the railing. If a tread has one or more balusters drilled
into it, it makes refinishing a tread more expensive, since we have to trim
around balusters with scrapers and hand sanding. Side nosings appear on some stairs,
and also need to be refinished.
The extras that add to the
price of the job
1) More than eight steps to the house, and long
uphill walkways. This can add much time
to the job, as we carry many pieces of equipment in and out of the house.
2) Thresholds, fireplace trim, and reducers that
need to be refinished.
3) Gloss or semi-gloss finish
5) Oil-based polyurethanes
6) Work areas on different levels of a house, or
in separated areas.
7) Replacing existing baseboard or baseshoe
out the V-grooves on plank flooring, and filling the nailholes on these floors.
9) Floors that have cupped or crowned wood.
10) Floor areas that can only be sanded by edgers
or grinders; i.e. under a stairway or bench.
11) Large open areas to be sealed off from dust
12) Broken-up floor plans that have more than the
corners per square foot.
13) Matching an existing finish.
and refinishing stair risers
15) Water-treating for stains
Is re-nailing the floor needed?
thankfully it’s seldom needed, even with older floors. Re-nailing is a tedious process, and it
interrupts the flow of the job. A loose
floor is not apparent during the estimate, because the old finish tends to bind
the floorboards together so that they don’t move. The floor may move as a whole—squeaky areas,
for instance—but the individual strips don’t show movement
as soon as we sand off the old finish, the individual strips are no longer
joined, and they can start to flex. We
notice this problem if the new putty is breaking out as soon as we sand over
it. I can demonstrate it to customers by
pressing down on boards near the nail row.
The boards will sink a fraction of an inch, which shows that they’re not
being secured by the existing nails. This
problem occurs more on floors that were laid at a 90-degree angle to the planks
in the subfloor. If the subfloor planks
were laid diagonally, or if the subfloor is plywood, the hardwood is almost
Can we get rid of squeaks?
can do this, but not by nailing down the hardwood floor. Squeaks happen between two parts of the
subfloor, and that’s where the problem has to be solved. The subfloor is often rubbing on the floor
joists, and if you go into the basement with a flashlight, and have someone
jump on the floor, you can see the gap between the subfloor plank and the
joists that hold the floor up. Driving a
shim of wood into this gap will stop the squeak. This is harder to fix on second story floors,
as we have no access to the subfloor from underneath. In those cases, we remove some hardwood, and
sink long screws into the subfloor from above.
So there you have it—an
overview of what it takes to sand and refinish your floor. It’s quite a journey, and I enjoy taking
people through the process. I hope you’ll consider working with us.