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Discussion Starter #1
My floors are 86 years old and in good condition, but the existing finish (probably original to the house) is extremely dull and gray, peeling and chipping, and I can scrape it off easily with a putty knife in most places. I don't want to sand the wood, just remove -- or thoroughly clean -- the existing finish. Would it be best to use a buffing machine get that finish off first?

All advice is appreciated!
 

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Hardwood pro
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without sanding, you won't be able to remove 100% of the existing finish, even if it seems to be peeling off.... anything you put on top of that will not adhere well and it will end up peeling too (when you drag a chair, high heel, pet claws, etc)...
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Is there a pad you can recommend that will remove the finish without hurting the wood (too much)?
 

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You really need to get all that crap off.
It looks like there are two different finishes on there. Like it was originally poly and then somebody tried to shine it up with some wax or something.
Regardless, if you're going to go to all the trouble of renting a machine, I would highly recommend doing it right.
Give it a complete sand and refinish.
It's a project well within a DIYer's ability.
You'll sweat and swear, but then be very proud when it's done.
(Buy a $50 respirator and wear it the whole time.)
 

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Discussion Starter #5
You really need to get all that crap off.
Couldn't agree more!

Based on what you see in the photos, can anyone recommend a sanding pad grit to start out with? Again, I don't want to touch the wood (too much) -- just remove the existing finish.

Thanks for your suggestions -- I'm going to start on this very soon --
 

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Couldn't agree more!

Based on what you see in the photos, can anyone recommend a sanding pad grit to start out with? Again, I don't want to touch the wood (too much) -- just remove the existing finish.

Thanks for your suggestions -- I'm going to start on this very soon --
floor sanding is MESSY. you will have dust on EVERYTHING in your house. My floors are currently in the process of being sanded and refinished. It was started with a very coarse grit (40? - looks like pea gravel) and then worked up to a 150-200 grit. The finish was very hard and I did go down to bare wood so they could be re-stained. They now look beautiful - the existing wood was in wonderful shape and only one or two planks needed replacing. Hopefully will get them all stained and sealed this week!
 

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I don't want to touch the wood (too much) -- just remove the existing finish.
In order to remove the finish, you have to go down to the wood.
It sounds like you're looking for a half-way solution that doesn't exist.
You'll start with a 40 or a 60 grit.
Any place that rents the machines, sells the paper.
They'll set you up with whatever's recommended.
If you're nervous about it, go with the big pad sander or the random orbital machine that has 4 or 5 little round pads on it.
Those are more DIY friendly (and slower) than a drum sander.
Don't forget the edger, too.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
This is so helpful -- thank you, everyone! Now I'm feeling a bit more confident.

Will update you on my progress!
 

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Coconut Pete's paella!
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x2 on sanding, and whoever said "you will sweat and swear" is very right. My floors are from 1930 as well and after I ripped up the carpet it looked like there must have been a giant area rug in the house back then and only the edges were finished so there was no choice but to sand. 4 diff. grits and 3 layers of laquer later they are beautiful.

I did this the last week of November and moved in a week later. I was vacuuming this weekend and I still find patches of sawdust though haha.
 
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