Adventures in Floor Sanding – Day 1

Sanding and refinishing the floors was a job that had been looming at the very end of the first stage of our home renovation.  It marks the end of major mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and structural jobs and also acts as a bridge to the next stage of our project.  I woke up this morning relatively confident I had done all I could do to prepare for this next endeavor, but I couldn’t help but think about all the things that could go wrong….  beginning with picking up the equipment.  In my mind, for whatever reason, I felt like the guys at the rental place were going to point and laugh at me, or even worse, refuse to give me the equipment.  I know – it’s ridiculous. I am a full-fledged home rehabber.  I am now sufficiently dirty and seasoned.  I seized the opportunity to skip the big box stores and happily support a local rental place on the near eastside just down the street from our house.  The guys turned out to be extremely friendly, helpful without being condescending, and set me up with good information about the specific sanders I was renting. [Edit from Amy: See I told you it would be fine.] My first impression of the drum sander?  It’s so vintage and cool-looking!  [Edit from Amy: It’s all round and cute like a grey little storm cloud.] Also, it’s a little smaller than I expected, but literally weighs a hundred pounds.  So small and unassuming.

vintage!

vintage!

My view all day

My view all day

After successfully acquiring the equipment, I headed immediately to the house (while Amy dropped Lucy off at her mom’s house for the day – thanks, Nancy!) and got ready to do a trial run.  I picked a spot in the downstairs bathroom that would eventually be tiled.  There wasn’t much room, but it gave me the opportunity to at least get a feel for the sander and do a little practice easing it on and off the floor.  Once I felt relatively comfortable I headed up to Aiden’s room and tentatively did a few passes in an inconspicuous area.  I immediately suspected that my starting grit wasn’t coarse enough.

My very first sanding with the 36 grit

My very first sanding with the 36 grit

I had been warned in my research that the most common mistake is starting with too fine of a grit.  Most people overestimate the condition of their floor.  I started at 36 grit because our floors are pine.  Pine is a soft “hardwood” and my biggest fear was that an aggressive grit would chew up our floors in no time.  Turns out I was wrong. [Edit from Amy: We all are sometimes.] I headed back to the rental place and they were happy to give me 20 grit.  This stuff looks crazy, but was definitely a better starting point than the 36.

20 grit on the roller

20 grit on the roller

While you are looking at the sandpaper, check out that bar.  Every time I need to remove and replace the sandpaper I have to loosen that bar, take out the sandpaper, feed new paper around the roll, and then reattach the bar.  Not terribly complicated, but it definitely slows the process down.  The paper for this sander only lasts 100 square feet.  That’s not very much…  maybe a little more than half of a room.  Another thing that slows down the process is emptying the bag of sawdust.

We chose to keep our sawdust outside

We chose to keep our sawdust outside

We have been warned by multiple people about the danger of a spark causing an ember to smolder inside the bag and eventually catch fire.  Amy gets really paranoid about stuff like that, [Edit from Amy: Like yesterday when I thought I caught the steamer on fire? Is that what you mean?] so I agreed to keep all the sawdust in our yard.  The most annoying part of the sawdust removal is untying and tying the bag…

I was never good at knots

I was never good at knots

After fatigue started to set in, [Edit from Amy: Presumably from untying and retying the bag.]  I found these little sawdust and sandpaper interruptions made for awesome breaks.  Something to break up the monotony of sanding.  You know what else breaks up the monotony of sanding?  Vacuuming between grits.

Not exciting at all

Not exciting at all

[Edit from Amy: I would just like to say that while Joe is pretending to be the only one sanding the floors that I was there and I did more than sweep….sometimes I held the sanding cord out of the way for Joe. No, wait….I did other things too! My big job for the day was sanding the perimeter of the floors with the edger. This is a smaller version of the big sander but don’t be fooled. It is not the equivalent of the wimpy girl gun. This thing was heavy, difficult to control, and the darn sawdust bag kept shooting off behind me. And, I can’t be too sure but I may or may not have used foul language. ] I firmly believe that many DIYers tend to overdo things rather than the opposite.  That’s because we are working on our own homes.  We want it to be right, not quick.  It is probably overkill, but even after sanding the first floor with a 20 grit I felt like it needed another pass (something the guy at the rental place suggested I might do).  So I did it all again.  I did that on all four areas we sanded today.  Then I did the 36 grit – twice!  But now it looks great.  These floors have never been sanded, they are uneven, and have 100 years of dirt and soot imbedded deep into their pores.  I figure it’s going to take a little elbow grease to get them looking good.  Here is what one spot looked like after the first pass of the 20 grit…

first pass of 20 grit

first pass of 20 grit

After another pass with the 20 grit and one with the 36…   [Edit from Amy: Miraculously the edges are sanded. How?]

Not too shabby

Not too shabby

Here is Aiden’s floor after the 60 grit…

Looking pretty good!

Looking pretty good!

Our finishing grit will be 80 on all the floors.  Here is what the breakdown was today: Aiden’s room – 2 passes with 20 grit, 2 passes with 36 grit, 1 pass with 60 grit Lucy’s room – 2 passes with 20, 1 pass with 36 Master bedroom – 2 passes with 20, 2 passes with 36 Commons area – 2 passes with 20

Sanding in the master bedroom

Sanding in the master bedroom

Having TWO of us working together makes this process go MUCH faster (probably twice as fast – duh).  [Edit from Amy: Not really. I doddle, post pictures to instagram when my hands get tired, I call my sister and drink lemonade. That is not an exaggeration. I really did sip lemonade. Thanks Aunt Vicki for the lemonade!]  After I have done a pass with a certain grit, Amy follows in that room with the edger.  The edger is more backbreaking (and kneebreaking) than the drum sander.  It is made to get closer to the wall where the drum sander won’t fit.  I didn’t get any pictures of Amy in action today.  I’ll do a better job tomorrow. Despite the fact that we didn’t get as far as we wanted today, it was a good day and a good start.  We have figured out how to speed up our work flow and now we know how everything works. More updates on our progress tomorrow.

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