The floors are done. Finally.
I started sanding the floors three weeks ago today and thought I would be able to finish in one week. We did actually finish almost all the sanding in one week, but applying the three coats of polyurethane and sanding between took some time – especially because I am now back to work at my real job. Before I reveal the “after” pictures, here is the grand summary…
We sanded and refinished every room of the house, except the two bathrooms and the vestibule. This is a total of around 2000 square feet. The process went something like this: We sanded with 16 grit, then the edger with 16 grit, then vacuum, then repeated that same sequence with 20 grit, then 36, then 60, then 80. That was followed with an orbital sander with an 80 grit, then vacuum, then again with a 120 grit screen. After vacuuming very thoroughly again, we wiped all floors with a rag and mineral spirits. We then applied satin polyurethane, let it dry 24 hours, then pole sanded and wiped down with microfiber cloth. The second coat of polyurethane was allowed to dry for 72 hours, then pole sanded again and wiped down again. The third coat of polyurethane has now dried enough for light foot traffic . All total – the floors were sanded 7 times, vacuumed 8 times, pole sanded 2 times, wiped down by hand 3 times, and covered with poly 3 times. That’s a total of 23 passes over all 2000 square feet. That is 46,000 square feet – just shy of a entire football field or ten basketball courts.
[Edit from Amy: And that doesn’t count the hours spent on hands and knees prepping the floors for this job. I.E. mastic tar removal, counter sinking every nail head and removing every old carpet staple. We also did a ton of sweeping before any sanding to get every stray plaster crumb and dog hair out- which is, in all honesty, quite impossible. ]
The final product
So much has happened since our last post that I had to go back and reread it just to figure out where I left off. On the 5th day of sanding we were finally done with the drum sander and edger, finishing up with the 80 grit. On day 6, the Saturday of my last day of summer break, I rented an orbital sander to do the final “buffing” pass. The orbital sander is supposed to provide one consistent look and, since it can get much closer to the wall, get rid of any remaining lines from the edger. This type of sander is the one that is recommended (instead of the drum sander) by a lot of websites for DIYers because it is much less aggressive and much less likely to damage the floor. Of course, this also means it doesn’t actually do much. This sander would have run screaming just at the sight of our floors in their original condition. The orbital sander has hundreds of little rubber stubs on the bottom of it that help hold a thick pad and then a 12×18″ sheet of sandpaper.
The orbital sander
A long time ago when I was researching everything about refinishing floors I found something online that calculated how long it would take to do the project. Turns out that 2000 sq. ft. is supposed to take 105 hours. I remember thinking, “Whoah! That’s a lot. How could it possibly take that long?” Well, now I think they underestimated, because that number obviously doesn’t apply to a 100 year-old floor that may never have been finished since it was first installed. My original naive guess was that we would have the floors sanded in 2 days. Silly me. I should certainly know by now to double any expectations of time.
At the end of day 1 Amy and I were feeling good about the progress on the 2nd floor. We had the bugs worked out and had developed an efficient work flow. On day 2 we were fortunate enough to have our friend invite Lucy over for a day-long play date with her two little girls (Thanks, Anna!) so that Amy and I could work together on the floors. The morning went great! Sanding with the higher grit was easier on the drum sander and the edger and by early afternoon the upstairs was DONE.
After having a quick lunch, the rest of the afternoon was not so bright and cheerful. We both thought that the floors downstairs would be the same, if not easier, to sand. The boards are more even and are generally in better shape than the ones we just finished (How quickly we forgot about paint and the laminate we removed). I started in the parlor with a 20 grit and noticed immediately that I was going to need to slow down. It was taking forever for the 20 to cut through, but when it was done I thought it looked decent enough for a first pass.
Parlor – first pass with 20 grit
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.
We are now at T minus 5 weeks before the big move-in deadline. The 10-12 hour days have continued, although we did sneek in a three-day trip to Michigan with the kiddos this week. I consider that the calm before the storm. Or maybe it would really be considered the eye of the hurricane. Either way, we are making big progress.
One quick note before we dive right into the pictures. For the past few weeks I have felt just like the Karate Kid. Do you remember how Mr. Miagi had Daniel wax the cars, paint the fence, and the sand deck as training for karate? Well, based on my practice regiment, I’m ready for the big tournament right now. Put me in! The non-stop repetitive motions of sanding, scraping, puttying, painting, spraying, and drilling have more than prepared me for some type of martial art. I’m sure of it.
Overall, the plaster repair took longer then I anticipated. It was also less fun and gratifying then I anticipated. Of course, it could just be because I had to do SIX rooms of plaster repair. I won’t bore you with the details. Here are some pics of the newly repaired and primed rooms…
Living room (looking towards parlor)
While Joe has been busy continuing window reglazing, door restoration, and plaster repair, I have been chipping away at the floors….literally. I talked a lot about the mastic tar and horse hoof glue removal process in this blog post when I was about half way through the job. Now that job is officially finished and I’m so glad to have it behind me! The last section of the house that needed mastic removal was the kitchen. Here’s a picture of me working on removing tar from the south side of the kitchen.
removing tar from the kitchen floors
Over the last 100 years the waves of what’s hot and what’s not in home decor usually leaves many layers of work to be subsequently undone in future home renovations. Each decade brings a new layer (literally) to the story with floors and walls acting like layers of sediment that reveal the past. We are extremely lucky that our house has seen very little alterations. No awkward additions to the house, not much wallpaper to remove, original hardware remains, no one removed the original windows for cheap replacements, the walls were all still plaster, the original woodwork is in good shape and was never even painted. It’s truly shocking that this house has remained so untouched for so many years. It makes us feel guilty for making any alterations at all, but we have worked hard to leave as much intact as possible by going through great pains to restore the walls, windows, floors, and retain the original floor plan as much as feasibly possible in a modern world. Continue reading
Week 41 – Joe
The original floors of our fixer upper still exist and are in surprisingly good condition on the 1st level of the house. We are planning on sanding and finishing all the hardwood floors in the house… which is ALL the flooring in the house. These 100 year old 5″ pinewood floors have a ton of character. We are certainly NOT experts on flooring of late Victorian houses, but we are guessing that the floors on the 1st level were probably intended to be covered with wall to wall carpet. Not the plush, thick carpets we have today… probably a thin carpet that sat directly on top of the hardwood. At some point in our house’s history someone added a 2′ linoleum border around the edges of all the rooms downstairs (except kitchen). They probably covered the middle portion of each floor with a rug. The linoleum comes off with a wide range of effort. Some of it will need to be heated up with steam and scraped off, some of it just pulls right up.
A sample area of flooring near the wall. Notice that the 5″ board has a line that makes it appear like two smaller boards.