New Skill – Refinishing Floors

A few cursery google searches and it is pretty clear that refinishing a section of hardwood floors is a difficult task, even if the work itself is relatively straight forward. The main issue comes in matching the repaired section of stain/finish to the hardwood that surrounds it. Even using the original stain to patch sections can be problematic and end up with easily visible patch jobs throughout your hardwood floors. That being said, Allyson and I “decided” to patch our hardwood floor because there’s no way a patch would look worse that this….

Some people could call this a focal point of the room, just not in a good way.

As I discussed previously, the flipper left us with some problem areas in our house, and the area under our bar in the kitchen was one of them. The first step to fix the issue was to refinish the section of the floor that used to be covered by worthless cabinets. Time to break out the sander and bring the section of floor down to bare wood. Note the tape in the picture above marking the last board I wanted to sand down to bare wood. If you can, repairing out to the edge of a board will help make the refinished section less noticeable.

Always use proper respiratory protections when sanding. Chipmunk cheeks are just an added perk of safety.

When sanding a floor down to the bare wood, it is important to work your way up from a coarse grit sandpaper (60-80 grit) to a fine grit sandpaper (120-240ish). The first 3 minutes of the video below gives a great pictorial representation of why working your way gradually through grits is important.

For my small section of floor, I used a handheld orbital sander and worked my way from 60 to 80 to 100 to 120 grit sandpaper. In between each sanding I made sure to vacuum up all of the sawdust on the floor. I even ended up building a small tent structure using plastic hanging from the bar to try and contain all of the sawdust, but even with that in place we ended up with a living room and kitchen covered in a fine layer of sawdust.

Sanding complete. It was great to see the natural color of our floor and it gave us a better idea of potential future floor finishes.

After completing all of the sanding, it was time to try and match the stain color of the patch to the existing stain. Let me tell you, this was a pain. All we had to go off of was a receipt that said 50% gray, 50% white for the mix. So Allyson and I headed over to home depot and bought a bunch of sample size stains in various shades of gray, white, yellow, and even blue. Our plan was to slowly mix stains together and test them until we found the right match to the existing color. A few hours of mixing like a mad scientist and we ended up with “good enough”.

A couple of mad scientists at work. Not a huge fan of that blue stain… Unfortunately a large amount of that stain was needed for our final mixture.
Close up of our matching attempts. I believe we did 5 or 6 more samples before calling it good enough and re-sanding that section of floor.

Time to stain with the “good enough” color. Prior to applying the test stains and the final stain, I “water popped” the floor. This entails wiping the floor with a damp towel, enough to get the wood wet without leaving any standing water, and then letting it dry fully before staining. Doing a water pop is meant to open up the grain of the wood and make it more receptive to the stain that you are about to apply.

Again, remember to use the proper skin and respiratory protections while staining.
One coat didn’t quite get the floor dark enough.

Still pretty light after 1 coat of stain (left in place for ~30 seconds before wiping away), I went ahead and did a second coat of stain prior to applying the polyurethane.

A second coat of stain and two coats of polyurethane later, not a bad result.

In the grand scheme of things, I am extremely happy with how the floor turned out. A few stools in place and no one will ever know that this section of floor had to be refinished to match the rest of the floor.

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