Hardwood floor refinishing can be challenging, but it most definitely can be taught. We learned the nuances of our craft over years and we can safely say that experience is something that you can't teach. Hardwood floor refinishing is very much an art. We'd like to let you behind the curtain as we begin a multi-part series that details the ins and outs of hardwood floor refinishing. Look for the other parts of this series to come out in the coming weeks.
I’d personally like to just start off by saying; this article is meant to educate you, the home owner, on HOW to refinish your hardwood floors and the procedures necessary that must be taken to end up with a professional looking product after the work is complete. This is, however, NOT an article meant to teach you how the machines work or how to use them. This is plainly and simply meant to be a step by step guide on what machines you need to rent, and what sandpaper you need to use to end up with a floor you will be happy with when all is completed. I, nor my company, am not responsible for whatever damage you may do to your hardwood floor in attempting a refinishing project. This is a large risk for the first time user; please remember that woodworking is a skill that takes years to get good at, and a lifetime to master. Also, this guide is meant for a NATURAL refinishing; meaning sanding the floor down and applying finish for a light looking appearance. Staining requires much more steps and sanding, and is genuinely best left to be done by professionals.
Chapter 1: Equipment
Before beginning your project, it is important to know which tools you're going to need as well as what you're not going to need. I know many of you were sitting here thinking, “Right, I’ll be on my way to Home Depot this afternoon to rent all of the equipment and begin my sanding”. Home Depot is THE LAST place you should do your shopping when it comes to hardwood flooring. You should be consulting a hardwood flooring store that specializes in just flooring supplies and equipment rentals. There are many in all areas of the country - I'm not going to recommend any specific ones.
Let’s begin with why you shouldn’t go to Home Depot. Though it may be tempting with the rates they have on tool rentals, the simple fact is they DO NOT have the tools you need for a proper refinishing job. The single most important tool needed for hardwood floor refinishing is a 220Wat Belt Sanding Machine, also referred to as a “Big Machine” or “Belt Sander”. Home Depot will usually try to sell you on one of these beautiful little monstrosities and expect you to refinish the entire project with it:
This is a tool that, if used at all, should be used towards the very end of a sanding process. They may also try to sell you on a 110Volt smaller drum sander. Do not, I repeat, do not fall for this. If you DO manage to sand your floor with it, the project will literally take triple the amount of time and sandpaper to complete properly.
The first tool that you should be looking for is made by a variety of manufacturers; Lagler, Bona, Clarke, and Galaxy all make a big belt sander and each has its own upsides and downsides. However, whichever sander your local rental flooring store has will do the job just fine. Again, CHECK TO SEE IT IS IN FACT A 220WAT SANDER. Below is a picture of the Lagler Hummel. It is often seen as the industry leader in belt sanders. The dust collection is so spectacular on this particular machine that disconnecting the bag and replacing it with a vacuum machine often cripples the dust collection and makes it worse rather than better.
The next piece of equipment you will need is called an “Edger Machine”. This, again, is a very important piece of equipment that the job cannot be properly completed without. The Clarke Super 7R is the industry leader in these machines, and most flooring rental stores will have many readily available and, in most cases, even Home Depot has started offering these as a rental option.
Other important pieces of equipment you will also need: an Orbital Palm Sander, and an Industrial Grade Vacuum. These come in a variety of configurations and a surprising amount of households have them in their garage.
The final piece of equipment is going to be an orbital buffer. Orbital buffers are actually quite tricky to use properly so make sure to review an documentation that comes with the rental of this machine. An instruction video will do wonders for you before you begin the refinishing process.