Restoring your floors can add
value to your home



David Cunningham of Metro Sand Pro sands a wood floor in a Wauwatosa home in preparation for staining.

While wall-to-wall carpeting has been the floor covering of choice in homes across the nation for decades, in recent years a growing number of homeowners are choosing to show off their wood floors. They are discovering that you can add charm and sometimes value to your home by restoring your hardwood floors. But whether you want to completely restore a floor or just refinish it, you need to get the facts first.

“Ninety to 95 percent of wood floors can be restored,” according to Kevin Davidson. Davidson and his partner Dieter Hess are owners of Metro Sand Pro in Menomonee Falls. “Sometimes floors have water damage that cannot be repaired,” he said. And occasionally other difficulties arise. “We have been hired to redo the kitchen floors in some old homes, but discovered that once the linoleum was removed there were only fir planks beneath it. Fir is too soft a wood to refinish, so the entire floor must be replaced. You can’t assume that all floors are hardwood,” he said.

Before you begin, consider your goal. Do you wish to refinish a floor that’s badly worn, repair a stain or renew a dull finish? “In the very worst cases, you must decide how far you wish to go to restore a damaged floor. If necessary, we can remove and replace damaged boards,” Davidson said. It is possible to do the job yourself, he said, but if you are not mechanically inclined you probably are better off hiring someone to do it for you. “The machinery is definitely industrial and heavy duty. It’s not easy to master it,” he said.

The first step in refinishing a floor is to sand it to remove any existing finish and expose the raw wood as well as to level it out. Sanding must be done in the direction of the wood grain in even strokes. Don’t sand across the grain. After the entire floor is sanded, a light grain sandpaper is used to remove scratches and lines in the floor. Before stain is applied, all loose sawdust must be removed. “Some of the equipment we use has gotten better in recent years. The sanders have a dust evacuation system that draws the dust outside into a collection bag. It’s a lot less mess for everyone,” Davidson said. If you are doing the job yourself, however, you will need to wear a dust mask and cover door openings with plastic to keep sawdust in one area.

Next, you may wish to stain the floor or leave it natural in tone and apply a finish only. The stain is usually applied in two or three light coats to achieve the desired color. The area must be well ventilated because of the fumes. After the stain, Davidson applies three coats of an environmentally-friendly waterborne acrylic finish. “The most important thing here is to remember there is a time period when the floor is off limits. You don’t want any smudges or footprints,” he said.

These days, there is relatively little work involved in caring for a hardwood floor if it has an acrylic finish. Gone are the days of scrubbing and waxing. “The typical lifespan of a waterborne finish is five to ten years,” Davidson said. “Regular dust mopping and cleaning with a mild detergent are all you need to do to keep your floor looking beautiful.”