Floor frustrations-how to clean up these old hardwoods?

weedyacresSeptember 1, 2013

X-posting this to Flooring

We've taken a floor sander with 20-grit paper to a couple floors, and we're not getting the results we hoped yet.

Kitchen floor: I steamed off 2 layers of linoleum and adhesive. After sanding, there are some areas of discoloration that aren't coming out with tons of sanding, including hand sanding with an orbital sander.

Bedroom floor: Under carpet, this was the original hardwood in decent shape. But sanding gums up the 20-grit paper without taking it off. Other stuff (residual paint, adhesive) is coming off, but the sandpaper quickly gums up.

Any tips for getting either of these off? We're thinking we might need to rent a drum sander, though it's labor day weekend and the local rental places are closed, so that throws a wrench in things.

The plan is to put a Bona Sealer over the bare floors and then Bona Traffic poly.

This post was edited by weedyacres on Sun, Sep 1, 13 at 10:07

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Kitchen - black water stains may or may not come out, no matter how deep you sand. If its only in a few areas you might replace that wood with some salvage strips from somewhere else. Im going to be either painting my kitchen floor a nice earthy red or do some sort of glazing finish over it with red paint where some of the grain shows through.

Other floors - sounds like there is shellac on it. It will just gum up the sander or even worse, start to burn because of the friction of the sander and leave black scorch marks in the freshly sanded wood (been there, done that). Remove shellac before sanding - soften small areas with denatured alcohol, and then attack with a carbide blade paint scraper. This is labor intensive - but the good news is you wont need a gym membership because it is good exercise and builds upper body strength.

I would certainly sand to smooth and brighten the wood but I wouldnt use a drum sander on a soft wood. . Because its soft, its likely to have dents, scratches, minor discoloration deeper into the wood than youd want to sand. Otherwise you could end up with a mess like my PO left me - sanded almost down into the tongue and groove in some places. Maybe rent one of those less aggressive orbital floor sanders with an 80-100 grit paper

I had to change my attitude with my current fir floors and embrace the fact that they were 100 year old soft wood and just let them be 100 years old. People pay good money for distressed or vintage wood flooring. People do faux distressing on new floors fer crying out loud! If the sanding and finishing is done well, then its going to look great and feel good underfoot in your bare feet.

This post was edited by kashka_kat on Sun, Sep 1, 13 at 12:59

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 12:52PM
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Try wood bleach (oxalic acid) and see what happens. Then tell yourself it's patina and either stain the floor dark enough to hide the worst of the stain or call it "a reminder of the house's past" and live with it.

On the bedroom - you need to strip it.

DO NOT USE A DRUM SANDER! Those things chew through floors quickly unless you have a lot of experience.

This post was edited by lazygardens on Sun, Sep 1, 13 at 13:56

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 1:54PM
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Thanks for your suggestions on chemicals and warnings against drum sanding. I went shopping Monday morning for chemicals, and in the meantime Mr. Weedy made faster passes on the floor with the sander to avoid heating up and globbing the shellac or whatever was on the floor.

Results: Denatured alcohol did nothing. I tried wiping with a rag, scrubbing with steel wool, flooding a small area and letting it sit, all with no results. Guess it's not shellac.

I then tried lacquer thinner. Scrubbing with a rag seemed to have an effect, so I did a fairly large area. Once it dried, however, there was minimal results, and less so on the unsanded wood than sanded. I tried it in one of the bedrooms that had a single sanding pass, and quit once I started feeling a little stomach cramping. :-) Yes, I had the windows open and a fan going. Sanding that didn't seem any different from the area I didn't apply the lacquer thinner.

Didn't try the mineral spirits yet. In the meantime Mr. Weedy had sanded one of the bedrooms about 18 times with 60 grit (seemed to create more dust than 20 grit), and made headway. I took an orbital sander with 40 grit to the spots left behind (slightly deeper grooves/dents) and here's where we're at:

Bottom left corner is where I hand sanded.

Lowe's had no oxalic acid, but we've got some in our garage 100 miles away, so we'll work on the kitchen again later.

Also, in the meantime, we used a belt sander on the mosaic inlay portions to get off the lippage, machine sanded over it to even out the belt sander marks, and then chipped away with a hand sander to get the residual off. This shows what our eventual goal is, but it'll be dozens of hours if we have to hand sand off this finish.

I've done some more googling and may try citrus strip or Formby's furniture restorer to remove the finish.

We've also got this area that had tile over it. The thinset seems to have bleached out the wood where it touched, but even aggressive hand sanding is having a tough time evening out all the discoloration.

I'm still very open to additional suggestions to attack this.

And I must say that I now know the answer to the question, "why would anyone cover up hardwood floors?" Anyone who asks has never personally refinished them. :-)

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 8:55AM
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Careful application of wood stain can even out the pale spots.

But, my attitude towards seriously old flooring is: the floor is 100+ years old, it's going to show some indications of its history. I replace and repair damaged boards, sand the floor smooth, refresh the color with a stain that's close to the existing color, and give them a good clear topcoat.

But it's never going to be new again. I had ink spots in one floor where the original owner, and architect, had his drafting table. A mysterious dark square was identified as where an old radio (lead-acid battery) had been.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 2:37PM
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You guys already talked me out of staining pine, and my sealer and poly are on hand.

I am completely ok with the floor not looking perfect. I guess I could use some guidance on how imperfect is ok for an old, $60K house. I've got no frame of reference for what is "character" and what is sloppy refinishing. Are the dark spots in the bedroom ok (which I think are residual color from previous floor)? Water stain in the kitchen? Light spots and circles where tile used to be? How much of those will mellow out with the finish and how much will be made starker?

I do have to remind myself that most of the floors will be covered up with furniture, and no one will be scrutinizing every inch.

I am excited about the inlays and how cool they're turning out.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 6:49PM
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I just posted to Flooring, but wanted to update here as well, for those that don't venture over there.

Out of frustration with nothing else working, we bit the bullet last weekend and rented a drum sander. 20 grit did the trick and took the shellac/lacquer off. These pine floors are apparently hard enough that digging into them didn't ruin them. It also got out the thinset marks by the door.

Still plenty of character marks that I'm resigned to. Can it get any better than what you see above?

The kitchen is another story. Oxalic acid didn't get the stains out, and drum sander seemed to release a faint odor of urine (really? under 2 layers of linoleum?). I don't know whether to still attempt a seal/poly or just cover them with some nice sheet vinyl. Your thoughts?

    Bookmark   October 23, 2013 at 11:22AM
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Did you sand in direction of the grain (ie diagonally)? The kitchen floor is what I'd expect - black water stains usually go deep into the wood and are hopeless. The problem with bleach is you might lighten the stain, but then you also lighten a ring around the stain and it can end up looking worse. If staining is from old shellac, try scrubbing with hot ammonia and water solution (wear respirator and eye protection) - removes both old shellac and dirt. You can really scrub it hard and use enough solution to get all the dirt - but not too much and not flooding it because then the boards can warp or cup. Using a scraper with blade kinda pushes the dirty water out of the grain and then I wipe up the muck with a paper towel. Then a rinse with plain water to get out rest of dirt and ammonia.

Test in a small spot to see if its worth the bother!

Re: character vs. sloppy refinishing. Think of it this way. If the sanding and finish application is flawless (or close to it) it's going to be beautiful and have character. If there's all kinds of swirl marks and rough patches, and the sealer coat wasn't given a final luxurious smooth sanding with 320 grit, and the poly has nubs and particles and hairs in it that wasn't sanded out between coats, and the staining is way uneven, if you use some horrible floor finish product like Minwax that doesn't keep the flattening agent evenly distributed and is not self leveling.... then it won't look so hot.

BTW, a DIY'er can get decent staining results by taping off 3 or 4 boards at a time and taking your time to get a smooth application. A professional isn't going to do it that way but newbies should.

Good luck - Im quite happy with how my 100 yr old pine turned out (sanded by PO down to tongue and groove so no way it could be made perfect.) In my kitchen I will experiment with multiple layers of paint and sanding back to the different layers and even bare wood in some spots - then poly topcoat.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 12:54PM
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I did my oak hardwood floor a few months ago. There were several dark and urine soaked areas that just won't come out so darker stain like Minwax's Early American looks good here. Gives sort of an antique walnut look and blends well. Then I topped it with 6 thin coats of the Cabot poly.

The previous owners at some point in the early 80's had carpet put in. The installers used a very hard and strong glue on the floor. That stuff gummed up several belts & disks before I stripped. Spray on paint stipper was the only stuff that would budge it!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2013 at 11:31AM
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Re: character vs. sloppy refinishing. Think of it this way. If the sanding and finish application is flawless (or close to it) it's going to be beautiful and have character. If there's all kinds of swirl marks and rough patches, and the sealer coat wasn't given a final luxurious smooth sanding with 320 grit, and the poly has nubs and particles and hairs in it that wasn't sanded out between coats, and the staining is way uneven ....

Exactly ...

    Bookmark   October 27, 2013 at 11:58AM
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We're going to seal it (tomorrow night is my plan) and then put on 2 coats of Bona Traffic, sanded between coats.

We've done meticulous poly-ing before, so hopefully can repeat this time around.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2013 at 11:00PM
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Brush a glaze over the floor before finishing. You'll be amazed at how it evens out the wood.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 8:34PM
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Interesting - what kind of glaze specifically are you referring to? Would it act like a semi-opaque colored stain - I like that idea! Does it go over or under sealer coat?

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 10:09PM
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Yeah, what kind of glaze?

Your post is a bit too late; I put a coat of Bona Sealer over the whole floor last night. The kitchen floor, IMO, looks like crap: very splotchy, with all the splotchiness only "enhanced" by the sealer.

So I'm toying with whether to stain over top of it (can't make it much worse, eh?) or plow on with the poly before I decide.

I will be doing the poly on the rest of the rooms.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 9:11AM
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For anyone sticking with me on my saga, I'm feeling guilty about constantly cross-posting, so here's a link to my post in Flooring, trying to decide keep/toss on the kitchen floors.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 10:20AM
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I stripped paint off a hickory paneled dining room; we couldn't get every last speck so my finisher recommended a glaze. It worked perfectly. Google Ernie Stobinski.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 9:47PM
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I googled Ernie, but didn't find any links that were related to floor glazing. Got any brand/product names?

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 3:09PM
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Sorry, Ernie gave me the glaze.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2013 at 10:49PM
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Can you show us how the new vinyl that you ordered looks? I'm in a similar situation and can't decide whether to cover the floors or try staining them dark.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 2:17PM
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Got the kitchen floor down this past weekend. Cabinets will be white and walls will be some shade of blue, so I picked a gray vinyl floor.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 1:22PM
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Good choice! Esp. for resale - I do think some people may not get the "distressed wood floor" concept. I like that its diagonal just like the wood floors!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 3:22PM
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Oh, and here's how the LR/DR floor turned out.

OK, someone needs to tell me how to rotate the photo. I took this with my ipad, and rotated it in photobucket, but it apparently didn't take.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 3:33PM
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My 1934 old house had had a fire before I bought it. I was told to use terpentine and linseed oil mixture, it looked really beautiful..I sanded it first. Danish oil also looks beauriful on old wood. Stains? You just have to sand first, then use a stain darker than the original. Use a wood conditioner first, then hand stain the wood, trying to blend around the stain until the spot on the floor blends in better. Apply 2 coats of poly. Keep the room as dust free as possible. I still have a dark spot on my living room floor that was burned. Doesn't bother me, just reminds me that this old house has a story to tell.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 8:53PM
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I followed your tedious efforts in these projects, failures and success. 2 out of 3 is good, and all 3 look nice. Congratulations on the accomplishments. I just posted my own kitchen floor project to Old House.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 1:06PM
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