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Hardwood Floor Refinishing Tips
Refinished wood floors provide warmth, beauty and the perception of space. They are even nice in a kitchen and provide continuity in the entire house. Red and white oak floors affect the stain color, so determine what kind you have before selecting your stain.
Home buyers really like hardwood floors too. Just watch any Home and Garden TV show, and you will learn that designers will go through great lengths and efforts to remove any carpet and expose wooden floors. Also Realtors will usually advise you to refinish hardwood floors as a part of preparing a home for sale.
White Oak and Red Oak Floors
White Oak is less common these days, but on the East coast it was preferred and installed in many homes built during the 1960s. White Oak is fine grained and has hint of yellow to grey in it. Red Oak is much more common. As its name implies, it has a reddish tint and shows more grain. Red oak is common in most new home construction today.
Hardwood Floors Refinishing Issues
You can refinish hardwood floor yourself or hire a hardwood floor refinishing company to do it. In either case, there are several things you must determine for any kind of wood floor:
- What tree species of wood floor you have,
- What color stain you want to use,
- Whether you want to use an oil base or water base polyurethane
- The desired finish- glossy, matte, or satin
- Whether to replace the quarter round molding
Determining the trees species is especially important if you are installing new flooring. You should always match the wood species to your existing hardwood floors. So if you have white oak, then you should be installing white oak. Ditto for changing the quarter round molding. If you mix wood species it may stick out like a sore thumb.
It's critical to know the trees species of your floors when you want to retain the natural color of the wood or something close to it. Most hardwood floor refinishing companies will be able to tell you what tree species you have by testing the wood in an inconspicuous place like a closet. This is done by removing the polyurethane finish with a solvent and examining the grain and color of the wood.
White oak has less of a grain and tends to look yellow. It also has white streaks in it that present a challenge when one is trying to retain more of the natural color of the wood. If you use a natural stain on white oak floors, then your floors are going to have a yellow look to them also.
We actually had this issue with our floors. Instead of going with a natural stain we opted for a very light pecan stain. It worked for us as you can see in the photo above. Note you can see those white streaks in the photo below. They are not noticeable in the house though.
Red oak is absolutely beautiful with a natural stain, especially if you are looking for a spacious and airy look. Definitely visit the American Hardwood Information Center to learn more about hardwoods.
Staining and Finishes
Once your floors are sanded, test out several stains. Remember that over time, all stains turn darker. If you adjust standard stains, make sure you measure precisely what the volumes are and write it down for future use.
Once you have decided on a stain, you have to think about the finish. Polyurethane is nothing but a hard plastic wrapper that protects your floors. It comes in two flavors: water-based and oil-based. The water-based polyurethane is easier to work with and doesn't give off the hideous odor of oil-based polyurethane. It requires more coats.
Some hardwood floor companies in the Washington DC area are not accustomed to using it. It is also a bit more expensive. Water based polyurethane is a good choice, because it does not yellow. However, it is not as strong as the oil-based kind. Oil based polyurethane will yellow over time. For that reason, we don't recommend using it on a wood floor where you want to retain the natural color of the wood.
The finish that you select is really one of personal preference. The glossy look is very attractive. Our floors had this for years and friends always remarked how great the floors looked. In the above photos, we chose a satin finish. The satin gives a hint of shine but it is not overwhelming.
It takes about a week to refinish hardwood floors in a 2,000-3,000 square foot house. Once your floors are refinished, they will need at least three weeks to cure. During this time, NO ONE should be allowed to walk on them. If you have to, then put on cotton socks. Shoes and bare feet will leave marks on the floor.
Most reputable firms also recommend that you not place furniture or rugs on the new finished floor for the same amount of time. With the above in mind, schedule floor refinishing at the end of your home remodeling project.
What comes first?
Clients often ask whether to refinish wood floors or to paint first. We suggest that you paint first. The sanding machine is going to mess up the molding and walls anyway, so your painter or you will have to touch up. There's no way around it. It beats getting stressed out over paint getting on those floors though.