Floors get a facelift

This past weekend was my mom’s birthday weekend.  What better way to celebrate another year than spending two very long, very exhausting days sanding floors???  Okay, I can think of better ways to celebrate…but the floors now look great!  Mom says next year she will be in Maui for her birthday.  Alone. 

Friday night dad picked up a big, heavy, random orbital sander (ROS) from True Value in Grimes.  He got it out to my house, where we realized one of the four sanding pad holders (I have no idea what they’re actually called…) had been worn smooth and wouldn’t hold a sanding pad.  Dad had just enough time to get back to True Value before they closed, where they fixed the broken bit.  He also got another Klean Strip product – this time a flooring adhesive remover for the carpet glue in the dining room.  If you have ever glued anything to a hardwood floor, we are no longer friends.  That is tyranny in my book, especially after what it took to get that glue off.  Take a trip back down memory lane here to remember what the floors looked like when we started.  Blue carpet in the dining room?  I had forgotten that.  Panelling?  Seems like a distant memory.

When I got home from work on Saturday afternoon, half the glue in the dining room had disappeared.  Mom, again, on her birthday, had spent the entire day on her hands and knees with caustic chemicals spreading and scraping.  I hope the result made the work seem worth it.  The floor really is beautiful now.  I also noticed a drum sander in the house when I got home.  I thought we had agreed that we absolutely did not want a drum sander – they are hard to use well and can leave wavy floors.  Turns out the ROS coudln’t cut through the thick layer of finish on the 100 year old floors.  We’re not 100% sure they had ever been refinished before.  So the method was using the drum sander with 20 grit paper – yes, 20 grit – to cut through the finish, then buffing out any marks and smoothing the floor with 36 grit on the ROS.  When I got home on Saturday, the NE living room was done.  Here’s a shocking photo.


The floors are incredibly hard – as demonstrated by the difficulty in sanding them – but the yellow tone and grain pattern still has me convinced that they’re yellow pine.  They’re soft enough to dent with a fingernail, so definitely a softwood, but since they’re 100 years old now, and the old growth trees used to make them were probably at least 100 years old when the floors were new, they’re an incredibly hard softwood.

After a full day of scraping the glue off the floor in the dining room, here’s what the floor looked like.


It’s not pretty, and I think my mom even said it looked like crap, but you can now see individual floor boards instead of just a dirty mat of garbage – glue, sheetrock mud, paint, etc.  Here’s a photo of my dad running the drum sander in the dining room after the glue removal.


And a gratifying before and after of the dining room.  This is also post ROS buffing, more on that in a bit.


Holy cow.  That’s a transformation.

Sunday was my day off, so I spent some time with my favorite tool, the paint scraper, removing thick chunks of glue in the dining room that the adhesive remover hadn’t gotten up and the sander couldn’t cut through.  I had done the same in the kitchen the night before, and we realized (thankfully) we didn’t have to use the adhesive remover in the kitchen at all.  There were only a few spots of thick, black, tar-like glue left from the linoleum in the kitchen, and a little less than half the floor in there is brand new douglas fir.

After I had gotten the dining room the rest of the way to being ready for sanding, I did some playing around with stains.  Yep.  Stains.  Seeing the bare wood softened me a little and I decided graying them out completely was too harsh.  They were prettier than I expected, and I realized I wanted more of a warm rustic look.  I also read a blog somewhere out there about grey being this generation’s avocado green or harvest gold….I already have charcoal grey cabinets….I didn’t want to fall too far into that club.  Mom grabbed tiny cans of Minwax driftwood and weathered oak.  I tested them separately, mixed them, and layered them both ways.  Ultimately, I think just plain weathered oak might be the winner.  There’s going to be a lot of variation in the floor – some boards are pinstriped, others have wild grain patterns, and some are more red than yellow.  I think it’ll be warm and rustic and unique.  I hope.  For the most part, it seems to bring out the natural tone of the floor while giving a grey tint to the grain.  I didn’t try a pre-stain conditioner when I tested the stain, so that may change things, too.

Okay, so I said there would be more about the ROS sanding.  On Saturday night dad had told me I was totally capable of running the ROS sander.  It just vibrates.  So Sunday afternoon, since we were on a time crunch to have the machines back by 4pm, I decided to be brave and give it a try.  It really wasn’t bad, other than when all four of the orbiting pads lined up in their orbits and pulled me to one side or the other.  Core strength  This weekend was all about core strength for me.  Scraping glue was like using an ab wheel and made me sore; the ROS sander tested my entire body’s ability to stay upright while wrangling a heavy, wild machine.  I think I equated it to standing on a balance ball.  I ran the sander on 36 grit in the SE living room, the kitchen, and the dining room.  After about 2 hours straight of following the sander wherever it pulled me, I could hardly bend my knees.  It felt like I had been standing in line for hours.  But, the result is beautiful.

We didn’t get to the 100 grit in any of the rooms, so we’ll need another day with my pal the ROS in the future before we put the finish down.  We also have some work to do around the edges of the rooms with a hand sander.  But, for the first time in months I feel safe walking through the house barefoot.  Actually, it’s finally feeling like fall here, and I’m prone to cold toes, so I’ve been walking through the house in slippers.  The principle remains the same, things could still stab me through my slippers, but there’s nothing left to stab me.  It’s a big step forward and really changes the feel of the house.

I feel like I didn’t give you enough pictures in this post.  Here are a few more random floor pictures.  You can see there are some dark spots here and there, those will just add to the rustic feel of the floor.





1 Comment

Filed under Before and After, Finishes, Floors, Kitchen

One response to “Floors get a facelift

  1. Mom

    A solid family effort with great results…but I think I hear hula music playing now!!

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