How Improper Sanding Affects Your Floor
The floor restoration process has lots of room for error – and unfortunately, rookies carrying out the task, or the enthusiastic DIYers, are often affected by them. This is not just about the mistakes made when applying the coats. The blunders can have started early on right at the sanding stage.
- Swirls on the floor?
While it might be assumed that this is caused by penetrating finishes, it’s actually common due to sanding following the improper sequence – or stopping the process at a grit level that is too low. The wood stains being applied will make any imperfections from the sanding process more prominent. For instance, stopping at grit 60 then proceeding to apply the finish will lead to the unsightly sections being formed. Sure, you may get away with this when applying natural products whose role is to actually make the features of the wood more prominent – but when you’re treating the boards with different coloured wood stains then the final result ends up being unpalatable.
- The Halo Effect
Here, when you apply the stain you find that it’s lighter around the floor edges than it is in the middle – forming what’s usually referred to as a “halo” in the flooring industry. This is usually caused by the personnel sanding the edges smoother than the middle of the floor. For instance, a rookie contractor can sand the floor to grit 60, then use grit 100 for the edges. As such, the surface is not uniform. However, there are also cases where you use the right grit and you still end up with a halo – which can be due to differences in the movement of the belt and spinning disc.
Floor sanding can get tiresome. Sweating it out in a dust-filled room, pushing around heavy equipment, can put a toll on the DIYer. Then comes the temptation of skipping grits. The purpose of following the sequence is to ensure that the scratches and blemishes of the previous grit are removed. However, when the grits are skipped, you end up with peaks and valleys on the floorboards. When the wood stain and finish are applied, there won’t be enough product on the peaks, and the valleys will have too much – leading to uneven results. The only remedy in this situation is to sand away the existing finish, and apply new coats, which leads to more expenses being used up.
Digging further into the cost effects of the DIY process, what kind of dent will be formed in your wallet? While the DIY process starts off with the desire to save money, expenses just keep racking up. For starters, the sanding machines need to be rented. Different sections will require different equipment. The machines that are usually needed are the drum sander, radial sander, orbital sander, the edger and the buffer. You also need to get a good quality vacuum to deal with all the dust that will be generated. The equipment is usually rented with a daily rate – so the amount you spend will be based on how long the project will take you, and certainly DIY jobs end up requiring more time compared to the professional tasks. For instance, while most contractors can carry out the sanding and refinishing for 1,000 square feet of surface in a day, the DIYer may take 2-4 days to cover the same area. This is attributed to the lower capacity of the rented machinery and the skill-difference involved. For instance, most of the sanding machines available for rent operate at 110V, compared with the professional machines which use at least 220V.
In addition to the sanders, you will also need to acquire the abrasives, from the sandpaper to the sanding discs. Safety is also important, in which case you will need masks or a respirator, safety goggles, protective work shoes and knee pads. What about the dust? Heavy-duty trash bags will be needed. All these are costs that will be incurred even before you start the actual job itself. Add this to the expenses that go into rectifying damages made, and it ends up being more costly than if you had simply hired professionals for the project.
The mess from the floor sanding process is particularly problematic. Many of the rented machines come with dust bags that have been incorporated into the sander. While they collect a lot of the dust, there will be a huge quantity that escapes into the immediate environment, covering the countertops, cabinets, getting into sinks and the HVAC units, coating your electronics and other surfaces, with the light and fine dust particles remaining airborne for weeks. On the other hand, professionals use dustless floor sanding systems, which score a high efficiency, with as much as 99% of the dust being safely collected. Here, the sanders are hooked up with powerful vacuums, which extract both the fine and coarse sanding dust particles before they get a chance to escape. The dust then gets directed to large containment units, where it is safely stored awaiting proper disposal. This has the welcome benefit of reducing the fire hazard, given that the sanding dust is a combustible material.
The integrity of the fish also comes into focus. If the surface is not properly prepared, then the wood stain, sealant, and the varnishes will not adhere well to the wood. This results in a shorter lifespan. As such, not only will the resultant aesthetics be unsatisfactory, but you will also end up having to sand and recoat the floor much sooner than anticipated. Note that the wood floor can also be sanded and refinished a few times, like 4-7 times for the solid wood flooring, and once or twice for the engineered wood floors. So, the blunders made during the DIY floor sanding mean that you will end up being forced to replace the boards themselves much earlier. Coupled with the exasperation that comes from the job itself, the inconvenience from the floors being out commission for long, plus the actual sweat equity that goes into the floor sanding – it makes the DIY route an uphill task.