When DIY Sanding Messes Up Your Floor
While the professionals make it look easy, floor sanding isn’t lightwork. In fact, quite the opposite – the sanding process is one of the most laborious home improvement projects. This is not just about the hours spent seating in a dust-filled room, pushing around heavy machinery. There’s the pressure to ensure that the surface is uniform, and ready to receive the new coats of treatment, and the risk that comes with handling the gear, especially for one who is not skilled in the process. Add this to the coats involved – which will also increase when there are imperfections that will need to be rectified later on. Here is a look at some of the mistakes that are usually made by those taking on the floor sanding job as a DIY project:
- Grit level blunders
One of the most common mistakes is failing to work with the right grit of sandpaper. The grit that one needs to start with depends on the state of the floorboards and the kind of situation being handled. For instance, if the floor has been sanded before and you’re just looking to freshen it, or it’s a new installation that you’re preparing for the wood stain, then a finer grit sander can be used. However, in most cases, since the goal of the sanding will be to remove old finish coats on the space, then one needs to start with coarse sandpaper. These are the likes of 24 or 36 grit, since anything finer will not be able to sand away the old coats that had been applied. There are cases where one will need to work with grits as low as 12 or 16g like when the floors are wavy and are coated with a layer of varnish that is really thick. Working with low-quality sandpaper will lead to it clogging up quickly, essentially making the paper useless. The sandpaper will be replaced more quickly, racking up the costs of the process faster.
Another mistake here is skipping too many grits. When sanding, one should move from coarse to medium and then finally end with the fine grit sandpaper. Following through the grit sequence enables the scratches that had been made by the previous grit to be sanded off, and in the process creates smaller ones, that will be removed by the next finer grit. This is done progressively until the surface is ready. Usually, this gets to grits 80 and 100. Speaking of which, when one makes the final passes with sandpaper that is too fine – like at grit 150 and above, then the grit surface will be too smooth for the wood stain and finishes applied to bond strongly with it. As you can see, the sanding is an intricate balancing act, where you don’t want to go overboard or underdeliver, as it will impact the process that are to follow.
What’s arguably one of the most difficult factors in a floor sanding job is achieving a consistently uniform surface across the entire floor. A common error that will be easy to note is “picture framing”. This occurs when the areas along the perimeter of the floor, which have been sanded with an edger, are inconsistent with the rest of the flooring, which has been sanded with a drum or belt-sander. What makes this particularly aggravating is that the mistake will not be visible until the wood stain and finish coats have been applied. As you can tell from the name, you end up with a sight where the room looks like it has been “framed” using a different colour. How is this avoided? The section with the overlap – where the two different sections sanded with the belt sander and edger come together, can be hand-sanded in order to blend them. Contractors also tend to fit the buffer with sandpaper or screen disc to help in smoothening out the inconsistencies across the floor.
This is basically when the DIYer does not sand enough. This can be due to different reasons, a common one being frustration with the slow progress of the job especially at the latter stages. When starting there will be huge differences seen on the surface, but after the dirt and most of the varnish has been removed, then the progress will appear to be minimal – which can get on one’s nerves. There’ll need to be patience as you proceed through the finer girts, due to the need to ensure that the surface is ready. There are also cases where the floorboards are not fully even, meaning that there will be sections that the sanding machine doesn’t reach when making the passes. These “shadows” can be formed at the edges or middle of the floorboards depending on the curvature of the boards themselves. These last bits will still need to be sanded off, until all the marks have been completely removed.
Undersanding also occurs when one moves the sanding machine too quickly over the floor surface. This is usually in a bid to avoid sanding too much into the wood, but instead it ends up leaving patches of old varnish on the surface. When the new finish coats are applied, they will be prevented from bonding well with the underlying wood. These will result in uneven colours and weaker surface protection. The only recourse here will be to redo the entire floor sanding and apply new finish coats again – which cause the DIY floor restoration costs to go higher.
Dealing with the edges can be a complete pain. You can spend hours hovering over the edger, which is not what you look forward to especially after you’ve just come from spending more hours using the drum sander. As such, many of the DIYers tend to rush the edging. This will result in distinct colour and texture differences, ruining the quality of the results.
You don’t have to put yourself through these struggles. Call in the professionals to handle the floor restoration process, that way you get quality results and minimise the risks to your floor. The peace of mind that your property is in safe hands will be a welcome bonus.