Why DIY Floor Sanding Is More Trouble Than It Is Worth
With the growing wave of handy DIY tasks for the different renovation projects that are done at home, one may be interested in taking a shot at the floor sanding and refinishing. However, you may be biting more than you can chew. Just how much work is involved with the DIY floor sanding? Let’s take a look at the process:
- Getting the equipment
First, you need to source for the equipment. Beginners usually go for the sanders that are easier to control compared to the industrial-grade units used by the professionals. While being smaller and more portable enables you to bring them home easily and manoeuvre the sanders across the floor surface better, it compromises on the effectiveness of the process, causing it to take longer.
Depending on the condition of the floor, various kinds of sanders can be used. From orbital sanders to the larger drum floor sanders which require more upper body strength to control them, you will need to determine the appropriate unit for your particular needs. Next will be getting the sandpaper required. The choice made here also depends on the state of the wood floor. While the DIYer usually starts with 60 grit sandpaper, there will be cases where the floor is rough and will call for more coarse sandpaper, in which case the grit can get as low as 24. One starts out with the coarse sandpaper, and moves their way up to 40, 60, 80 all through to the finer 100 grit sandpaper if needed, so this will all add to your equipment shopping list.
It doesn’t end there. You’ll need to get a floor edger to deal with the skirtings, a small detail floor sander that will be used for the corners, empty bins and large bin liners for all the dust and residue, ear muffs since the equipment tends to get loud, hammer and nails for the planks that need to be put in proper position, and to also hammer in those nails heads that are sticking out of the surface, plus a heavy-duty extension cord which should ideally have at least a length of 10 meters. Proper shoes to protect yourself will be needed. A support person is also required, given that this is not one of those jobs that you can attempt on your own. All these logistics go into the preparation before you get started on the actual job.
The old floor covers need to be stripped off completely. This includes the nailed edges, staples, carpets and any other coverings that are currently on the floor. You should ensure any protruding nails are embedded firmly into the surface by a minimum of 4mm. The last thing you want is the sander getting damaged because of going over a nail that is popping out of the floor – which will add to your repair costs. The nails will rip the sanding belt or even gouge the drum, any of which will cost you more money.
Putty should be applied to the nail holes as well. Go over the entire floor to ensure that it is empty before you proceed with the floor sanding. Safely measures also come into focus. The area you’re working on should be cordoned off, to prevent the kids or pets simply waltzing into the room tripping over wires and getting injured. Remember that due to the noise generated, you may not even hear them walking in.
Next is setting up the floor sanding machinery for the task. The directional arrows on the sander indicate how the sandpaper should be installed. Since the drum sanders usually have removable handles to make movement easier, you should also ensure that the handle has been properly secured, and that you observe the levels of the dust bag, to dispose it when it gets full. The units are heavy – especially the drum floor sanders, and you will need extra support when lifting and kickstarting it, and so to ensure that you have a firm hold of it. When ready, ask the person to stand away.
When it comes to the task itself, there are common mistakes made by the DIYers. Take turning the sander on when it is in contact with the ground for instance. This simple oversight causes it to spin on one spot, digging a spot into the floor, and more sanding will be required to even out the area with the surrounding surface. Another is forgetting to pull the drum back up when turning. This usually leads to the floor getting scarred.
Skipping grits is another issue. The initial coarse grits are needed to remove the old finish, and also flatten the wood – but it doesn’t stop there. You need to progress through every grit, polishing off the scratches that were left by the previous grit. For instance, one can go through a 24-36-60 then 80-100-120 grit sequence. The starting point and ending grit depend on the condition of the floor and the desired final result. DIYers skip grits because of wanting to save time – which ends up compromising on the quality of the results.
While still on the sandpaper, you will require to change it frequently. Constantly check its condition. The quality of the sandpaper is key here as well. Going for the cheap options in the market in a bid to save on bucks can end up inconveniencing you, due to the sandpaper getting depleted very fast – leading to more material being required, which adds to the already high costs of the process.
The direction of the floor grain also matters. One is required to follow it, moving the sander in even motion. More about direction: the goal is to move the sander smoothly across the surface. Sudden jerky movements will affect the surface and leave behind marks. Going slowly will result in sections of the floor being sanded too much, while moving too quickly will leave behind patches of the old finish still on the floor surface. It’s an intricate balancing act.
Why take all this risk, and put yourself through the hassle of the process? In addition to the workload, there is the frustration that comes when you spend hours sweating through the job, and wind up with unsatisfactory results. Leave it to the professionals who will take care of the task for you, yielding quality results in a fraction of the time.