The original finish on our oak floors has started to show serious signs of wear in the high-traffic areas of our house, particularly in the hallway and sitting room. The medium-term plan for the hallway is to replace it with tile, but we decided to refinish the existing floor as part of our sitting room makeover.
You can see how the varnish wore off in front of the couch from us walking up and down past there. When one of the springs broke on an armchair, it scratched the floor badly. And there were marks from liquid spills all over it from countless cups of tea and the odd bit of dog drool!
The advantage of solid wood floors is that it is salvageable. Our oak is 15mm (5/8") thick, which means that it can be sanded and refinished several times throughout its lifetime. Laminate floors, once worn, need to be replaced. It may be possible to refinish engineered wood, but the veneer will only be a couple of millimeters in thickness, so it's best to use a professional service. Solid woods, however, can easily be DIY'd ... which is, of course, what we did.
- Floor sander & edging sander with 80-grade sandpaper
- Orbital sander with 120-grade sandpaper
- Dust mask and eye protection
- Vacuum cleaner
- Sealant - I used Polyx-Oil by Osmo
- Brush - I used the Yachtsman China Bristle Brush by Wooster
We hired a floor sander and an edging sander from HSS in Galway and finished the sanding over a weekend. Well, to tell the truth, it was Hubby who did all the hard grafting with the machinery ... although I did make up for it later on by doing the knee-crushing, back-breaking job of painting on the sealant.
This is how the floor looked after the first pass of the floor sander with 80-grade sandpaper. The years of damage were instantly erased.
Hubby gradually worked his way across the floor, removing the top layer of the floor to reveal fresh new wood underneath.
But don't let these pics fool you - it is an incredibly unpleasant and dusty job. I took the next photo from outside the window while Hubby was on a tea break.
It had actually cleared a bit at this stage. Prior to that he actually couldn't see what he was doing any more, which is why he decided to take a break. Needless to say, a good quality dust mask and goggles are absolutely necessary for this job. We also sealed around the door of the room by taping a sheet of plastic on the other side of it in order to contain the dust as best we could.
Once the main areas of the floor were done, Hubby then went around the perimeter with the edging sander to get the bits the floor sander couldn't reach.
The floor sander lifts the grain of the wood slightly, so Hubby then went over the entire floor with an orbital sander and a finer (120-grade) sandpaper to smooth it out. This is definitely worth doing - although he may have overdone it a bit as the floor is actually so smooth in some spots that it's quite slippery, so do watch for that if you take on a similar job yourself.
We vacuumed the floor after each step, but we also allowed a couple of days for the remaining dust in the air to settle before doing a final vacuum.
While we were waiting for the dust to settle (literally!) I got chatting to a guy who refinishes floors for a living and I asked him to recommend a sealant. I was particularly looking for a hard-wearing, water-based sealant as I cannot stand the smell of oils or solvent-based products. He suggested using either Junkers HP Sport, which is is a two-part water-based polyurethane lacquer that is non-yellowing and very hard-wearing (note that you should prime the wood before using this product), or else Osmo Polyx-Oil. We opted for the Polyx-Oil because he told us that if we keep the sealant topped up with a fresh coat every couple of years, we can get away with not sanding the floor again. After the dusty mess we'd just been through, this was the clincher. It also prolongs the life of the floor, which can only be sanded a limited number of times before it starts to wear thin.
I bought the oil at Pat McDonnell Paints in Galway. I always find the staff in there to be very knowledgeable and helpful, and they suggested using the Wooster Yachtsman China Bristle Brush. The natural bristles of the brush made it very easy to apply a thin, even coat of oil. Applying a light coat means that you won't have to wait so long for the oil to dry out.
Here's the floor partway done. The oil really brings out the richness of the oak. Note that this is how it looks when wet; it does dry down a little over time to a more natural-looking colour that I just adore.
Two coats are required to ensure a good seal. I allowed it to dry overnight and then applied the second coat the following day.
The Polyx-Oil comes in a choice of finishes: Glossy, Satin, Semi-Matt, and Matt. I opted for the matt finish as I really love the natural look of the wood. In fact, now that the sitting room floor is done in this finish, Hubby and I both wish that all the floors looked like this ... although we don't fancy churning up all that dust again to make it happen, so they'll have to wait.
Here's the same bit of floor I pictured at the top of this post - gone are the wear marks, scratches, and spatters and, in its place, a beautiful, natural oak floor.
With the matt finish, the wood looks almost raw, yet the sealant is very effective and we've already wiped up several spills with absolute ease.
I particularly love the lack of shine on the floor - this photo was taken looking across the surface of the floor directly underneath the bay window and, as you can see, there is no shine whatsoever on the floor.
Did I mention how much I love this natural-looking finish? Only a few times already, I know, but it is such a change from the factory finish that was originally on the floor and, in my opinion, it's a much classier look.
Refinishing the floor took under a week in total, including sanding, waiting for the dust to settle, and then giving it a couple of coats of sealant. The oil dries within 8-10 hours, but we allowed an extra couple of days before walking on the floor just to ensure that it had fully cured.