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Refinishing a floor. What is the best way to remove old hardwood floor finishes such as wax and varnishes?

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We have just started refinishing a wood floor and the sand paper is gumming up very quickly. The floor is quite big and would take a long time to scrape by hand. Can anyone recommend a chemical solution the may help remove a variety of past finishes?

Hello Drainy,

If you have a large area of floor to finish, I would reccommend renting a professional sander, using any type of chemical would probably be more expensive than renting a sander.

Home Depot has drum sanders for hire, they are fast and very effective, trying to use regular sandpaper is hard work, and like you have experienced, the paper gets clogged very quickly, thus making it useless in a short period of time.

I am a self employed contractor and have finished many floors, the drum sanders need to be used with care, they have a lever which you pull towards you to make the machine move forward, and another lever that will lower the drum closer to the floor. NEVER USE THE SECOND LEVER although by using the second lever, it will remove varnish very fast, the drum will carve its way into the floor making a huge dip.

One of my customers ruined her floor using the second lever, and asked if I could fix the problem, once you have a huge dip in the floor, it’s virtually impossible to do anything, other than replace the boards.

If you decide not to rent a machine, Home Depot sells a paint brush cleaner, it comes in a yellow can, the company that produces the cleaner is Barr, and on the front of the can it reads Klean Strip, and it will remove varnish, stain, paints, shelac. It works great but the fumes can be very over powering.

If you decide to rent a drum floor sander, its imperitive that you always work with the grain, just one quick sweep the wrong way, and it will tear up your floor. I have never used the pad type sander, because i own a drum sander, I can sand a really bad floor 12x 15 in about 90 minutes. Generally I would go over the floor with a 40 grit sandpaper just once, then use go back over a second time with an 80 grit paper, then finish with a 120 grit. Using a drum sander, you will not be able to get right up to the edge of the room, either use a belt sander or an orbital one. The orbitial one, does take some getting used to, and once again if you are not careful with the machine, it will scuff up the floor.

I trust this information shall be of benefit to you, and one last thing, you mention the use of sandpapers, have you tried using the Aluminum type,? they are quicker than regular sandpaper and do not get clogged so easily.

Good luck with the project

Paul Message

I

4 Responses to “Refinishing a floor. What is the best way to remove old hardwood floor finishes such as wax and varnishes?”

  1. vadavoodi Says:

    We too just started to refinish the hardwood floors in our home. When we purchased the house, it had old lime green shag carpeting that was tack stripped over hardwood floors. Being short on cash at the time, we decided to recover it with carpeting. After 7 years, we have now decided to refinish the floors, but the new carpeting was put in place with carpet glue over the entire surface. Is there glue on the flooring or just stain and polyurethene? We had to remove all the glue from the flooring and used an adhesive remover product that we bought at home depot. I would recommend sanding with a floor sander that you can rent from a building supply store.
    References :

  2. SIMEON S Says:

    The sand paper may be too fine. Try a course grit. I tried the drum sander and nearly ruined the floor. The large pad sander was the machine that saved the floor, got the old varnish off and with sanding to finer and finer paper was able to get ready to varnish. The pad sander should be available at a rental shop.
    References :

  3. polegateman Says:

    Hello Drainy,

    If you have a large area of floor to finish, I would reccommend renting a professional sander, using any type of chemical would probably be more expensive than renting a sander.

    Home Depot has drum sanders for hire, they are fast and very effective, trying to use regular sandpaper is hard work, and like you have experienced, the paper gets clogged very quickly, thus making it useless in a short period of time.

    I am a self employed contractor and have finished many floors, the drum sanders need to be used with care, they have a lever which you pull towards you to make the machine move forward, and another lever that will lower the drum closer to the floor. NEVER USE THE SECOND LEVER although by using the second lever, it will remove varnish very fast, the drum will carve its way into the floor making a huge dip.

    One of my customers ruined her floor using the second lever, and asked if I could fix the problem, once you have a huge dip in the floor, it’s virtually impossible to do anything, other than replace the boards.

    If you decide not to rent a machine, Home Depot sells a paint brush cleaner, it comes in a yellow can, the company that produces the cleaner is Barr, and on the front of the can it reads Klean Strip, and it will remove varnish, stain, paints, shelac. It works great but the fumes can be very over powering.

    If you decide to rent a drum floor sander, its imperitive that you always work with the grain, just one quick sweep the wrong way, and it will tear up your floor. I have never used the pad type sander, because i own a drum sander, I can sand a really bad floor 12x 15 in about 90 minutes. Generally I would go over the floor with a 40 grit sandpaper just once, then use go back over a second time with an 80 grit paper, then finish with a 120 grit. Using a drum sander, you will not be able to get right up to the edge of the room, either use a belt sander or an orbital one. The orbitial one, does take some getting used to, and once again if you are not careful with the machine, it will scuff up the floor.

    I trust this information shall be of benefit to you, and one last thing, you mention the use of sandpapers, have you tried using the Aluminum type,? they are quicker than regular sandpaper and do not get clogged so easily.

    Good luck with the project

    Paul Message

    I
    References :

  4. www.carpentrypages.com Says:

    You may be be able to use a finer sand paper if that doesnt work. You can buy some thinner at home depot Good Luck
    References :
    http://www.carpentrypages.com

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