Installing new hardwood floors is a major job that adds significant value to your home. There are various hardwood style options nowadays that has unmatched beauty and go with any decor including modern, traditional, and country. The type of finish you use on your hardwood can dramatically adjust the look of the wood, as well as how many coats you apply can change the look even further. So, how do you tackle finishing your hardwood floors?
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Choosing Your Finish
What exactly is the difference between oil-based varnish and water-based varnish anyway? They both act as a coat of armor for the hardwood floor, ultimately protecting the wood from damage. Often people think water-based varnish is not as durable as an oil-based varnish, but quality water-based varnish will last just as long if well taken care of. Each type of polyurethane is a sacrificial layer that will show scratches and wear marks over time.
The Difference Between Oil-Based and Water-Based Finish:
Color. Oil-based varnish has an amber hue and will continue to darken over time, whereas water-based varnish is clear and will remain clear for the lifetime of the hardwood floor.
Smell. Oil-based varnish has a very strong chemical odor that should not be inhaled, and it lingers. A respirator is required while applying and can take a while to dry. Water-based varnish has almost no smell, is safe to apply without a respirator, and is safe for people and pets to be around while finishing your hardwood floors.
Drying time. Oil-based varnish takes much longer to dry and cure, and only one coat can be applied to hardwood in 24 hours. Water-based dries much faster, and up to four coats can be applied in one day. Water-based can also be walked on in just 4-6 hours, whereas oil-based must dry for at least 24 hours before being walked on.
Hardness. The oil-based varnish is thicker, but it is also softer. The water-based varnish is thinner, but harder coating. Oil-based can be more susceptible to dents, while water-based can be more susceptible to surface scratching.
Cost. The water-based varnish is a more expensive product. Expect to pay .50 - $1.00/sf more for a water-based finish.
Refinishing Your Hardwood Floors
If you are refinishing your existing hardwood flooring, make sure to first remove the shoe based molding, fix squeaks and level the floor, and contain the dust with ductwork and plastic sheeting. Sanding creates an unbelievable amount of dust. Be sure to clean, then sand your hardwood floors, and clean in between each sanding as any stains in the hardwood will show once the finish is applied.
To sand your floors, you’ll need two rental machines: a drum sander to sand most of the floor and an edger to sand along baseboards. Rent from a flooring specialty shop rather than a general rental store. You’ll get expertise at no extra expense. Make sure to measure the room before you go.
Next, as the water-based varnish dries fast, this makes it more difficult to work with. The oil-based varnish is slower to dry, which gives you more time ensure a smooth coat but the fumes require using a respirator for organic vapors.
Apply the finish around the edges of the room with a lamb’s wool applicator.
When you've finished the perimeter, you can begin covering the rest of the floor. Use a lambs-wool applicator to apply your sealant. For proper coverage, be sure to overlap the areas where you cut in earlier.
Allow the sealant to dry for 24 hours; then buff it with a power buffer. Vacuum the residue, and apply a second coat using the same procedure as before.
If you are staining your wood flooring make sure to allow overnight drying. Be sure to ventilate the room and wear respiration mask to keep from inhaling these vapors. Apply wood stain to the flooring with a foam applicator pad. To refinish hardwood floors, work with one manageable area at a time and always stain in the direction of the wood grain. Most manufacturers recommend removing the excess stain as you go — usually a few minutes after you apply it. Use clean cotton cloths or paper towels to remove excess. Allow the stain to dry as recommended before applying the first coat of floor finish.
Sealing Your Hardwood Floors
Sealing your hardwood floors can prolong the lifespan of your hardwood, and adding more sealant to high-traffic areas significantly help with durability. Typically, gloss sealers are more durable than satin finishes. It is best to start with a couple of gloss coats and finish with the satin sealer. Sanding your sealer will erase minor impurities that may have occurred during drying time, but do not sand your final sealant coat. To seal your hardwood floors:
Choose the right sealant. This just means there are some sealants made specifically for outdoor use. Make sure the sealant you choose is specifically for indoor use to avoid a mess later on.
Clean out the area. Remove furniture and belongings, dirt and dust before sealing your floors. Anything left behind and under the sealant will stay there and will be noticeable.
Apply. You can apply the sealant using a paintbrush or a roller, doing your best to brush with the grain. Just be sure to thoroughly coat with the sealant.
Allow time to dry. Check the directions on the particular brand of sealant that you have purchased to see what is recommended as far as the amount of time it takes to dry. Typically 8 to 12 hours is recommended, but if you can leave it overnight, that would be ideal.
Smooth it out. Use sandpaper to remove any rough spots in the finish. Sometimes it will dry unevenly and leave clumps. Grinding it out with sandpaper will prevent any humps when the job is complete.
Finishing Your Hardwood Floors
Finishing your floors is a fairly simple do it yourself project, and in just a few steps, your floors can look like new again. If you have any questions regarding flooring, feel free to contact us anytime. If you're interested in hardwood floors, be sure to check out our showroom!
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