By Polly Keary
For sheer elegance, nothing beats a gorgeous, polished hardwood floor.
But when polishing no longer brings back the beautiful shine, floors can look drab and old.
Within three days, however, a floor can look as good as new, with a professional refinish.
For floors that have only become slightly dull, there can even be an easier option than that. A recoat does not involve stripping the current finish off down to bare wood and starting fresh.
Rather, it involves buffing the floor lightly, then adding several topcoats of finish.
“It will take out the light scuffs and scratches,” said Megan Baber, who with her husband, Jesse Baber, has owned Baber Hardwoods in Monroe for about 20 years. “It won’t take out sun-fading and deeper scratches, but it will give a floor a new shine and make it last longer.”
A top coat can add three to five years to the life of a finish, which typically needs to be redone every 10-12 years.
When it is time to do a refinish, have some fun! Explore new colors. Try switching from a cherry stain to a golden oak stain or a bare buff color.
A professional refinisher like Baber Hardwoods will come in and spend a couple of days sanding away the current finish, including removing paint from baseboards, if necessary. Baber uses three grits of sandpaper in succession to take off the surface while removing the absolute minimum amount of wood.
Wood floors are often no more then 3/4 of an inch thick, so it is very important to remove as little of the wood as possible when refinishing.
Once the wood is sanded down, Baber will actually apply several colors of stain directly to the floor so that homeowners can really see which one looks best in place, rather than looking at samples in a showroom. When the stain is selected, the other stains are merely sanded away and the refinish begins.
First the stain goes down, then it is followed by several coats of finish.
During this process, you can’t stay in the house for at least three days while the products dry, so it might be a good time to plan a three-day getaway and let professionals get the job done in your absence.
Remember when you get back home that newly finished floors are a little more sensitive than usual for the first weeks. Make sure to put felt tabs under all furniture and to clean the floors with just vinegar and water.
To get the most out of your finish, have a re-coat done after about five years. That can extend the life of the finish another five years or so.
The cost of hiring a company to do the work isn’t necessarily steep. Depending on the complexity of the space, expect to pay $2.50-$3.50 per square foot.
Once your floor is restored to its original beauty, remember some important tips for keeping them in good shape.
- Know the best way to care for the specific floor and finish you have. Talk to the people who refinished it for you, and know what to use and what not to use. For example, you should never use a paste wax on a polyurethane finish.
- Sweep with a soft broom. It not only keeps the floor clean, it lightly buffs the surface, helping reduce the appearance of scratches.
- Wipe up spills with a dry towel.
- Get sand, dirt and other gritty materials off the floor immediately, as they can abrade a finish badly.
- Use rugs in high traffic areas such as hallways. Also have a doormat at the door to wipe grit and dirt off shoes before tracking it in.
- Do not use oil soaps, as they will dull the finish.
- Make sure all furniture has felt tabs under the feet.
- Use a bare floor attachment on your vacuum cleaner.
- Hang sheer curtains over windows to let the light in while reducing UV damage to your wood floors.