I’m pumped that the reclaimed floor is in. That was a big “unknown” for me, as far as whether or not I could pull it off, but now it’s in my kitchen and looks beautiful. A faux-tile vinyl floor has been replaced with oak. I preserved a little piece of history and have been awarded +1 environmental points from my deeply green neighbors.
The job is not yet finished, though.
To seal the floor, I am going to use Waterlox. Don’t be confused by its name, this is not a water-based finish. It’s a tung oil plus resin compound that penetrates the wood and provides a durable, waterproof finish. I like that it won’t chip and touchups don’t require re-sanding. It magnifies wood’s natural beauty and doesn’t make your floor look like plastic.
Why use Waterlox over other types of finishes? Well, there’re many reasons and I couldn’t say it better than them: https://waterlox.com/Competitor-Comparisons. Their site also has an availability checker. Use it. You probably won’t find this stuff at the big box stores. (I have no financial relationship with Waterlox. I’m just a fan.)
Sanding floors with a drum sander
However, before applying the finish, this floor needs to be sanded.
My home has wood floors throughout and quite frankly, they all look like pretty sad at this point, so I’m going to do the entire 1500 sq ft at this same time. Better to get it all done now before we move in.
For a big job like this, don’t screw around with a stand-up random orbit sander. We need a heavy-duty drum sander and will eventually use an edger as well. Both were rented from Home Depot.
You’ll have to make three separate passes over the floor using progressively finer grit. I did 36, 80, and 100. Buy several sand paper belts in each grit that you plan to use.
Prior to beginning, grab a trusty flat pry bar and pop off the quarter-round trim on the baseboards. Cover up heat registers and anything else you don’t want caked in dust.
Using the drum sander is not as difficult as I imagined. The handle has a lever that lifts up and lowers down the sand paper drum. Just make sure you start moving before you gently put the drum down and lift the it up before you stop.
The worst thing you can do is let the sand paper grinding away the floor when machine is not in motion.
Overlap each run by one-half of the sander’s track. Sand each room at a slight angle, not straight down the boards. Then when you hit the room again with finer grit, sand at the opposite angle.
The machine can’t get very close to a wall though. That’s where the edger comes in.
The evil edger
The edger is an interesting tool with quite a history. It’s actually the only tool still used today that was designed by Satan himself – quite amazing when you think about it.
This little bastard doesn’t care who you are; its only goal is to fuck you in your lumbar region. I found no way to use it without being hunched over for hours on end. It saps your will to endure and beats down your confidence by leaving visible swirl marks that are impossible to avoid. A depressing experience indeed.
You’ll have to make a couple passes with this too with progressively finer grit.
Vacuum then wipe the floor with a rag soaked in mineral spirits (if you’re using an oil-based finish) to remove as many dust particles as possible. If you skip the wipe down, you’ll end up with a nasty rough surface in the end. Ask me how I know.
To apply the finish, use a lambswool applicator with a pole handle.
One gallon of Waterlox covers 500 sq ft and three coats are needed allowing at least 24 hours with windows open between each application. Their website will calculate how much you need for those of us who aren’t good at maths.
If you can’t achieve adequate ventilation, the manufacturer recommends…you use a different product. Seriously, it won’t cure without airflow.
After the first coat of Waterlox
After three coats
Sanding is not necessary between coats. They offer an optional satin finish that can be used as the third, final coat to reduce sheen. But, using the original formula for all three coats, as I did, is a perfectly fine choice. After a few months, the gloss is muted anyway.
The floors are done! Still plenty to do before we move in, though. Next, I’ll tell you about the work I’ve been doing to transform the kitchen cabinet doors to match the shaker-style ones on the dining room built-ins.
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