We refinished our own hardwood floors. Was it worth it?

If you follow me on Instagram, you know we are moving to a new rug space! After taking up two full rooms in my house and filling a large storage unit with inventory, we thought it was time 🥳
My must-haves for a new spot were lots of natural light, and original hardwood floors. I found the perfect storefront in my hometown but it needed some work. While we hired out a couple things like drywall and paint (totally could have DIY'ed the paint, I just hate painting), we decided to refinish the floors ourselves to save some money. Take a look at what we started with 👇

There was corner up there towards the front door that was exposed so I knew there was hardwood floor under there, we just had to get to it! 

Demo was back breaking, but we finally got to the original hardwood 🙌

We were left with the black tile underlayment that was pretty well attached to the floor. We knew that this stuff had to come up before we could take a sander to the floors. If you were to just start sanding at this step, the underlayment would be heated by the friction of the sander and turn very gummy, almost like tar. This would clog the sandpaper and make it ineffective.

We took a razor tool (on a long handle) and scraped...and scraped...and scraped. Take a look at how much came off 👇

I did see a YouTube video that suggested using a wallpaper steamer to heat the underlayment and then scrape - we didn't try it, but might be worth testing that strategy to save some time. This stuff doesn't come up easy! Even after scraping, there was still plenty of black stuff left over that seemed like it was glued to the floor. 

One of the biggest mistakes we made with this project was installing the baseboard before sanding. All baseboard and quarter round should be off/removed before sanding so you can get the sander all the way to the wall. 

I started with a hand held belt sander around the perimeter of the room using 40 grit sandpaper (this is the strongest we could find). If you do not have leftover underlayment like we did, you can probably use a higher grit sandpaper like 60 or 80. Be careful not to press too hard and create divots (like I did 😬) 

If you're new to sandpaper lingo like me - the higher the grit number is equivalent to a finer abrasive, which creates smoother surface finishes. Lower grit numbers represent coarser abrasives that scrape off materials much quicker.

My dad simultaneously started sanding with a large belt sander that we rented from a local spot. You can rent these at Home Depot, Lowes, or Menards for less than $100 a day. You also have to purchase the sandpaper in different grits. We started with a 20 and and worked our way up to 36 and then 60. Again, we had to use very strong grit sandpaper because we still had some underlayment to cut through. If you don't have this component, you can use a less abrasive (higher grit) sandpaper. Use the people at the rental space as a resource. They are usually more than happy to give tips and advice!

The sanding part is time consuming but also very satisfying to see the character of the wood peak out 😍

We did several passes of each grit going with the grain of the wood, and then diagonal. 

The 20 and 36 grit will really rough up the wood, but then the 60 will smooth it out some. The goal is just to get down to bare wood. 

Side note: Be prepared for LOTS of sawdust

We realized through this process that we were not going to have perfect floors in the end. The underlayment had stained the wood and there appeared to be some spots that had water damage and became discolored. If you are someone who can't deal with imperfections, I would suggest buying new flooring to cover up the old (unless it had been perfectly preserved under carpet or something). I knew I wanted wood with character and patina, so bringing the floors back to life was a must for me - imperfections and all. 

Check out some of the discoloration 👇

 After we got down to bare wood, it was time to clean up the mess before the final finish. We took a shop vac with a wide attachment to the walls, and went over the floors with a regular vacuum and hit all the cracks with the shop vac several times. 

After the floors and walls were free of sawdust, it was time for the finish. Hooray!!! 🥳


We decided not to stain the floors (however, if you wanted to conceal some of the imperfections, a dark stain would have done the job). We chose a quick process product called Osmo. Osmo is a wax based finish that just required two thin coats with a microfiber roller, and you're done! Wax based products are also a nice option because if you needed to repair anything down the road, it doesn't require a whole floor refinish, you can just sand the affected spot and re-apply the Osmo.

Be prepared that any oil or wax finish on bare wood will always darken the floor and affect the warmth. Look at those rich wood tones though! I am in love 😍

After two thin coats, we let it dry for two days, and VOILA! ✨

I am super happy with the results of our blood, sweat, and tears lol. All in all, it took two of us around 3 full days of work to get to the finish line. The results are in no way perfect, but just like my vintage and antique rugs, the wood carries a story that new products just plain don't. If you are someone like me that appreciates character and patina, I say it's totally worth the DIY and to go for it!!! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions at all :)

xoxo, Liz









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