The value of solid hardwood floors went largely unnoticed in the 1960's and 1970's as homeowners who grew up in the 40s and 50s longed for the newness of wall-to-wall carpeting. They were weary of throw rugs and room size rugs and simply did not value the sheen of a rich hardwood floor. Come the 1980's, 90's and the new millennium, and solid hardwood floors again achieved the recognition that they long deserved. Suddenly refinishing old hardwood floors came into vogue.
Refinishing hardwood floors is not a job for the novice renovator. They require dedication and patience and a love for sanding tools. The would-be refinisher needs to be prepared for a dust storm rivaling those of the flatlands during a summer windstorm and should be prepared with the proper safety gear. Goggles and a face mask are required equipment for this endeavor. The end result though, is a gleaming floor surface unrivaled by any other material. There are many wonderful treasures found under carpet like wide plank flooring or tongue in groove.
First do an assessment of the flooring surface, does it really need a complete refinishing or might it get by with a thorough cleaning and high buff polishing? A couple of ways to make this assessment are as follows: gently let a couple of drops of water hit the floor. If the droplets bead up or seem to soak in very slowly, the good news is that it is likely that cleaning and polishing will bring this flooring back to life.
On the other hand, if the water droplets immediately disappear into the surface then this is an indication that the wood has been exposed and will require finishing. Any signs of deep stains or warping indicate that not only is finishing required but repairs are probably necessary too. A good estimate of the depth of the flooring is also helpful.
If it is determined that refinishing hardwood floors is required then be certain that there is at least 3/4 of an inch of flooring, you will need this much for sanding. Wide plank flooring is far more amenable to sanding than tongue and groove flooring. New age floors that are half an inch or less simply cannot be refinished.
The final step before the refinishing process begins is careful preparation. Take everything out of the room including pictures and wall decorations, the curtains and anything else that will serve as a magnet for dust. Do not forget the flooring areas in any closets in the room; take everything out of them too. Cover any ceiling mounted fixtures, fans and lights with a trash bag. Pull out the duct or masking tape and use it to cover electric outlets, heating vents and light switches. Vacuum every surface carefully and get ready to bring out the big guns, the power sander. Take a break, get a beverage and prepare for the hard work ahead.