Should I sand my hardwood floors myself or hire a professional?
Lately, I have run into a LOT of botched up sanding jobs, most done by do-it-yourselfers (DIY) and some done by handymen passing themselves off as floor refinishers. It’s quite sad. In the last couple of months, I have even had 2 customers already had their floors sanded 3 times within 1 month before they called me. One of them had to completely replace the floors and the stair treads – that’s how bad the jobs were. (We were able to save the other floor). I have to say I have seen a lot of do-it-yourself jobs, and they are obvious – they have sanding tracks left in the floor, the stain is applied unevenly and so it the polyurethane and it often has bubbles.
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While your gender or age should not impact your ability to sand a hardwood floor, your lack of training certainly will. You just can’t just pick up the floor sanding trade on a weekend. I cannot teach you how to sand a floor in this blog. It is a strictly hands on training and takes a lot of practice. And I seriously doubt that the rental places will give you a course on sanding and finishing your floor. Further, the “toy” floor sanders they rent at the tool rental shops will not do a decent job of sanding your floor, even if you were skilled at maneuvering them. And, most don’t realize that it is not one machine you need to rent, but actually 5.
By “toy” sanders, I mean the 110 volt drum sanders that you will find in most all rental stores. While these sanders will plug right into the wall outlet, they lack the weight and power to sand a floor well. The machines the pros use cost up to $10,000 and weigh about 250 pounds. They have powerful HP motors that are designed especially not to stall when encountering a tough floor. The weight and balance of these professional machines keeps them steady as they pass across the floor. With a well-maintained heavy-duty floor machine, and a well seasoned pro, your floor will be quickly and evenly the first time. Usually, our guys are able to sand at least 1000 sq ft per day, vs. most do-it-yourselfers will do a room a day (and if you are renting a machine, you can see how the cost can really increase).
Our guys sand the floors 3 times, with finer and finer grits each time, so that the floor will properly accept the stain and the polyurethane. Most amateurs don’t realize this, and as a result, the floors come out blotchy and the polyurethane doesn’t last as long. The grit sizes that are used vary from floor to floor base on whether it is red oak, white oak, pine or other types of woods, as well as the condition of the wood. Our guys are trained and do this 6 days a week, so they know the proper grits to use.
Many old floors cannot handle any mistakes made by amateur floor sanders. I have see this too many times! The floor may become too thin when sanded badly, and you may find you have permanently ruined an expensive hardwood floor. I feel badly for the home owner (or renter) who tries this tying to save money…the are usually sorry as they have been penny-wise, pound foolish – and actually do permanent damage to the floors. And, sometimes, they whole floor needs to be replaced (which of course costs way more than the small amount that would have been saved).
I strongly advise you hire a professional refinishing company. NOBODY I know that has sanded their own floors will EVER do it again. In most cases they have used far too much rental time and sandpaper. And in the end, the results were from barely passable in low light, to downright ugly and unattractive floors. It has lowered the value of the property in some cases. Potential new buyers may realize that the badly sanded hardwood floor now needs replacing, at great expense. When you add up the cost for renting the machines and the polyurethane, you really haven’t saved much money at all, but you certainly do have an inferior job. And, it usually takes 3-4 times longer than most people think it will.
The rental machines are light duty, and will leave pronounced chatter (machine vibration) marks in your floor. You will not be able to see this until you apply the stain or the finish. The chatter marks show up as stripes or waves going against the grain of the wood, and are really obvious on a stained floor. But by the time you are applying the finish it’s far too late to start over. And, unfortunately, once those marks are there, you have permanently damaged your floors. In the future, the sanding machines will follow the grooves you made.
There are several other benefits of using a seasoned professional, besides the obvious that you floors will look much better. Your floors will also last much longer. Refinishing hardwood floors in Westchester is not terribly expensive, but it is inconvenient as you need to move everything out of the area and hence the less often you need to refinish the floors the better (and the more money it saves). Also, most likely, the professionals will create less dust – the machines have better dust collecting abilities and they have better vacuums to clear out the remaining particles. And, we even offer dustless refinishing – it costs a bit more but it’s well worth it, if you are already living in the home.
If you live in Westchester County NY, I offer color consultations to advise customers on paint colors and stain choices. My designer discount at the paint stores usually more than offsets the cost for the hour consultation. Read more here. Due to popular demand, I’m now offering phone consultations as well.