5 questions to ask yourself if you’re considering a DIY hardwood floor project:
- Will you have plenty of time available?
- Are you committed to learning how to sand properly?
- Are you up for a challenge that involves really hard work?
- Do you need to save money?
- Are you willing to accept the result of this project, no matter the outcome?
If you said yes to everything above, then DIY hardwood floor sanding may be your best (or only) option. You’ll save thousands of dollars when you do it yourself. But be wary if your main motivation is to save money. You may unfortunately experience the opposite. And renting three sanding machines plus buying all the pads is still costly, just the less expensive alternative.
Before Getting Started
Before getting started, you’ll want to have a rough idea (at least) about what you’d like your floor to look like once it’s completely done. With the end in mind, everything tends to fall more naturally into place.
Pinterest is one great tool you can use to easily find, collect, and organize images of flooring to guide your efforts. With a picture or a collection of images, you can also more easily discuss your expectations with a professional.
Sanding is Hard Labor
You should also know that it’s going to be hard work. Maybe you already know, and that’s part of the appeal. Crawling around the floor on your knees can seem like fun at first. Many people underestimate how grueling it will be though. Run an edger for a day, and you’ll experience a full body workout that leaves your forearms, shoulders, back of your legs and lower back feeling like you just did a week of Cross Fit. You may want to consider wearing knee pads and a work belt.
Evaluating Your Space
Besides hard work, sanding hardwood floors requires meticulous preparation. The first step is to evaluate your floors, so you can plan accordingly, which means you’ll work more efficiently and avoid common setbacks.
Say you have 1,000 sq. ft of solid wood flooring. You’ll want to carefully evaluate…
- The floor’s current condition (species, gaps, stains, marks, and any cupping or crowning)
- Any coating on the floor you’ll have to remove
- The number of rooms, space, and entry points
- The skill level and number of the people doing the job
As you evaluate your floor, make sure the planks are properly secured to the sub flooring. Countersink all nails and other fasteners. You’ll want to make sure no nail heads are protruding because they’ll rip the sanding paper. When this happens, the sander will leave streaks behind.
Once the floor is good to go, remove the trim and moldings, such as the quarter round and base shoe. This is often considered to be a pro tip that makes everything else easier.
Your next step is to thoroughly clean the floors with a vacuum. To avoid any debris getting caught under the sander, you must vacuum carefully before you begin. After cleaning, you’ll be ready to plan for the dust.
Dust Containment & Dustless Floor Sanding
You’ll want to have a solid plan for dust containment in place before you begin to sand. This includes knowing how air circulates throughout your home. Be extra cautious. You can tarp the adjoining rooms, put up plastic in the entries, and you still might find yourself vacuuming dust that’s traveled throughout the entire house.
You’ll also want to remove doors that open into the room and all the furniture from the space. You’ll have to take down pictures from the walls, remove light fixtures that hang low, and anything else that will collect dust (except ceiling fans).
Next, it’s time to rent sanding equipment and learn how to use it.
Renting Sanding Machines & Buying Materials
One key tip is to make sure the machine you rent is ready for the job at hand. If you rent a machine that’s been used for 600 hours and the handle is loose, you’re going to be dismayed when you leave chatter marks across the floor. Nothing is more demoralizing to your DIY project than renting a poorly maintained and inadequate machine.
Floor Sander Rental 101
When you rent a sanding machine, you’ll want help from a trained professional. There’s many ways to make a serious mistake and damage the floor, so you’ll want to know exactly what you’re doing, which includes using different grits in proper sequence.
Know What Can Go Wrong
Knowing what can go wrong will help you avoid costly mistakes. Make sure you’re aware of the big problems that can cause you to have to start over.