Refinish Old Hardwood Floors

Our dining room had hardwood floors that were painted way before we owned the house.  I always had the vision of bringing them back to their original glory, so I called around and found someone who refinished hardwood floors.  Much to my surprise, he informed me that the boards were too thin to fully sand all the paint off.  He said the only remedy would be hand stripping the floors with a chemical based solution.

So, I set out on the mission.

Disclaimer: This was in no way, shape or form, a weekend project.  There were times during the project that I wanted throw my hands up and give up…but I pressed on (like any crazy DIYer would) and I completed the task.

Here are a couple before picture of the floors (sorry all iPhone, pre DLSR camera):
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Supplies Needed:

  1. Citristrip this stuff is GREAT!  It does not smell as harsh as most chemical based paint removers do.  Side note, be sure to test the paint removal process on your floor.  I tested a small area to see if this product would work and about how long it needed to stay on to be most effective.  Not all paints are created equally so be sure to test a small area before you start!
  2. Flexible Joint Knife to scrape the paint off
  3. Old 5 gallon bucket (this is where I dumped all of my used Citristrip)
  4. Painters Tape
  5. LOTS of Old Rags
  6. Knee Pads
  7. TONS of rubber disposable gloves
  8. Dental Tools
  9. Mineral Spirits
  10. Throw Away Paint Brush
  11. LOTS of paper towel rolls
  12. Rented Square Buff Sander (wait until you remove ALL of the paint before you reserve this tool)
  13. 100 grit sand paper pads for the sander and hand sander pads in the same grit (to sand the boards that have bad cupping)
  14. Oil Based Wood Stain this is what I used
  15. Polyurethane this is what I used
  16. A lamb’s wool applicator for the poly and a painters extender pole

First I  prepped the floors by vacuuming and swiffering; make sure all the debris and dirt is removed from the floor.  Then I taped all the baseboards to protect them (which didn’t work so well, I will have to repaint the quarter round at the bottom).  After my room was prepped, I “painted” the Citristrip on the floor.

One large bottle covers about this amount of surface area:

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I went ahead and painted the entire strip all the way to the end of the room.  Also, I figured out using my joint knife was a more effective way of spreading the stripper.

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I let the Citristrip sit for around 2 hours… and it began to look like the picture below.  See the little brown speckles?  That means you can start removing the paint.

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I did this process over and over and over and over again (all 3 day weekend in fact)…  I was happy in the photo here because I had no idea how long this process would take!

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I used dental tools I ordered off Amazon to get the paint out of the cracks.  Honestly, don’t spend too much time slaving away at getting every crack.  If you use a darker stain you cannot see the leftover paint.  So you just scrape the paint off with the stripper and throw the excess in the bucket.  Use a paper towel to remove any wet excess.

In some spots the leftover paint almost became oily and hard to remove.  I used an old rag soaked with mineral spirits to wipe up the excess in these areas.

In the photo below, I’m almost done with the paint removal process.   As you can see, I reused the Citristrip, and it actually worked well.

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Once all the paint is removed, you need to give the floor a good bath with mineral spirits to make sure that all the stripping agent is off the floor.  I poured the mineral spirits on very liberally and just spread it around with a mop then let the room dry for the rest of the week.

When it dried, it looked like this:

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Yea, not so great, this is where the Square Buff Sander comes in to play.

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Make sure you seal off all of your doors and entryways and anywhere dust could fly… This is a messy process.  I just worked this bad boy all around the room, with a 100 grit sand paper.  This sander is unique because it is not as heavy-duty as a belt sander; you can leave it in one place for a while and get close to the edges without grinding through the floor boards.  While it was a bit of a learning curve getting used to handling, it was definitely worth renting for this project.  I finished off by hand sanding any parts of the floor that had cupping and around the radiators.  Vacuum a lot during and after the sanding process.

After sanding, I let the dust settle for a few hours then re-taped the room and vacuumed again.  Then I stained the floors by wiping them with a cloth saturated in stain then rubbing it off with a clean cloth.  I watched a great video on staining and followed this process.

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Finally, the last step was putting polyurethane on the floor.  You want to use a lamb’s wool applicator to do this step correctly.  My husband was kind enough to lend a hand on this final step and he dumped the poly on the floor for me while I spread it.  I followed an “S” shape pattern and snaked my way around the room; make sure to paint the poly into the corners as you go to get an even layer throughout the room.

Doesn’t the finished product look fantastic!

Although this was the HARDEST DIY project I’ve ever done; the results are well worth it AND I saved a ton doing it myself!

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Take a look at this room BEFORE I did anything to it. That pink and flower border is just down right scary!

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Here are a few photos with the Nikon, much better than the green and pink, right?!

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The dining room is still a work in progress but it has come a long way!

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Hello there, my name is Jessica and I'm so glad you've dropped by! I am a weekend DIYer, a die-hard antiquer, and a lover of all things vintage. Join me on my never ending journey of turning our house into our home!