A little over a year ago, I purchased a home which had wall-to-wall stained and smelly carpeting. Lucky for us because underneath all this mess was beautiful oak flooring. The wood was in pretty decent shape except for some pet urine stains and scratches. There was also a lot of grime and build-up that needed to be removed.
I researched the heck out of refinishing hardwood floors, talked to a local hardwood floor refinisher, watched lots of tutorials, and then Googled some more. I was ready to tackle the beast. The only thing or person that stopped me from doing so was a sales lady at Lowe’s.
One day I came in to gather my materials and the lady in flooring said “Stay away from the drum sander. It will ruin your floors.”
Back then I was totally new at this whole DIY remodel thing so I ran as fast as I could.
“She works in flooring, she would know,” I told my daughter who ran with me to the nearest exit.
I came back a few days later and bought an orbital sander instead. I figured I could get rid of just a few “nasty” spots in the floor.
We were eager to move in and it worked for us until I needed to tackle some repair on the hardwood flooring in the living room. The previous owners had water damage in a small section of the floor, which they ended up patching up with a piece of plywood and carpet.
The carpet needed to go so I bought a new bundle of oak flooring and had a guy feather it in to match the original. One major problem was that the new wood didn’t match the original. Since renting a drum sander was my worst fear, I sanded (with my orbital sander) and stained the new wood pieces the best I could to match the old wood. Of course this didn’t work and it drove me nuts for about a year.
A few days ago I rented a drum sander from Home Depot. The guy at Tool Rental was very helpful. He explained how everything works and shared his own experience with the sander. He mentioned how beautiful his own oak floors are and how much money he was able to save by doing the project himself.
His biggest advice for me: Keep moving and go slow with the sander.
He helped me load the machine in the car and wished me good luck.
I followed his advice and let me tell you, the drum sander is an amazing machine. What really surprised me was the minimal amount of dust. The attached bag really sucks up most of it. It’s the small orbital sander that turns the house into a pure dust zone.
I purchased grit 36, 60, and 80 sand paper. It’s very easy to put on. Just slide it on the big roll.
I also bought ear plugs and mask. The machine is very loud.
Seconds before I turned the machine on for the first time. Do I look confident or terrified? It’s a selfie since no one else was around.
The sander does what it’s supposed to do – taking it down to bare wood.
This is the same pet urine stain you see in the second photo in the post. This photo was taken after I used 60 grit sand paper. Later, my orbital sander and hydrogen peroxide got rid of most of the stain. You can read more about it here.
I wanted to rent the edge sander but it was out for a week. Instead I used my orbital sander. It worked just fine but produced a lot of dust.
I used Varathane No Odor Floor Finish in Satin. Satin is great if you just want a light sheen which is what I was going for. I didn’t want super high glossy floors. Varathane poly is available at Lowe’s but not the Home Depot. See, I have nothing against Lowe’s.
The Varathane dries in less than two hours. I applied four coats; sanded twice between the coats using a 220 grit paper.
I didn’t stain my floors. I think the natural wood goes well with our house. Dark wood is more formal, which our house isn’t.
After four coats of Verathane. I love all the different color tones.
A different bedroom. Night photo. Sorry.
One more bedroom. This picture was taken late at night after a long day of hard work. The photo quality is not the best.
I also refinished the living room and the hallway.
Here’s the cost break down:
Drum sander rental: $57
Sanding belts: $70 @ $8 each
Varathane: two gallons @ $49 each
Sanding disks for Orbital sander: $20
Varathane applicator, wood filler, ear plugs, plastic to cover up vents, doors, etc.: $15
Total: $260 plus tax
I refinished approx. 650 square feet.
Our local hardwood floor refinishing companies start at $4 per square foot. I am not sure if the rate includes poly.
By doing it myself, I saved over $2,000.
From my experience the hardest part was moving pretty much the entire house into the kitchen and garage. It felt like moving day all over again. And, of course, everything has to go back in. This was quite a task and I am still sore from it. The dust produced by the orbital sander was also unpleasant. I had to wipe down everything including walls.
The drum sander weighs nearly 100 pounds. I didn’t have a problem taking it out of the car but I couldn’t put it back in the next day. Luckily my friendly neighbor gave me a hand with that.
Refinishing hardwood floors is A LOT of HARD WORK. It’s doable as long as you don’t mind hard, physical work. Your entire body will be sore for days. I also have very large bruises from moving the furniture. It’s definitely better and easier with two people.
My floors are not perfect, but that’s ok, because I don’t expect them to be. After all, they are 44 years old. I am very happy with how they turned out and I am glad I did it even though I was told I shouldn’t try. Moral of this story – you can do it as long as you work hard and don’t give up. And don’t let anyone tell you, you CAN’T.
P.S. One of my reader’s recently commented:
“Great work on that refinish. But the lady from Lowes wasn’t coompletely off. The rented drum sanders can be a nightmare depending on the abuse they’ve been put through. You got lucky here, but make sure when you rent one of those things that the drum is level and dent free. Otherwise it will destroy your wood floors.”
Very good advice.