This is what happens when you DON’T listen to the folks at Lowe’s

Hardwood Floor Refinish DIYA 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.

HardwoodFinish5HardwoodFinish8We 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.

hardwoodpatchupThe 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.

hardwoodfloorpatchup3HardwoodRefinish4A 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.

HardwoodFinish12HardwoodFinish6I purchased grit 36, 60, and 80 sand paper. It’s very easy to put on. Just slide it on the big roll.HardwoodFinish8 (2)I also bought ear plugs and mask. The machine is very loud.HardwoodFinish13Seconds 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.HardwoodFinish10The sander does what it’s  supposed to do – taking it down to bare wood.HardwoodFinish7This is the same pet urine stain you see in the photo above. 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.

HardwoodFinish9I 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.

HardwoodFinish11I 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. Hardwood Floor Refinish DIYAfter four coats of Verathane. I love all the different color tones.HardwoodRefinishA different bedroom. Night photo.hardwoodfinishnewOne 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.HardwoodLivingroom1HardwoodLivingroom3Hardwoodlivingroom4This is the area that was once patched in.Hardwoodhallway

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.

My challenges:

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.

My verdict: 

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.

I link up to Remodelaholic

37 thoughts on “This is what happens when you DON’T listen to the folks at Lowe’s

  1. Your floors look gorgeous to me!! My parents’ home, the one I grew up in, was built in the 1890s, and when they pulled up horribly 1950s-era carpet, they found nice wood floors. We rented a sander like the one you used, and 20 years after we sanded and stained them, they still look gorgeous!

    1. Thank, Rachel. Your comment is very encouraging. Sanding was a ton of work so I can only hope my floors will still look good 20 years from now.

  2. After 2 weeks of trying different sander including a drum, I gave up on sanding. A friend said I should talk to a local guy who does sandblasting, he came and had a look and said no problem, (there was glue all over from tenants gluing down vinyl, before I bought the house. keep in mind, I hadn’t moved in yet, 2 guys showed up, they were done in an hour, dust everywhere, black sand everywhere, but the floors came out beautiful, I used 4 gallons of Varathane for floors, the open grain just sucked it in. I should mention the floors were Hemlock, not a hardwood. the blasting cost me 2 cases of beer 🙂

    1. Sounds like the price of my ceilings being finished with double-ring quilt design. Cost 1/2 quart of moonshine. Love my ceilings.
      Also, I’m in the process of ripping out old carpet & doing my floors. Thanks for the information

    1. Thank you, Mary. It’s not that I am brave, if I want to get things done, I have to do them myself. I don’t have the money to pay people for labor.So you get creative and think outside the box.

      So sorry to hear you weren’t happy with the results. That’s the thing I fear; Paying someone tons of money and not even liking the end result.

  3. Great post — really appreciated it as i am about to do 700 sq and dont want to pay someone $4,000.

    i noticed you did not apply any fill — and this was older wood??
    thanks for the response in advance adn the pictures.

    also i too have been told to stay away from the drum, while the orbital does not do the job. Those of us who have done many jobs realize that many, not all, of the CSRs at the home improvement store are not as informed as they appear to be.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Paul. I’m glad I didn’t listen to Lowes and went ahead with the drum sander. It’s mind blowing how much money you save with DIY. Good luck with your project. I bet it’s going to turn out awesome!

  4. Awesome tutorial! This is really going to help me out, plus, you got right to the point. A lot of blogs lose focus on what they are actually explaining. Lol!

  5. Wonderfully informative post, and I love that you didn’t use a stain!

    I’m curious how long it took to finish this project (after you got the drum sander)? Unfortunately I have carpet to rip up and who knows what I’ll have to fix/patch underneath, but I’d like to think I can complete this in about a week? Would love your insight!

    1. Hi Rose. Thank you for your kind words. I think I spent three full days on the floors. I picked a time when my kids were visiting with their dad so I could have the house to myself.I worked nonstop and very hard. I’d say the hardest part was moving everything into the kitchen and garage. Applying poly was probably the easiest part but waiting between coats was annoying. I went on lots of walks haha. When I first bought the house, I got rid of all the stinky carpeting. Removing the staples took forever. I also had to get rid of old, dark pet stains. Btw. Hydrogen Perixode really helps with those. Anyway, I’m glad it’s done and very happy with the results. How much sq footage do you need to do? One week should be enough time as long as you don’t have a huge home. Having a helper doesn’t hurt either. Good luck with your project. I’d love to hear how it turns out and thank you so much for reading. 🙂

  6. Your floors look awesome. We just bought an old house with hard wood floors. The living room has carpet with wood under, so we will rip that out. The house smells awful from dog urine I’m assuming. I’m sure the carpet smells, but I know for sure one of the bedrooms with wood floors is the worst. Can you please tell me how you applied the hydrogen peroxide. Also, I’d like to know if just sanding the floors and finishing them will help rid the smell. Thanks!

  7. Your floors look awesome. We just bought an old house with hard wood floors. The house smells awful, from dog urine I’m assuming. Can you please tell me how you applied the hydrogen peroxide. Also, I’d like to know if just sanding the floors and finishing them will help rid the smell. Thanks!

    1. Hi Amy! Thanks for the kind words. To answer your questions, my floors had several large pet stains under the carpet. The previous owners had several cats and dogs and they were smokers. The carpet was disgusting but once I sanded the floors and applied poly, the smell was gone. I also painted the entire house. Walls, doors, ceilings. Hydrogen peroxide works well on pet stains. However, the older the stains the longer it takes to get rid of them. Her’s how I did it. Take a rag and soak it in hydrogen peroxide. Place it over the stain. I left mine on over night. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the rag. This will keep it from drying out. You may have to do this process twice. Once you remove the rag, let the area dry for several hours. One of my stain was really bad ( black stain). I applied the peroxide twice but I can still see a bit of discoloration. Even after sanding the floor. But keep in mind, I didn’t stain my floors. I’m sure a dark stain would have covered that urine stain completely. It doesn’t bother me. My floors are 46 years old. They aren’t going to be perfect, and honestly, I don’t want perfect floors. I love the small imperfections. I think my floors have character which you can’t get with brand new flooring. I hope my answers help. Let me know if you have any other questions and thank you for reading and commenting.:)

  8. Your floors look amazing! Wonderful job! Kudos for going out on a limb against the Lowes employee’s advice. We own a remodel/renovation business and have corrected many issues stemming from Lowes advice. For some reason, Home Depot seems to have a more knowledgeable staff in general and better customer service all the way around. Either way, I’m glad that you found what worked and that you were able to restore your beautiful floors. And even better, all on a great budget!

    1. Thanks, Rachel.That is a very nice comment… I appreciate it. Sometimes you just have to come of your comfort zone and go for it. I’m not gonna lie, it was scary pushing the button on that floor sander. I’m glad I did, though.

  9. Beautiful results! I too am getting ready to tackle my floors after my husband unexpectedly passed away last year. We pretty much dismantled our house because we were moving and getting ready to put this place up for sale. Then surprise! Im on my own and not moving & living in a construction zone. You are very encouraging to other women out there who need to tackle projects on their own. I’ve gotten quotes from various people and it’s always something ridiculous for such a small space that needs to be done… about 400sq ft. I’ve gotten quotes for 7k! But your floors are just beautiful! I agree that they didn’t need stain! The natural wood is stunning!

    1. Mechelle, I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing your husband and dealing with a construction zone at the same time is a lot to take. You must be a strong woman. I admire you for taking on this project. It’s a lot of work but it’s doable. Paying someone 7K to sand and seal your floors (only 400sqft !!!) is ridiculous. I understand companies need to make money, but some are just plain thieves. I’m very happy with my floors. They have held up so well. I wish you the best and good luck with the floors.

      1. Here in Aus the housing market is very strong, so tradies are in high demand. Tradies therefore dont wont to loose $ by wasting time on small jobs when they could make more $ with just a little more time on large jobs.

        eg. One large job per day provides more profit & is easier than say 3 small jobs per day, since each job requires set-up time & effort. Set-up time has to be paid for by someone, so its passed onto the client via a higher rate.

        Also, being so busy tradies can afford to quote ridiculous prices for small jobs. Some people are in a hurry so will ante up.

        1. Rob, this is very interesting. I can see why tradies prefer larger jobs. Tradies here want to charge as much as $150 an hour, and desperate people often pay the rate.

  10. Gorgeous floors! I will be attempting mine this weekend!! I haven’t seen another tutorial using varathane. With using this, was it not necessary to do a light sanding in between coats?

    1. Hi Lindsey. Thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog. Means a lot to me. Yes, I did do a light sanding between the coats. I used a 220 grit paper. I did cheat a little and only sanded twice. I didn’t have many bubbles and bumps. It looked really smooth. Plus I was in a hurry to get the floors done. Thanks for bringing this up as I forgot to mention the sanding in my post. I will add it. It’s been almost two years since I refinished the floors and they still look great. I have two dogs and three kids. I’m really happy with Varathane. Good luck with your floors. Would love to hear how they turn out.

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