Renovating wooden floorboards is a relatively simple but messy job and at the end of it you should have a pristine surface you can be proud of. Briefly you prepare and check the surface then sand it back using a special purpose sander that can be hired for the day. Then the floorboards can be finished off with sealant, wax or varnish.
Completely empty the room and take up any old flooring. Work over the floor, feeling carefully with your hands, for any projecting nail heads or other objects that will rip the sanding belt. Hammer all nail heads (not just protruding ones) down to just below the surface using a centre punch.
Check the Floor All Over
As you only want to be renovating wooden floorboards once, check for any damaged wood, damp patches, rot or woodworm. If you turn up anything it will have to be treated before you can carry on with the sanding.
If any floorboards are in particular poor physical condition consider lifting them and swapping them with others that won’t be seen so easily. You can buy new ones but it’s unlikely that they’ll match the colour of the old ones. They may also be a different width and thickness so they’ll need modifying before they can go down.
Renovating with a Floor Sander
Before starting the sander, make sure you have a good dust mask, eye protection and ear defenders on. Open the window in the room you are sanding and tack a heavy dust sheet to the door opening to minimise the dust escaping to the rest of the house. Close any other doors in the room and stick masking tape around the door openings and key holes.
Fit the coarsest sanding belt first and run the sander up and down the floorboards, starting at the corner furthest from the door and working up and down with the grain of the boards. Don’t drag the sander sideways or let it stand while it’s running as both actions will leave unsightly grooves that will be very difficult to remove.
Second and Third Passes
Once you’ve finished a pass with the large floor sander go round the edges and corners with a smaller hand-held sander. Then switch to a medium grade sanding belt on the large one and repeat the process, using a medium grade on the hand-held sander afterwards as well.
It’s important to keep emptying the dust collecting bag as it has been known for dust to explode. But keep hold of some of it for a neat trick. If you are left with obvious gaps between the boards they can be filled with wood glue mixed with some of the sawdust. It’s a messy job but it’s easier, and you get a better colour match, than trying to cut fillets of wood to fit the gaps.
Once all that has dried, repeat the process once more with fine sandpaper on both sanders. This will finish off the boards and take off any excess glue and sawdust mix that’s proud of the floorboards.
Then it’s time to get rid of all the dust. A vacuum cleaner will do a good job but try and hold it up off the floor, unless it’s got good free-running wheels, as you don’t want to mark your pristine but unprotected surface. For the same reason, while you’re doing all this, don’t wear shoes, just some old socks that you can throw away afterward.
Make sure you hoover skirting boards, picture rails, mantelpieces and any other surfaces where dust might be sitting. There is a risk that this dust will dislodge itself, fall down and stick to your wet varnish or sealant. Finish off by wiping the floor with clean rags soaked in white spirit.
Just wax will be enough but you will have to re-apply it frequently, possibly annually, and it won’t offer much impact protection. There are many purpose-made floor sealants and varnishes on the market so choose the one you want and apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Just remember that if you decide apply a stain before waxing or sealing, remember that they get a lot darker as they dry so don’t be tempted to put too many coats on.