Archive for January, 2009

the Kitchen Floor

Its been almost 3 years since I refinished the kitchen floor and it still looks brand new.

By the time the calendar turned over to 2005, we had been in our house over 10 years.  Hard to believe!  Our taste had definitely changed during that time, as it was the decorating color choices we made when we were younger really needed some updating.  Plus the builder installed floor was beginning to show serious wear and tear and not just in the high traffic areas.  The wife was going to be out of town  for a few days so I thought it would be a great time to refinish the kitchen floor.

Do you like pink?

Do you like pink?

The refinish process is not all that hard, its just time consuming, physical and a bit dusty.  Our floor is not a solid hardwood material.  Its a laminate product but the top 3/8 of an inch is red oak solid hardwood.  I know from years of woodworking that I could get at least one sanding/refinishing from that thickness and possibly two if we kept the same color on a second refinishing.  In this case, we would be removing a whitewash/pink color and replacing it with a dark stain.

In order to contain the sanding saw dust the first thing to do, other than removing the appliances and furniture from the room, is to hang plastic sheeting around all exits from your room.  Tip: let me be clear, every floor sander you can rent, even the “dust-less” variety will put some sanding dust into the air and all over your house.   So take the time early on to hang the plastic and use a quality dust mask during the sanding to keep your lungs clear.  It also helps to shut off the A/C or heat when you’re sanding so you don’t have sawdust drawn into the central air return system.


I rented a large standup orbital disk sander from the BORG (big orange retail giant), the rental was actually pretty cheap being about $50 for the day, but the cost of the sand paper pads is what gets you.  I would estimate that the pads needed to be changed every 10 minutes or so before their cutting efficiency rapidly declined.  I might have spent $100 in sand-paper alone.  This will vary for you, it really depends on how hard the top clear coat is on your floor.  The rented sander removed all the finish down to the wood along with the original stain.  I already owned a small orbital hand sander that was used to sand under the cabinets, along the walls and in other tight spots.  Another tip that will keep the mess to a minimum is to do regular floor vacuuming around the area’s just sanded, possibly each time you change out the sanding pads.  This will keep you from tracking dust in the house and make the floor that much cleaner before applying the finish.  Any basic “shop-vac” like vacuum will work.   Here is what the floor looked like after sanding


Once you think you have finished the sanding, take some time to double check the floor very carefully to make sure you have not missed any of the old finish.  Other wise these areas, no matter how small, will stick out like a sore thump when the new stain is applied.  I recommend getting down on your hands and knees and taking a wet sponge to wipe down a section at a time; what you can reach within arms length and carefully inspect the dampened wood.  The missed areas will stand out better if the wood is wet.  I found several dented/low areas that the sander did not reach; those were easily removed with the hand sander.  In the picture below, you can see a tiny sliver of the old finish that survived the sanding process; this is the type of defect you are looking for.


Double click for an enlarged image

Once you are sure that the old finish is completely removed, put a fresh bag in the shop-vac (for maximum suction) and give the floor a nice once over to remove as much dust as possible before moving on to the staining process.

Staining can be a bit tricky so be sure to read and follow the manufactures instructions perfectly.  In my case, we used cotton rags to wipe on the finish, wait 5 minutes for the stain to soak in and then remove the excess stain still on the surface with fresh rags as needed.  I had a friend helping with this process.  I would apply the stain and he would follow with the removal process.  Our stain was oil based so I would suggest wearing a respirator (something like this).  If your using water based stain, this is likely not necessary.  I strongly suggest applying two coats.   This will result in a much deeper color with more depth.  Be sure to test out the stain coloring in an area that won’t be visible at the end.  For example: under the appliances or in the back of the pantry.


Two coats down and before the poly top coat

I decided to use a water based poly finish.  So per the instructions I needed to wait 72 hours for the oil based stain to dry. During this process, allow as much outside ventilation as possible.  Being December in Indiana it’s cold outside.  I did put a fan in the window pulling air out during the staining process and for about an hour afterwards,  but closed it once we were finished cleaning up.  I did however move the thermostat fan to “on” to increase air circulation.  The smell  was noticeably strong so  that night that I slept over at a relatives house.  The next day it was fine.  If your sensitive to odors and using oil based stain, then I might suggest you take on this project during your area’s warmer months in order to keep your windows open.

72 hours later and I was ready to start the clear top coat process.

Using water based poly required about 75 minutes drying time between coats.   I would apply a coat, using the recommend lambs wool mop, and leave the house.  Return, apply another coat leaving myself in the TC room for 75 minutes and then put down another coat and leave the house again, etc.  I ended up with 6 coats and the floor turned out nicer than I expected.