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Floor sanding, tips and best tools

Discovering an original parquet floor underneath an old wall-to-wall carpet is a great and valuable discovery. Specially if the floor is still in one piece, i.e. no rows or tiles removed for installing a central heating system or other 'modern' plumbing work.

(See also our Wood Floor Guide: "7 Easy Steps to Repair/Restore Your Parquet Floor")

Restoring the parquet floor to its original lustre is really a 'labour of love', but with the right tools and products it will regain its beauty for many years to come. First up is to remove all carpet residue, like the sticky (rubber) underlayment. Scrapping will get most off. If you need to use chemicals try it out first in a corner behind a door - ventilate the room sufficiently and READ the instruction before hand!

Many old parquet floors were stuck down with bitumen which over time can become very brittle and loose its bonding power. Loose blocks (rattling underneath your feet when you walk over it) could be the result. Most old wood blocks have small T&G's all around, lifting one of the block could result in a kind of cascading effect, more loose blocks. So be careful when trying to remove loose blocks.
Before you re-install the lifted blocks remove as much of the bitumen from block and underfloor as possible. Any large residue of the bitumen will make the floor uneven, plus the time the modern adhesive will take to fully bond with block and underfloor will be longer - in cases we've seen even days longer!

Some re-found original parquet floors only need a bit of extra TLC, remove all dirt and apply a suitable maintenance product.
Others however take more work, specially when blocks had to re-installed (or 'new' blocks found to fill in empty spaces), the wear and tear layer is rather damaged (by carpet grippers etc). Then sanding the whole floor is the only solution (such a shame to cover your valuable parquet floor with carpet again!).

Before you go out and hire the first sander you can find, a word (two words really) of advice: remove what's left of the old finish material and hire the proper sanding equipment.
No matter with what grit you start sanding, if your old floor still has layers upon layers of wax on and in it you'll spend a fortune on sanding sheets! Try out a tiny corner of the floor with a sanding paper by hand. If the paper fills right up and spreads rubbish (warmed wax) all over the floor you'll first have to remove this old wear and tear layer. Apply Wax and Polish remover - turpentine or white spirit based - on a cloth and remove the old layers as best as possible. Again, VENTILATE & READ the instructions on the tin/bottle.

Wood You Like the best results with a Beltsander For the best end result after sanding your original parquet flooring you'll have to use (hire) a professional belt-sander Beltcloth(and edge-sander). Like the description says a belt-sander has a continuous (or endless) belt, or rather continuous (or endless) sanding paper - called Belt cloth. These belts are very easy to 'wrap' around the drum of the sander (1 minute tops), but most importantly will give the smoothest results on your floor.

Drumsander causing shatter marks, ruining your hard workMost DIY hire centres can only supply you with the (much lighter) drum-sander. Drum sanders have sheets of sanding paper, that has to be wrapped around the drum and fixed firmly in place with a metal bar. This metal bar, when not attached correctly will create shatter marks all over your floor. The problem is that those shatter marks will mostly only show up AFTER you applied the finish product (varnish or HardWaxOil). Trying to remove these marks with a rotary sander will create another problem: circular marks in your floor.

So for a 'professional' restored original parquet floor use/hire professional tools.

More tips and advice on restoring existing Oak flooring see our Wood-Guide "7 Easy Steps to Repair/Restore your Original Parquet Floor".

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Comments

John Coles

I found "Floor sanding, tips & tools" very helpful. Just one thing though and I'm sorry if this is going over old ground but it's about lifting old "rattling" parquet blocks. I have a group of blocks that are loose and they're all tongued & grooved: how would you recommend lifting the first one? I don't want to zipper-up a whole load of them and there's not much of a gap between the blocks.
Thanks again for a very good article.
Regards
John Coles

Karin H.

Hi John

What we recommend is very, very carefully lift one of the blocks, while placing some weights on the rest.
Once the first one is out (and you might have to 'scarify' the first one by cutting the Tongue with a chisel so it lifts better) you 'wiggle' out the rest.
Take your time, this is not a rush job.

After the loose blocks are lifted, remove as much of the bitumen as possible and glue the blocks back with modern adhesive. The 'damaged' one can still be used if you place a weight on it after installing it back.

Hope this helps

Wood You Like Ltd

John Coles

Thank you - that's a great help.
Regards
John Coles

matthew belte

Hi could really do with your help on this one!!! i have just had a wooden block floor fitted for me for a customer by a reputable contractor. the problem is that there are marks all over the floor which look like splash marks across alot of the joints.. In my opinion it looks like someone has tried to fill some of the joints but not sanded them down enough, the contractor is now claiming that he needs to speak to his supplier as they never use filler.He has spoken to his fitter and they feel that some of the blocks were very oily when they were laid!! is this something you have come across before

Karin H.

Hi Matthew

It does sound like filler was applied but the excess not sanded away before applying a finish. Does it also looks dull, raged edges?

Wood You Like Ltd

Colin

Hi there,
I've sort of fallen into a whole bunch of hardwood floor jobs over the past 6 months. I'm still learning. I've been using a machine called the varathane easy sander, a 3 disk orbital sander. I had a go with a drum sander the first time and had a lot of issues with stop/start marks. I find the 3 disk orbital sander I'm using now does a really nice job in the end, but it's real slow!

I was wondering if I used the drum sander to take off the finish and then switched to the orbital sander for the other passes would it minimize and help get rid of those stop/start marks.

I like refinishing floors, but it's slow going the way I am doing it right now. If I could speed it up I might consider doing more.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Colin

Karin H.

Hi Colin

You're better off hiring a belt-sander instead of a drum sander. More and more professional hire centers have this heavy sanding machine in their books. Then you are more guaranteed not to have scatter marks.

Hope this helps

Wood You Like Ltd.

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