Sanding floorboards - should you do it yourself?
Hiding original floorboards with laminate, carpet or lino is not the done thing in a period home these days. But as lovely as it is to expose those floorboards, what does it involve? And will it be worth it?
This blog is designed to talk you through what we’ve learnt from exposing floorboards in a couple of homes now, and most recently from doing it all ourselves.
You can definitely do it yourself, but you need the right tools
In order to get the best finish, you’ll need a few different tools that most people don’t have hiding in their garage or shed! The most efficient way that we found to get the right tools was to hire a floor sanding package (which included an electric floor sander and edging sander) for a day. Ours was delivered at 11am on the hire day so we got to keep them until 11am the next day which gave us enough time to sand a relatively large living room (we were sanding for 8-9 hours in total).
In addition to the hire package you need to buy the sanding sheets (for the main sander) and discs (for the edging sander) separately. On the basis that the floorboards in our living room were already exposed and looked in fairly good condition we decided to buy the medium and fine grit sheets, rather than the coarse ones, but ended up running out to buy coarse ones later in the day. Given that most companies will give you the money back for the sheets you don’t use we’d recommend buying more and making sure you’ve got what you need.
So, if you’re sanding an average sized room where the floorboards are in average to poor condition we would say you’ll need:
3-4 sheets and 3-4 discs P40 coarse grit
3 sheets and 3 discs P80 medium grit
1-2 sheets and 2 discs P120 fine grit
These two tools will get the majority of the work done but in order to really get into the corners of the room and around radiator pipes etc. you will either need to hand sand or buy a detailed sander. Given we do a lot of DIY we decided to buy a detailed sander costing £25 which made the job quicker and is something we’ll use again.
Using the tools was relatively simple, but you will need a flathead screwdriver and spanner to get the sheets and discs on and off. The main sander is easier than you might think but the edging sander can be quite taxing on the body and a good workout for your core!!
As with all DIY, it’s all in the prep
You need to make sure that the floorboards are as ready as they can be for sanding otherwise you risk damaging the tools you’ve hired and wasting precious time and money on going through sanding sheet after sanding sheet.
If you get somebody in to do it for you that’s great, but they often can’t determine how much work it will entail until they’ve seen the boards, which if they’ve been hidden under other flooring, can often be on the first day of the job. This means you can be stung for lots of additional costs and a need to source replacement boards, which can be difficult if you’ve got awkwardly narrow boards, which we found in our home in Leeds.
The key things you need to do are:
Remove and replace any damaged boards
Fill any holes or gaps that you don’t want
Make sure all the nails and screws are knocked or screwed well into the boards, with a little gap to the top of the board
Remove any flooring that is currently covering the floorboards
The finishing is the easiest bit, although choosing your finish might be more difficult
We’ve always wanted to keep our floorboards looking natural, so have always decided on a clear oil to treat them and ensure that they’re safe from spillages etc. On the recommendation of our flooring guy in London we used Osmo clear matt oil in our old home and have done the same here. It’s really easy to apply (you can cover a fairly large room in less than an hour), and if you buy the ‘Rapid’ product dries in 4-5 hours per coat. We’ve always applied two coats with a light hand sand in between, but if you wanted a less rustic look you can always use a buffing machine in between coats.
If you wanted to add a bit of colour to the boards, then Osmo also do a Tints range, and there are many different products out there that will give you a great finish, so have a play with some tester pots first to see what you would like and how it goes with your room.
So, if you’ve got original floorboards that you want to expose, we’d definitely say go for it! If you do it yourself it’ll mean a bit of hard work for a few days but like most DIY jobs you’ll soon forget how hard it was and focus on the end product. And when you’re doing it for yourself you do it with greater care which means you’ll more than likely end up with a job that’s done as well, if not better, than the professionals.