We recently pulled up a vinyl floor and underneath was plywood over rough old wide pine boards. We are wondering what is the best way to sand them to make them smooth and what is the best polyurethane for them?
Susan from Maine
Hire a large belt sander from a hire shop and follow their instructions or look for detailed instructions on the net. Preparation is important - you have to knock in all protruding nails or they will rip the sandpaper - also fill any gaps in the boards if you want to avoid draughts in the future. The sanders are very effective but can mark the floor if you don't use them as instructed. You have to go at an angle at first to take the rough off and then follow the wood grain to finish with a lower grit paper. Be careful starting and stopping as the sander can 'dig in'. You will also need to hire an edge sander for where the larger sander can't get up to the wall. This is a very dirty/dusty job. You should get a sander with a dust collection bag but even then you should try to put some sort of physical barrier, like hanging sheets, between the work area and the rest of the house. If you have never done it before it can be a hard job to get a good finish and, as the sander is hired by the day usually, the sandpaper and finish is costly and smelly to apply, it may be cost effective, and much less work and disruption to get a professional in.
The best finish I know is a two pack varnish - two separate containers which need to be mixed immediately prior to application - Wattyl Estapol 7008 in Australia. The floor must be completely clean and dust free and its usually apllied with a lambswool applicator. No matter what you use, in a high traffic area, you will have to re do it periodically and Estapo cannot be applied over other finishes. It has very strong fumes and must be applied with good ventilation. Another option is to oil the boards with special floor oil, or just wax them. This gives a much more natural, softer finish and can be easily stripped and refinished when required.
You are very lucky to have wonderful old boards.
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