The Shining

We have finally stopped sanding, staining and sealing our floors. It took us WEEKS to get to this point, almost months, but here we are.

It seemed like only yesterday… cue wavy flashback transition

These floors used to look the way we feel now.

What you don't see is all the miles put into the car, dragging rented tools around.

cut to the present

Tall, dark, and handsome.

The first weekend, after inquiring about renting an orbital floor sander, we were advised by a very helpful and concerned employee at the local hardware store to go Home Depot and rent a “pad sander” since they’re much more forgiving and easier to operate, so we did just that. We went to Home Depot and picked up a square pad sander and an edger. Chris and I spent an entire night with the pad sander, well into the wee hours of the morning on the boys and girls rooms, but didn’t get very far at all.

Beating life into the floors.

The next weekend, we went back to Home Depot, armed with photos of the floors we were trying to work on, and the clerk realized immediately we’d need something aggressive, and we left with a drum sander and edger. Work went much faster, but we still probably went slower than we could have gone (Pro tip: if you want to literally strip off a good layer of your floors, go at them at a 45ยบ angle first. We didn’t actually do that, and we ended up going over the floors several times with each grit).

Don't do this.

This ended up taking three (seriously?!) weekends just to sand down the all the rooms, not including the edges. Edging, it turns out, is even more difficult, as the tools are much less forgiving. We initially went around with the edger, then went around with a palm sander, and resorted to hand sanding for a while. There was a thick layer of wax buildup that was just painful to try and remove.

Finally, last weekend (the week before the rapture) we rented the edger on Saturday to finish up the edges (naturally) and then rented pad sander on Sunday to give everything a final pass. We also picked up a dust vacuum (awesome) and ended up having to buy a bunch the stain we chose (Minwax Jacobean) in quarts. We also picked up a 5 gallon bucket of Minwax semi-gloss polyurethane.

Sunday evening, we started staining. I threw on my proton pack the vacuum and vacuumed the living room, then wiped it all down with tack cloth, and then we just went for it. After a couple mishaps, Chris and I got through about 75% of the living room and called it a night.

Final section, done.

The next day, Chris and Kisha took on the bedrooms and hallway. Again, everything was vacuumed and wiped down with tack cloth first. They spent practically the whole day and night putting stain down, and Chris and I finished up in the living room at around 2AM. Amazingly, no one was ever stuck in a corner through out this whole project.

First lesson learned: stain in rows. We stained in sections perpendicular to the boards. Don’t do that. You’ll end up with a line where the stain sections overlap, no matter how careful you are. We realized that quickly and switched to doing rows of boards.

Second lesson learned: we used a lambwool push-mop-brush-thing to apply the stain and a Swiffer mop retrofitted with cotton cloths to wipe up the stain. Don’t do that. Wiping up the stain is just as important as applying the stain. For best results, make sure you wipe up with the same, even pressure every time. Also if your rows don’t span wall to wall, make sure to stain whole planks. The same wood will not will not stain the same way each time, and you’ll end up with a line.

Third lesson learned: use tack cloth immediately on the area you’re about to stain. Never assume the area is clean enough. Otherwise you’ll end up with footprints that you’ll have to sand out.

Fourth lesson learned: don’t put your hand down in the wet stain to reach hard to reach areas. Unless you’ve started getting nostalgic for sanding.


Nicole came by Tuesday and attempted to sand out particularly troublesome boards (and lines (and footprints (and handprints))) and she managed to keep the living room looking like a single contiguous space instead of a room with two halves, designated by floor color: a dark half and light half.

Wednesday, Chris started putting the first coat of polyurethane in the bedrooms and hall while Nicole continued doctoring the living room floors, and Thursday Nicole and I put the first AND second coat of polyurethane on the living room floors (again, after rubbing the floors down with tack cloth to pick up any dust that settled or had been tracked in. While waiting for the first coat to get just dry enough, we scuff the bedrooms and hallways with steel wool, to rough it up for a second coat (we didn’t have to do that to the living room because we were able to get a second coat on before it got too dry).

Friday, we let the living room floors dry and air out and we came back Saturday to yet again rub the floors down (this time with a wet cloth to get the majority of the steel wool fibers, and ultimately more tack cloth. We finally laid down the second coat in the bedrooms and hallway, and at this point, I’m sure you’re all about as tired from reading this (if you managed to get this far) as we are.

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