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How to Polish Timber Floors

Aug 1, 2011 by

Topic: Timber Flooring

No matter how often you clean your timber floors, they are going to require periodic sanding and polishing in order to keep them looking their best. This can be a daunting prospect if you have never done it before, but if you learn how to polish timber floors the right way, it can be done. This is how you do it:


©CLINT FUDGE: FLOOR SANDING & POLISHING

Sanding Timber Floors


A floor sander (also called a drum sander) and an edge sander are needed to sand timber floors. Both of these and the sandpaper discs you'll need for them can be found at most hire shops. In order to get a smooth finish, you will need to sand the floor four times, starting with 40 grit sanding discs and graduating through 60, 80 and finally 120 grit discs. The floor sander is a heavy, loud piece of equipment, so you will want to wear ear protection when you use it.

In order to get satisfactory results with a drum sander, you have to follow a few basic rules:
  • Lower the sanding disc slowly onto the floor slowly.

  • Always sand with the grain.

  • As soon as the sanding disc meets the floor, start moving forward slowly. If you leave it standing, it will dig into the floor.

  • Move forward only. Never back up  or turn the floor sander if the sanding disc is touching the floor.

  • To keep timber oils from clogging the sandpaper, perioically sprinkle kerosene on the floor in front of you.

  • Before changing your sandpaper from 40 to 60 grit, check for exposed nail holes. Use a timber putty that matches your floor colour to fill the holes. Let set for 30 minutes before sanding.
The floor sander won't be able to sand into the edges of the floor. For that you will need the edge sander. 60 grit sandpaper discs are best for this and you may want to follow up with 80 grit, for a smoother finish.

Polishing Timber Floors


Two types of floor finishes can be used on most timber floors:
  1. Polyurethane floor finishes are the most widely used today. They are available either in either single or "two pack" formulations. Once dry, polyurethane finishes are perfectly safe, but their fumes are highly toxic. Wear protective gloves and eyewear and a respiratory device approved for use with toxic chemicals. Make sure the area is well ventilated both while you are applying the polish and afterwards.

  2. Oil based resins remain a popular option. They are not as hard wearing as polyurethanes, but pose less health hazards.
Floor finishes come in matt, semi-gloss or gloss finishes. A high gloss finish looks great, but is not advisable for high traffic floors: it highlights scratches and  imperfections. Once you have chosen the type of finish you want to use, follow these steps for best results:
  1. Sanding lifts the oils in timber to the surface. Before you polish your floor, get a large cloth and wipe the entire surface of the floor using a generous amount of methylated spirits.

  2. Apply a coat of polish around the edges of the floor with a brush.

  3. Apply an even coat over the entire floor with a roller, going with the grain.

  4. Let dry for 8 hours or more.

  5. Lightly sand the floor with 120 grit sandpaper on an orbital sander to remove the roughness caused by the first coat, which raises the timber grain.

  6. Apply a second coat after cleaning the sanding dust residue from the floor. Let dry overnight.

  7. Apply a third coat if needed.
Allow at least three days for the entire process and don't walk on the floor for at least 24 hours after applying the final coat.

You can save money by sanding and polishing your timber floors yourself, but remember to factor the costs of equipment rental, safety gear and other supplies into your estimate. For guaranteed results, contact a timber floor polishing professional in your area. You may be surprised by how affordable their services can be.

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