We are all used to the idea of stripped back floorboards now, despite the fact that some of our grandparents may bristle at the idea of a home that doesn’t have carpets throughout. But times change, fashions evolve and many of us like the idea of at least the lower floors of our home having bare boards. Rugs can soften the look and lend some warmth where needed and the look of quality boards that have been well-treated can really set off the soft furnishings.
If you have recently moved into a new home that has been carpeted, or if you have simply decided to do away with your own floor coverings, then the first thing on your mind will be sanding the floors. This is, generally speaking, a good idea. But always think before you get someone in to do this or before you ring a hire company to book a rental sander. Sanding is not the solution in every case and in some cases, it can do more harm than good.
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Firstly, have a good look at the boards once you have exposed them. They may already be smooth-ish, have a nice colour and only need a touch of stain or varnish to look good. What you are doing when you sand a floor is removing the top layer, which will usually remove most of the character of the aged wood.
What you will end up with is wood that looks fairly new. You will also bring out any imperfections that have been covered with layers of dirt, polish or stain. This can include splits, woodworm holes and knot holes. So do think whether you simply want to clean the wood with a cleaning solution and a bit of elbow grease, rather than remove the character that a floor has built up.
If you do decide to go ahead and sand a room, or indeed your whole home, then you need to make a decision as to whether you want to hire a professional or just hire the equipment and do it yourself. Obviously, hiring a sander (along with an edging sander) will cost a lot less than having someone in to do the job, but if you are a slow worker or not confident then this can be something of a false economy. Sanding is hard work and it causes a lot of mess.
Hiring a sander kit for a weekend will cost around £100, although you can add up to an extra £100 if you go over that time. A good professional team will probably have two men sanding one room in a day and charge you around £300 to sand a room where you have removed all of the furniture. An experienced tradesman will also be able to give advice on how best to go about the job, as well as on aftercare and finishes.
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If you decide to go ahead with the sanding yourself then set aside at least a weekend for a large sitting room. Make sure the floors are clear of obstructions, nail down any loose boards and bang in any nails that are protruding from the surface. Follow the instructions that come with your sander and allow it to float evenly across the floor, controlling rather than pushing it. Be sure to vacuum the dust as you go. Try going diagonally across the floor if it is tough going, then sand up and down with the pattern of the boarding.
Once you have finished, you will probably want a good rest and a soak. Use the half-hour in the tub to think about what kind of finish you would like to use. This may change as you sand your floor and uncover both the grain and the state of repair of your floor. For this reason it is best to wait to buy stains or floor oils and paints until you have finished the job.