We’re back with more floor refinishing details as promised. First a reminder about why we refinished 600 square feet of our home’s 50-year-old yellowed wood flooring (to match the new prefinished mocha hardwood that we installed in the kitchen, den, laundry nook and half bathroom):
Here’s the yummy after. So much better, right?
When it comes to matching prefinished oak with refinished oak it doesn’t get much closer than that. In fact our wonderful floor guy mixed three batches of stain to come up with the perfect color. The main difference between factory prefinished oak flooring and refinished-on-site oak flooring is that the knots and veins in the wood are a bit more distinct in the sanded and stained refinished floors. But we’re absolutely thrilled with the match-job, it really looks a million times more cohesive and consistent from the moment you step in the door.
But how did those delicious mocha floors come about? Here’s the play by play.
First we asked practically everyone in town for a recommendation– we really wanted a pre-screened floor refinisher since it was sure to be a serious challenge because we wanted to closely match our new flooring. More than one friend recommended the same person so we felt good going with our floor guy (although we did get another estimate just to be sure we were getting the best deal in town).
Then we negotiated a killer deal (saving $300 and coming in at just $900 for 600 square feet by asking our refinisher to sand and restain the existing shoe molding instead of replacing it with costly new wood molding).
Then it was time to completely clear each room– the living room, our three bedrooms and each and every closet within those spaces. We also removed the window treatments in each area, although we did keep the art work on the walls (knowing we’d have to dust it all) since we didn’t have a safe place to store all those fragile glass frames because we already had all of our furniture crammed into the kitchen and the den. We knew that we’d have to clean the sanding dust from the closet shelving and above each door frame and windowsill anyway, so dusting off the pictures in each room seemed doable while we were at it.
We were also sure to tape plastic bags over our heating vents to keep our air filters free of dust during the sanding process that would commence in the the morning. And we hung an old sheet to block renovation dust from invading our kitchen and den where we were storing all of our furniture.
Next our refinisher spent all day sanding the floors (it was actually the longest amount of time a contractor had ever spent in our house- including masons, window guys, kitchen installers, etc). He used one of those professional sanders with a dust bag attached to suck in as much excess dust as possible (but of course we still found some sanding dust atop door frames windowsills and on our closet shelves). He then thoroughly dusted and vacuumed the floors to be sure they were free of dust and shavings.
Then we removed the plastic from our vents and fired up the heat to a toasty 75 degrees before our floor refinisher laid down any stain since we wouldn’t be able to walk on the floors for 20 hours after the stain was applied (heat helps to speed up the drying process).
Our refinisher mixed a few different stain concoctions and applied each one to our stripped flooring (right near the new kitchen hardwood so we could easily identify a match). We all agreed which one was the closest and he went to work applying it throughout the 600 square feet, working towards the front door where he “painted himself out of the house.”
The next morning he arrived to apply the first coat of polyurethane, which only took about 45 minutes but smelled to high heaven so we cracked a few windows before he “painted himself” out of the front door again. Being sensitive to the toxins, we actually arranged to stay with John’s sister for the duration of the polying process due to the nasty smell (and the fear that all the fumes couldn’t be good for us or our tiny pooch). We would definitely recommend arranging to stay with a friend or even at a hotel from the first coat of poly on (we actually didn’t sleep in our house for a full week to ensure that the air was clear)- and would especially caution that anyone who is pregnant or has small children or pets should make it their main goal to stay far far away for as long as possible.
The following morning our floor guy arrived again to apply the second coat of poly (he lightly sanded the first coat before laying it down just as all the experts recommend). This entire process took about an hour and forty five minutes and he again “painted himself” out of the house when he was done. At this point the house was even stinkier (if that’s possible) so we cracked all the windows that we could access (in the den and the kitchen) and although the heat was cranked to 75 degrees to aid in the drying time, we were happy to overwork our heating system a bit in return for some much needed ventilation.
On day four our floor guy returned to apply the third and final coat of poly (and get paid of course!). Apparently three coats of polyurethane are far superior to two- so always check how many coats your refinisher intends to apply (three probably means that you’ve got an expert on your hands).
We then were instructed not to walk on the floors for 48 hours at which point we had the ok to move all of our furniture back into the rooms. Thanks to the holidays we easily stayed clear of our house for three days (extra insurance that everything was dry and the fumes were even more dissipated). And truth be told we actually still smelled some lingering poly chemicals in the air, so we continued to steer clear of our house for a few more days and keep our windows cracked to further vent the fumes (although we lowered the heat back to our normal not-home temp of 64 degrees).
And once we finally got around to putting everything back in it’s place we were beyond thrilled with how our furnishings seemed to pop a little more and look a bit more luxe thanks to the rich mocha flooring underfoot:
And not only in the living/dining room, check out the newly spiffed floor in the third bedroom:
And the guest bedroom:
And our bedroom:
Even our closets look sleeker with their newly mocha-fied floors. Mmmm.
So there you have it. A step by step breakdown of what to expect when you’re refinishing your floors. Whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring it out, we wish you all the luck in the world… and some glossy and fabulous floors that make all the dust, smell, and chaos totally worth it in the end!
Psst- For more info on the guy we hired to redo our floors (and the entire process) click here.
I have a quick question…do you know if your floor guy sanded again between the 2nd and 3rd coats of poly? Or just between the 1st and 2nd coat?
I’ve been keeping up with your blog for over a year. I find it very helpful and just a lot of fun! :-) Thanks so much!
I believe he sanded lightly between each one, but I’m not 100% sure. Good luck!
Eric C says
Hi guys! What a great site/blog… we’re getting a lot of inspiration from you. We’re refinishing and staining our floors from a typical yellow-woody hue to a minwax dark walnut. But, the floor folks are saying 2 poly and one coat of stain. I know 3 is best, but looks like we’ll live with 2, but do you think one coat of stain is enough? They say anymore and it’ll be too dark. Thanks!
Hmm, I would trust them about the color because they probably do dark floors a lot and have learned from experience that they can get super deep. I’m no expert though, so maybe calling someone for a “second opinion” might make you feel better- perhaps another floor person in your area?
Eric C says
Thanks Sherry! I see you guys met in Queens? I’m from Jamaica/Fresh Meadows, but have lived in Massachusetts for a while now and we’re moving to our 1920’s home in Dedham MA next week. First job — floors! Then I’m going to tackle the basement like you guys. God bless!
Aw, Queens. Those were the days! Good luck with your home!
I am just in love love love with your blog. Truly, I have been scouring your site and I just love your style. Didn’t realize how much I could improve our house on a budget – just been ‘living’ with things as-is and hating it! Anyway, I have 4 larger project priorities in my house:
– painting my kitchen cabinets,
– refinishing the hardwood floors (just a hallway and dining/kitchen area),
– painting or re-doing trim & baseboards (from wood to white)
– and painting and/or replacing some interior doors (from wood to white)
Can you give advice on if there is a good, logical order of doing these? I am not sure if refinishing hardwoods might negatively impact the baseboards? Or should I just for whatever bugs me most!
I would say that you could get away with those things in pretty much any order. Maybe the slightly preferred method might be to refinish hardwood floors, paint and redo trim/baseboard, paint cabinets, replace doors. That way when you refinish and the baseboards or the base cabinets get a bit stained you’re still going to redo them next!
Before moving into our house we spent a few days refinishing our oak floors. And boy was that a lot of work! We rented a drum sander which was a really evil machine (=terrible to work with!) and inhaled sawdust and then some more sawdust. We chose a water based polyurethane which I’m really happy with. It dried really quickly, didn’t leave any weird smell, and the floors look great! More info on the process: http://www.christonium.com/HomeProject/refinishing-wood-floor-process-removing-carpet-sanding-finishing
Great to know!
Your floors look fantastic!
We had ours professionall finished a few weeks ago and never realized that the odor would be so strong – despite ventilation and raising the heat up for days.
Although the odor has been reduced, it still is quite noticeable when one enters the house.
Is there any odor absorbing substance out there? Reading this blog in search of a way to get rid of the odor has not been successful. (We replaced the heat pump air cleaners right away)after the sanding and polyurethaning. Am growing concerned that we may be harming ourselves, as we spend considerable time in the 30×15 family room
Ugh, I wish! We had the same experience and have basically just vowed to use eco-friendly water-based sealer next time since it shouldn’t smell as much. Hope you find some great tips somewhere else online though! Good luck!
I really like the way you did the transition from one type of hardwood to another in the first picture. Thank you for the post.
Hi! I know you’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but how long did the odor linger after you had the floors done? Thanks!
It lasted a while! Far longer than we wanted. If we had to do it again we’d use an eco sealer! On hot days even 6 months later we could smell it!
1$ per sq. ft is almost criminal robbery for the work this guy did. Please readers understand the is far from presidence and do not be mislead into thinking that your hardwood floor refinishing project can be done for a dollar per sq. ft.
I think it just varies by region (my mom paid so much more in NY). The kind man who did our floors has been doing them for lots of our readers over the past few years and is still using similar prices (he even stopped by our house to thank us for the referrals). Such a great guy! He was definitely happy for the work and happy with his prices.
Pam Groom says
We are planning on having our living room floors refinished. We have the same late 1950s flooring that y’all had in your first house. Where you guys pulled out a nasty room divider, we pulled out a built in shelf that made receiving guests awqward. I noticed that you had something like flagstone in your entry. Was there hardwood beneath that? We lack hardwood under where we pulled the bookshelf and under the tiled entry. How did you guys replace yours for a good match or was it already there?
That was actually faux stone laminate with flooring running right under it, thank goodness! So we didn’t replace any wood. Maybe google around for tips on that?
Jamie R. says
John & Sherry:
I am curious about how you guys feel about mixing tones of wood flooring. Here’s the quick skinny. Last November we installed a super glossy (READ: OBNOXIOUSLY SHINY) darker laminate in our living room that has become my worst enemy. It’s dark so you can see every speck of dust, crumb, etc. Not to mention sweaty foot and hand prints from a toddler, a 9 month old and a husband (I float over the floors, thank you very much). Okay, now on to the question: We are currently in the middle of a kitchen/dining room/ entryway mini reno and we’ve ripped out the flooring and plan to replace it with a much lighter toned laminate (much like the color of your dining room). My husband has offered to take up the flooring in the living room if it will make me sane again, but I feel like that is such a huge waste of time and money put into that flooring just over a year ago. However, I’m worried that it might look odd having 2 tones of wood so close together. I should mention that our living room is sunken so the woods won’t physically be “touching”, if you will but I wondered how you felt that would look, visually. I like a lot of cohesiveness, but my husband thinks it makes the living room look more defined. Any thoughts. (P.S. Is this the longest comment ever or what?)
In total honesty I would do it all at once (replace it all). Not only will it make you happy, it’ll be better for resale and all that (seamless = better, and anything that looks less dirty and hard to clean – better). So as annoying as it is to do it all during the new phase of flooring, it’s probably less annoying than wishing you had. Haha! Hope it helps!
Jamie Redmond says
I don’t know how you find the time to answer all of our silly design questions, but, seriously, you guys are amazing! Thanks again! Up the floors come!!!!!!!!11
We are refinishing our oak floors too and I love the mocha color versus just staying with the honey tone. I have a brick fireplace I am painting. Black furniture, Creamy and light brown furniture and a dark brown rug what do you think for the fireplace color and the wall color. Sorry no picture to help, but what do you think. Thanks.
Sounds gorgeous! I’d go for it!
Hello Sherry and John! I must say that I had never heard of your blog until yesterday when my new issue of HGTV magazine arrived. I loved the article and the pictures of your home are so inspiring! Today, I was doing a google image search for hardwood floors, transitions from room to room and different hardwood colors from hallways into rooms. Kind of a confused search, right? Wouldn’t you know…the first image I clicked on happened to be from your house! We bought our 1920s bungalow almost three years ago and recently ripped up the nasty carpets upstairs to reveal the hardwood underneath. Our downstairs floors are hardwood, as is the hallway upstairs. Only the three bedrooms were carpeted. We are having our floors refinished this week, and I am trying to make some decisions about staining vs a natural finish on the floors upstairs. Our downstairs floors and trim are a medium”ish” color. The steps going upstairs and the hallway upstairs are a similar (but not and EXACT match) to the floors downstairs, but all of the trim upstairs is painted white…which I really like. We were going to refinish the hallway and all three bedrooms, but now I am toying with the idea of leaving the hallway upstairs as is (it really is beautiful) to keep the continuity from downstairs to upstairs, but then doing a natural finish in all three bedrooms. I like the idea of keeping the floors a little lighter in those rooms to work with the white trim to brighten things up. What do you think? I know that you say that there are no rules, but I am so indecisive right now and would really like your honest opinion. If you walked in to see much lighter floors in bedrooms as opposed to a darker color in the hallway, what would your reaction be? Honestly.
Thanks so much for all the work that you do with your blog. This will be my new go-to place for design ideas. I love that you are real people doing real stuff, one step at a time. And I especially appreciate the pic of you sitting in the room among all of the STUFF that you had to move out of your other rooms during the floor refinishing process. I am currently typing this on our couch wedged in between a dresser, mattresses, and a chest of drawers…so cozy!
Thanks so much Phoebe! You’re so sweet. I think my instinct would be to do all the upstairs floors in the same tone that’s on the stairs and downstairs along with white trim, since it sounds like you love that look and it’ll be great in a hallway/bedrooms as well! It can feel more continuous and elegant to keep the same floor color (not as chopped up and irregular as two different tones) so I’d gravitate towards that look. Hope it helps!
Thanks so much Sherry! I took your advice and went with the same color on all of the floors upstairs. You are so right about the elegance and continuity. We have only had the first coat done, but I can already tell that I love it. I decided on the natural finish as opposed to the stain. I was surprised at how similar in tone it is to the steps going upstairs. Since our floors are older, the natural finish brings out all the variation of color in the wood, which I really like, and it looks much darker than I thought it would. Just a couple more days until the job is done! I’m so excited to see the finished product. Thanks again for your help!
where is your metal/glass coffee table from???
It was actually a thrift store find!
Debbie Gartner aka The Flooring Girl says
Inga – I’m so glad your floors turned out well. The reason the floors are different is that a) you have a lower grade wood in the existing area (it looks like No 1 vs. the prefinished looks like select grade, 2) the prefinished hardwood manufacturers have their own proprietary blends making it next to impossible to match and 3) you may have a different species. The part your refinished looks like it is red oak, and it’s possible that your prefinished hardwood is white oak…hard to tell from the picture.
I always recommend that my customers wait 4 days before putting furniture back and 30 days before area rugs. You can read more about the timing/process on the link above.
Re: the person above, that sounds odd. We usually use bona for water based poly. It’s a few yrs later, so hopefully this is solved now, but in general if its smells it’s best to air it out w/ open windows/fan. Also, heat makes things smell more, not less. (from a sensory perspective)
David T says
Love your floors. Excited to get ours done. In the process of getting our 60 year old home ready to have the original red oak floors sanded and refinished. My wife thinks we need to vacate the house during the process and put the furniture in storage. Our contractor states that the job will be done in 4 days. Can the heavier furniture be stored in perhaps the kitchen? Can you please give me some tips on what to expect during this process?
We lived through our house for it, we just lived in the half he wasn’t refinishing and put all of our furniture there and sectioned it off with plastic tarps so no dust got in. You can do that if you have room for all of your furniture in a room they’re not doing, and might need storage if you don’t. You can leave if you’d like or section yourself off (it’s noisy though, and pretty stinky, so maybe planning a few day trips or something to be away might be helpful.
Your floors look great. I purchased a fixer-upper and refinished the hardwood floors that were hidden under yucky carpeting. It was a ton of work but well worth it.
Nice design for my living room! I really like it…so thanks for sharing
I love this idea. It’s amazing
this house looks so nice, I wish I could have a house like this in the future.