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Question:

What's the best way to do a "poor man's" wood floor staining? Meaning I can't hire sanders and painters and finishers oh my! Luckily, it's not a large area to be done and the finish is mostly worn off so that may be a help. It's a honey brown now and I'd like to go to a dark brown or even black/brown. This is an apartment so it's doubtful anything has been done to the floor for many years. What can I get away with, not needing to go for an absolute perfect finish, in fact a little way off from perfect may be better.

Margot

Answer:



Dear Margot

I thought about this last night and have come up with a brillient sloution. Why not strip the floor the old fashioned way with scrapers? The are two basic types of wood scrapers, the cabinet scrapers and paint scrapers (or hook scrapers as they used to be called) If you are familiar with cabinet scrapers and know how to burnish them this would make the ideal tool for refinishing a floor. But an easier tool to use, but less effective is the paint scraper. I use the long handled ones made by the Richland company,they have a replaceable blade and can be resharpened with a 10" mill bastard file. The first thing to do is learn how to sharpen this tool to a razor edge. Go up to a light source at eye level and hold the scraper tight up to your chest with one hand and using the file in the other hand practice filing the blade to the origional factory bevel, some floor mechanics like to round the edges ever so slightly to avoid gouging the wood. When you file a new blade you will see the factory filing change to your own file marks across the width of the blade bevel, be sure to keep this same width of bevel, or relief as it is called, every time you sharpen.

So far we've only cost you a $6 scraper, $1 extra blade and $8 file. You'll also need a hammer and a nail set, these you can borrow. This whole job will be done on your hands and knees so you might invest in a comfortable set of knee pads also. Go around the whole floor and especially on the last 3 rows to the wall and set any nails that are at or above the surface. You will encounter more as you scrape so keep it handy.

Use both hands and let the sharpness of the sraper remove the old finish, it should be coming off in long ribbons. Resharpen often and remember the blade relief.Do a small area at a time and you'll know you're down to the bare wood when the wood is plain white. Always scrape with the grain of the wood. After your done the scraping you can hand sand it with 80 grit sandpaper, see if your local floor sanding company has some left over used paper you can get for free. Don't be afraid too tell them what your doing they might be wiiling to coach you on the scraper sharpening. Hand sand just once with a scrap block of wood backing a piece of sandpaper.

Here's a recipe for a dark stain: 2 qt. water, 2 qt. vineger, and all the rusty metal nails you can fit into the jar. Allow it to sit for a week or so in the sealed jar. Strain it into another container using old pantyhose. This stain works best on oak but not so well on other wood. You may have to buy a dye stain if it is something other than oak.

Apply the stain across only the number of rows of boards that you can comfortably reach across, let the stain do it's chemical magic and wipe off any excess. Depending on the tannin content of the wood the final color will go dark tan to black, it's best to experiment in small areas first. Let the floor dry a day or so and gently sand out the rough grain rising (don't sand out the color) and finish with at least 2 coats polyurethane floor varnish sanding and cleaning between coats. That will be the only major cost at about $30 per gallon, Which should do 2 coats on a 250 square foot room. Happy scrapping , you'll have lots of new muscles after this job.

As always your Most humble servant, Joseph, the Wood Floor Doctor.

You may also find these articles helpful:

1. Custom Staining Wood Floors Without The Blotchy Effect

2. Parquet Flooring

3. Floor Types And Finishes

4. How To Apply Oil Based Polyurethane WITHOUT The Pits And Bubbles

5. How To Take Care Of Your Health And Safety when Installing, Finishing, Repairing or Cleaning your wood floors