A Song of Sand and Wood

Carpets are expensive. Or at least good quality carpets with separate underlay and professional firing do. So, faced with a mouldy old carpet that needed replacing, I did the only logical thing.

Sanding 1
Using the drum sander.

I sanded down the floorboards and covered them in varnish.

Sanding and varnishing a wooden floor still isn’t massively cheap. A days hire of a drum sander and a edging sander clocks in at about £120 before delivery, with enough varnish to cover the twenty square meters three times coming in about £50. The cost of dust bags, sandpaper and painting supplies brought the whole lot to around £200, which I’m pretty sure is less than getting laminate or a decent carpet put down.

The sanding work was reasonably easy. The drum sander which I used to strip the body of the floor handled a bit like a petrol lawnmower, although with more power. It was extremely heavy though, and had to be lifted off the floor frequently so it could be turned round without gouging the floorboards

IMG_1957The floor in our spare bedroom was in shockingly good condition before I started. All that really needed to be taken off was the top layer of grime, water stains and some markings from the sawmill. I started with a medium grade of sandpaper, sanding in a diagonal direction to even out the boards and take off the worst of the muck. Two hours work saw the floor much more level and with most of the stains gone. To finish I used the medium grain sandpaper and worked along the length of the floorboards, before a couple of finishing passes with fine grain paper to give a smooth finish.


Unfortunately the design of drum sanders means you can’t work right into corners or too close to walls, so I spent a further hour with the edge sander doing my best to tidy up. I found this much more difficult that using the drum sander, with the edge sander seemingly having a mind of it’s own. Another hour of tidying up with a bit of fine sandpaper saw the floor stripped with with a few bits of light wear to leave a slightly distressed look.

Varnish 1.jpgAfter sweeping, hoovering, letting the dust settle and hoovering again, I put on three coats of varnish. Memories of the horrendously sticky varnish that lurked in the back of my father’s shed and took the best part of a week to dry had led me to believe that I’d be taking three to five days to get the room varnished with three coats. Thankfully modern floor varnish is a different creature and apart from looking suspiciously white and goopey in the tin, went on really easily, dried in less than two hours and gave a wonderful bright finish which will hopefully wear well. The room is much brighter as a result of work.

I would encourage folks to consider having a go at stripping a floor. While it does seem daunting, it’s easy and the results can be absolutely fantastic. I do have a few tips that I wish I had known before I started:

  • Make sure you only walk on the freshly sanded floor in socks or non-marking shoes, as it’s really easy to leave dark scuff marks.
  • If you are using a sponge applicator, then you can clean excess fluff off it before using it with a hoover.
  • While sanding does generate a lot of dust, blocking off the bottom of the door kept it contained in the room and it was very easy to hoover up.
  • Edge sanders won’t get into the corners – if you want a really sharp finish, then try and get a handheld electric sander for the very edges.
  • Drum sanders a big turning circle and it’s easy to scuff the wall as you turn it, so it’s worth having some spare paint to touch up afterwards.

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