For a long time, the knee jerk reaction to fixing any issue with a wood floor was to sand it. It didn’t make any difference what the problem was, the solution was to sand it down. And while the floors were being sanded, there was always the question, “how many times can a floor be sanded?” That question is being answered and believe me, a lot of homeowners don’t like what they are hearing.
The majority of my work has been in old houses so I expect to see 100+ year old homes with heavily worn floors. But in recent years, I am seeing homes built in the 1930s and ‘40s with floors that can’t be sanded any more because they have already lost too much wood. These are some of the most desirable homes, in the most desirable neighborhoods you will find in any city and their floors have lost more wood than homes twice their age. It is pretty disturbing to see a floor that is splitting and disintegrating because of unnecessary sanding. Take a look at the photo to the right if you need some proof. As a result of this wasting of fine old wood floors, I thought a war was in order; a war to saving what wood remains in these old floors.
My philosophy has always been that sanding a floor is the absolute last option you want to pursue. You exhaust every option available before you sand the floor. You recoat it. You use Passive Refinishing®. You use non-standard sanding equipment. You paint it. And in some cases, you just walk away and let the sleeping dog lie. Because losing an original old wood floor is losing the most significant original surface in the house, and it can be a nightmare to replace.
I strongly recommend that if you own a home that is over 60 years old you do not hire a crew that uses the standard means of sanding a wood floor. Their only machinery can’t just be the belt or drum sander and the edger. These machines will melt the old, brittle wood floors. And they are going to do the work as quickly as possible because that is how they have been trained to work. There is little, if any, concern for how much wood is removed. The focus is on getting in and out as quickly as possible. It is a no-win situation for you and your old wood floor.
Look for Options
So do yourself, your home, and your wood floors a favor. Don’t assume that you have plenty of wood to spare. If the house was built before 1950, you probably don’t. Make sure that any contractor you hire has a track record of working on older homes and has equipment other than the traditional machines that takes too much wood off. Your home is an important investment and you want to manage and steward it well. Let’s make sure your wood floors are an asset – not a liability.
Michael Purser | © Rosebud Co. 2016