The problem with old wood floors usually isn’t the wood; more often than not it’s the old finish on the wood. To be more specific, the problem is how to get the old finish and surface accumulations off the old wood without punishing or destroying the old wood in the process. Everyone knows that when you aggressively sand a wood floor, you lose mass and when you lose mass, you make the floor weaker, regardless of how it’s installed. But what were the options?

If history professionals and owners of old homes are frustrated, so are wood flooring contractors because all contractors have ever been taught is to sand finishes off as quickly as possible, period. All the equipment, all the accessories and all the training are geared towards getting the old finishes off as fast and as cheaply as possible. Wood floor restoration requires a more deliberate, structured and methodical approach and this was sending a mixed message to contractors whose approach was based on speed and low cost.

Passive Refinishing® was developed to address this specific issue – removal of surface accumulations with no loss of original material. Go after the old coating and leave the good wood alone. I was fortunate enough to be at the right place, at the right time and came across some chemicals that removed old finishes and did not have the same negative side effects that other stripping products had. It is biodegradable, safer to work with and it neither creates a hazardous work environment or a hazardous byproduct when used. It does not contain any methylene chloride and the vapors were not choking or flammable.

By the early 1990s I began to use it to restore some historic properties and began to refine the technique. We learned the parameters of its abilities and know that it will not remove some finishes but fortunately, they are all very contemporary products. As of 2018, we have used the product on some of the most challenging historic restoration projects in the country and have well over one hundred thousand square feet of restored floors completed with no problems.

The Henry and Clara Ford Estate Project

Passive Refinishing® FAQ

Do you sell any products or equipment that is used for the purpose of Passive Refinishing®.

No, I do not sell any products or equipment that could be used for Passive Refinishing®. Much of the equipment I use is standard but we improvise in our methods of how we use it. We also adapt equipment and materials to address the particular demand of the variations in a project. The chemical stripper that I use is not available in a retail context and at the current time the manufacturer only produces the product for me on an as needed basis.

How does the price of Passive Refinishing® compare to the traditional sand/stain/finish service most wood flooring contractors provide?

It is not competitive as the cost of materials, labor and time required are considerably higher so there’s a significant price difference. However, often times traditional sanding is not an option as the floors have already lost an excessive amount of wood and the more accurate metric for comparison would be the cost of demo of the floor, total replacement of a like material and then the traditional refinishing. In that context, Passive Refinishing® is much more competitively priced. There is no standard price as it varies depending on the amount of finish being removed, the condition of the wood and other variables.

Do you offer any training or education for Passive Refinishing®?

The only training and education I’ve offered is to maintain a small but highly skilled work force to help me on the larger projects. All the individuals have years of experience with wood floor work and bring their own considerable experience to the training session. I do not have employees per se but bring in my trained personnel as subcontractors. Several are located in Atlanta but others are in other locations.

Do you cover a geographic area or territory?

I am headquartered in Atlanta, GA and most of my work is in close proximity to my home but I have traveled out of state for large preservation projects or when the situation warranted it. I would point out that all the projects we’ve done had a lead-time of at least nine to twelve months. Most are done in phases and may stretch out over a year or more to complete.

If I live outside your location and have an old home and floors I want to restore using Passive Refinishing®, how would I go about getting this done?

I understand the challenge this creates and regrettably there are very limited options at this time. I have worked as a consultant on a very limited basis with qualified personnel on a few projects. Their qualifications are typically in the area of wood floor work. We are exploring other options for expanding this approach.

How difficult is Passive Refinishing® when compared to traditional sanding and finishing?

In terms of physical demands, they are not too different. The biggest challenge is you have to understand that the removal rate of surface accumulations can vary from one room to the next depending on the type and amount of surface accumulations. If you’re sanding a floor, the removal rate is the same regardless of the amount or type of finish and this can make adjusting difficult. This demands a different pace and you also have to be willing to make adjustments as the situation demands and this is well outside the norm for what wood flooring contractors’ deal with on project sites.

Will Passive Refinishing® remove paint and can it be used for lead abatement of painted floors?

At best, Passive Refinishing® has had limited success in removing old lead base paints. Due to the amount of solids and pigments in old paints, Passive Refinishing® is less efficient with this surface accumulation. For this and other reasons, we do not promote Passive Refinishing® as any form or method of lead abatement.