DIY• Refinishing Wood Floors

As some of you may know we have just recently moved house, we got to move closer to the farm which my husband works on and into a much bigger house which I’m so excited about!!!!! It’s a lovely older home that is probably twice the size with bigger bedrooms and so much more space for the kiddies to play! We are super lucky to have awesome boss’s who allowed us to rip up the old carpet that was in here, I was pretty nervous to be honest as I’d done quite a bit of research before asking and judging from what I had read its pretty risky as you really don’t know what’s underneath the carpet and what condition it would be in..even scarier when it isn’t your own home ?

the carpet in Cortez’s room
this is what the carpet looked like in London and Brooklyn’s room

As soon as we got the go ahead we went in there to start ripping it up! First we pulled out a bit of the carpet in the wardrobe to make sure that there was even wooden flooring underneath and to see what condition it was in. I was expecting the worst to be honest, I imagined pulling it up and getting to the middle of the room to find a big hunk of ply wood or heaps of water damaged floor boards we would have to replace!

peeking under the carpet in the lounge, its pretty gross what you find under there!


Once we lifted the carpet out we were left with the underlay which I’m assuming was pretty old school, everything was all held down with millions of staples and there wasn’t any of the tacking around the perimeter like which they do now a days. We pulled the underlay up to reveal beautiful wood flooring which I found out is Matai timber (thanks ladies from the home decor page on Facebook!!!) with absolutely no damage at all! Wahoooo!!!!!!!!!

so many staples!

The biggest job was getting all of the old rusty staples out..OMG what a job that was!!!!!! My poor hands where literally left raw and blistered after I was finished but totally worth it!!!! And the ugly crap that you find under the carpet is just gross!!! I think I’m anti carpet now! We had planned to just leave the floors as they where as we didn’t really want to pour our money into them when it wasn’t our home but when it came to cleaning them I changed my mind! I literally scrubbed them eight times! 4 times with sugar soap and disinfectant and 4 times with white vinegar and warm water (note if you do this you need to make sure you squeeze most of the water out of the mop as water and wood don’t mix well and it can leave damage) and it was still really grubby (I later found out the grubby stuff was old varnish) ! I was starting to freak out….oh gosh what have we gone and got ourselves into here?! Part of the deal with being allowed to rip up the carpet was that we would pay for whatever needs to be done which I was more than happy with as I really didn’t want that carpet (for a number of reasons, the biggest one being allergies) ?.. I just didn’t actually realise what the possible outcomes could be..good one Danielle!!!!!!

the floors after they were washed

It was starting to look like the only option we had was to fully refinish the floors ? husband was NOT happy about this I tell you!

After watching numerous YouTube videos on ‘how to sand floors’ to prepare myself and after convincing the husband we needed to do it I drove to the Dannevirke hire master and rented the drum sander for a day. From memory it cost $75 to hire it for a full day and then you are given a couple of sanding kits which has a various amount of sanding belts, there’s various amounts of corse,medium and fine belts and as no one can estimate how many you will use you pay for the belts you use when you drop the equipment back off.

Now I’m not going to lie and say that everything went smoothly because it definitely did not! In fact everything that could go wrong pretty much did go wrong!

When I went to pick up the sander I told the guy that I only wanted fine and medium sand paper because I thought I could cut back on the time it would take to sand the floors..I was too eager to get it home and get sanding and didn’t listen properly so when I got home with my two boxes of belts I assumed one was full of the fine and the other one was the medium belts. WRONG! So here’s me just pulling out belts from these boxes freaking out because I was struggling like hell to sand these floors, I was chewing through these belts that where over $6 each and I had only done one line!!!! After chewing through 5 of them only then did I actually realise that the bloody boxes where kits and didn’t just contain one type of sand paper there was a mixture! So in other words I thought I was sanding the floors with the medium when really it was the fine ??? good start Danielle..good start!!!!

After I figured it out it was super easy and it was sanding the floors properly haha! The machine seems really intimating to start with, it’s heavy, it’s noisy as but it’s pretty simple to use you just have to make sure you keep it moving and don’t let it stay in one spot for too long.It’s a pretty boring job walking up and down the room but it’s pretty cool to see the difference it’s made!
After I did all 3 belts in the one room i slowly but surly got the second room done and then I handed over sanding duty to Larry and he did the lounge which was the easiest room to do as that one didn’t have any varnish on it was just bare wood. It was a long day that’s for sure! Our arms where aching, faces were covered in sawdust my eye lashes looked none existent they where completely covered, it was so gross!!!!!

The next day we took the sander back and paid for the belts we used, I was expecting it to be over $100 for the belts but thankfully it was only around $37….much better! And next up was to hire the edger!
And again Danielle didn’t listen…

I got this beast home, I put the RIGHT sand paper on (yes I learnt from the last mistake and I at least got this bit right!!) and I recalled the guy telling me that when you turn it on there’s a pause between it starting up to give you time to grab it with both hands…buuuuuut… I didn’t even check to see if the switch on the machine was on or off!

I plugged it in the wall and flicked the wall switch on and thinking I had time to switch the actual machine on and grab it I go to walk towards it and instead I’m frightened half to death when this friggen beast just starts up by itself (this thing is LOUD and!!!!!) and is flying around in circles and I couldn’t grab it to stop it!!!!!!! I quickly turned it off at the wall and thankfully/luckily no damage was done I just had to resand that bit later with the fine paper ?

The edger didn’t take long to do but there was no way I was using that thing again after that little experience so that was handed over to Larry to finish!! All up the edger cost us around $97 for the day including the sandpaper we used.

Now after the sanding was finished we were left with the clean up and deciding what to do with the floor next..I mentioned earlier that the floors are Matai timber and I had emailed a company in Auckland who specialises in hardwood floors and he said the floor is definitely Matai and is a combo of heart (the dark bits) and sap (the lighter bits) the sap is the most beautiful creamy colour and the thought of covering that with a dark stain made me feel sad! When I was looking at stains I spotted a white wash type stain and was told it probably wouldn’t work on Matai wood as it may look funny but I decided to ask on a Facebook group if anyone had used this particular one before and sure enough there was a lovely lady on there who had Matai floors and had used this exact same stain and the floors turned out amazing!!!!!! After talking with Larry we decided we both really liked it and that it would brighten up the rooms quite nicely. The house is surrounded by trees so it does feel quite dark, so darker floors would have made it feel even darker and colder!

The the next day we went and bought two tins of Cabots Liming White stain from mitre10 and also got the following supplies for staining:

To prepare the floors for the stain I just vacuumed twice and did another mop (make sure the floor is fully dry before you stain). And then I just started in the far corner away from the door and you do have to work pretty quickly as it does dry quite fast. I literally just dragged the brush on the floor working the length of the room and did about three floor boards at a time. I found that I was left with a brush line when I got to the end of the boards but i just tried to blend it quickly with the brush. You need to plan your exit too as you can’t walk on the floor once the varnish is down so when you get to the last couple of boards make sure you work your way up to the door so you can get out! I found the last bit very hard, trying to blend it whilst standing outside of the room it was quite the mission, maybe it wouldn’t need blending with a second coat or maybe a roller would have been more suited? I’m not sure but the brush was super easy to use other than the lines when you stop and it took me 15 minutes to do one room maybe not even that!

We where expecting to use the two tins in one room but after the first coat we loved how it turned out as it didn’t completely hide the multicoloured boards it just muted the darker ones. So we didn’t do a second! We did both Cortez’s and London and Brooklyn’s room with just two 1L tins and we are still to do the lounge.
The Cabot’s range of stains really appealed to us as its stain and varnish in one so it does save you quite a lot of money, it has a fast re-coat time of two hours and I really can notice a huge difference with the boys rooms compared to the lounge! The kids rooms are easy to clean and marks come off easily, however the lounge which is still raw wood terrifies the life out of me as one little tiny drop of water soaks right up and takes ages to dry so Iv made a rule that we aren’t allowed any food or drinks or pretty much anything at all (?) in the lounge until we get it varnished, it’s just too risky!

After we had finished I had to re paint the skirting boards and we also found there was one more major job we should have done before we stained and that was to clean goodness they were COVERED in sawdust and I hadn’t even noticed until my mum came for a look and asked why the walls in the lounge and boys bedrooms where different colours to the rest of the house haha! So I spent a day scrubbing walls!

In total the floors have so far cost us $379.88 and I’m guessing we will need two more tins for the lounge as it’s quite big, pretty good really as I imagine it being quite a lot more if we had hired someone to come and do it.

So if you ever plan on doing this yourself points to remember are-
1. First you need to pull up a bit of carpet somewhere that isn’t obvious like a wardrobe or cupboard to see if there are wood floor boards under there, obviously it won’t be a very good indication as to the condition of the rest of the room as a wardrobe/cupboard doesn’t get the same foot traffic as the rest.
2. Be prepared for the worst- there could be anything underneath that carpet from broken boards to rotting floorboards which would need to be replaced. Some people get lucky and have perfect boards under the carpet! It’s rare for wood floors to be laid without some kind of finish on them so you would need to determine what kind of finish is on there (eg oil or water based) and what you plan on doing to them. If they are in good condition and you like the colour you could get away with doing a screen and re coat instead of a full sand which is where you buff the floors and do a coat or two of poly.
3. Make sure you get ALL of the staples out of the floor!
4. Make sure you wear a dust mask.
5. Use some plastic sheets to cover the door ways as the dust goes EVERYWHERE!! And I mean everywhere!
6. Don’t be scared of the drum sander it does look/sound very intimidating but it is super easy to use. Just make sure you keep it moving and don’t stay in one spot for too long.
7. MAKE SURE YOU PUT THE CORRECT SANDING BELTS ON ? If you do what I did and start with the fine you’ll chew through them and won’t get anywhere haha!
8. Make sure you regularly check the belt as they get clogged up pretty fast especially if the floor is varnished and it soon builds up on the belts and stops it from doing as good a job.
9. Don’t try to skip a stage of the belts (unless you don’t need to use the corse) the floor might look and feel fab after the medium ones but if you skip the fine belts you’ll see the scratches after varnishing!
10. Make sure you properly vacuum before you stain/varnish
11. Plan your exit when staining!
12. Clean your walls and anywhere where the dust can settle (door frames, window ledges, cupboards, shelves ect)
13. Most importantly have fun whilst doing it, yes it’s a big scary and boring job but honestly it’s SO cool seeing the progress after each step! And seeing the end result and knowing that you did it yourself makes it all worth it!
We hired the drum sander and edger from Hiremaster Dannevikre- Dannevirke Suzuki who are open Monday- Saturday 8am – 5pm and Sunday’s by appointment. They gave us lots of advice on how to use the equipment and gave a quick demonstration and they where extremely helpful!
Hopefully someone will find this post helpful and if you did and end up giving it a go yourself I would really LOVE to see photos!


Do-It-Yourself projects always help you to save money but not only that, it teaches you a new skill, it’s an opportunity to use your hands and your brain, it gives you an appreciation for the things that you have and you become more observant on how they are made. And let’s not forget, DIY is so much fun! Learning something new is fulfilling and when you get to do things like this with your partner or someone else it’s a great way to build your relationship and learn new things about each other!     

Cortez is just as excited about the floors as I am!!

Ps I will update this when I have finished the lounge ( I still want to find some new white curtains or blinds to put up) and London and Brooklyn’s room (also want to find some white curtains or blinds and also need to get their shelves and room decor put up..yes it’s all still in boxes ?) .

Dani xx

1 thought on “DIY• Refinishing Wood Floors

  1. I had never thought of the issues that would arise from old metal staples and things! I’ve been wanting to redo my own hardwood floors for a while now, but I haven’t really known what all would need to go into it. Thanks for the step-by-step breakdown of all of the things you had to do. It really helped me understand what my own project is going to be like!

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