How to recycle wooden flooring

You inherited or bought an old house or flat? Then there is often a lot to do. Besides the usual renovations could the floor be an additional topic. Most old houses or apartments have a wooden floor in the form of either parquet or floorboards. Sometimes it’s even hidden under a carpet or even PVC‐coating. So now we ask ourselves the question, if it’s possible at all to embellish or even refurbish aged wood floors?

1. Refresh the wooden floor

Unless the floor is damaged or has formed an uneven surface, it is sufficient to refresh the floor with suitable care products. Therefor it is important to know if the flooring was oiled, waxed or sealed with lacquer.

If you happen to have an oiled or waxed surface, you can thoroughly wash it, with a so‐called intensive cleaner. It works best, if the room is completely empty. The cleaner is to be diluted or undiluted (in the case of heavy soiling) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. After that the floor gets mobbed with e. g. microfiber cloths. After this step it’s essential to clean the floor with clear water, to remove the remains of the cleaner and dirt.

If there are too many visible scratches, you can rent a disc sander from the hardware store. Hereby it is important to use the polishing plate instead of the sandpaper. Afterwards the floor must be sealed again, with oil or wax. This sealing must be applied once or perhaps several times, after drying with the roller or a cloth. After that you successfully achieved a shining floor.

2. Sanding the wood floor

If the scratches are too deep, the boards too uneven or even damaged (danger of splintering),  it makes sense to work up the floor properly. This is actually only achievable with a so‐called grinding machine (sanding roller).  You can also rent this in the hardware store or retailer. This might seem exhausting, but the finish is remarkable. It is also much easier than you might think.

Firstly, you should empty the entire room and clean the floor with the vacuum cleaner. The next step is to hammer protruding nails into the floor. After that the heads of the screws should be removed or countersunk and, ideally, the skirting boards could be removed as well. If wooden parquet strips became loose, you can fix them with glue.

If the floor is very uneven you start with a grit size of about 40, otherwise you should use a sandpaper with grit size 80.

The movements while sanding, should be kept diagonally to the wooden flooring. As a result, the bumps disappear. Afterwards you sand in the direction of the plank, using a sandpaper with finer graining.

The usual approach ist to take 80s, 120s, 180s and finally 240 grit. Attention: Dust mask is mandatory in this work! Before you change the sanding paper to the next grit, you should use a corner grinder to work the corners in the same grit. As an alternative to the corner grinder, you can also use a belt sander or triangle grinder.

Here I recommend to collect the wood dust. Later you can mix it with waterproof wood glue and gain a selfmade repair substance, with whom you can repair damages (holes or cracks). 

The finer the dust you use, the better the result will look. When grinding, it is always important to keep moving evenly and not to stay in one place. This creates unsightly scores, which you have to eliminate afterwards with great effort.

If you have sanded everything off, you could vacuum the sanding residues. Then you should wipe the entire surface with a damp cloth. As a result, when drying the fine wood fibers will stand up, now you can remove them with a fine sandpaper (240 grit).

3. Sealing the wood floor

Now the ground is ready to be sealed. You have the option to color the flooring in your desired stain color. Whether you use varnish, wax or hard oil afterwards depends on your own taste and the expected stress on the floor. Wax and oil forgive scratches easier and you can also remove them quicker, because they get through the wood and don’t block the pores.

Now you simply work with sandpaper on the unsightly spots and then work again with wax or oil. This is not possible with paint, however, paint is much more resistant to abrasion than the other two variants. It is applied to the roll at least twice and is walkable after one day and after about four days loadable. The underside of furniture and chair feet should always be covered with so‐called felt glides on lacquered floors, in order to avoid unsightly scratches.

If you prefer the natural seal, it is recommended to treat the floor first with a hard oil and then seal it with wax. Alternatively, there are excellent hard oil wax preparations in the hardware stores. Oil should always be used sparingly and preferably in several operations. In any case, you’ll need to pick up excess oil with a rag to keep the bottom looking even. In the case that the floor should get a nice shine, you can work the floor with a polishing machine after letting the wood dry.

A wooden floor not only ensures a good room climate, but is also visually and haptically more pleasant than other floor coverings. Reprocessing an old wooden floor is worthwhile in most cases.

If your apartment had a wooden floor and you wanted to work it up, you should always talk to your landlord first. Maybe he will take over the material costs? Reprocessing is definitely not as bad as it sounds at first. Very important are the properly coordinated care and sealing products to enjoy your floor for a long time.

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Picture of the author Frank Rath.
Written by Frank Rath
Published on 21.03.2019

Whether it's drilling, hammering, or sanding, our professionals in the workshop and DIY field will show you how it's done. Frank Rath is a freelance blogger and a passionate craftsman. With his tips and tricks about Einhell tools, you will not only become an absolute DIY expert but also learn how to safely use each device.