Sanding a Reclaimed Floor - DIY or Specialist?

31 Jul 2008
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United Kingdom
Hi there

I have a large floor (2100 square feet or so) which is made up of reclaimed (beech) gymnasium flooring. This is T&G boards with pre-existing court markings. Since the floor was clearly sanded "level" in the previous locations, all of the boards are a slightly different thickness.

What I need to achieve is a removal of the court markings and sanding back to a flat, level finish, followed by re-sealing.

I've got one quote in of £3000 (discounted from £3700) to do the job. The specialist concerned tells me that this includes £800 of varnish. Whilst on the face of it this seems reasonable, money for this project is a little tight at the moment, so I'm considering other options.

First, does anybody have any experience of such matters who could suggest whether this price seems reasonable? The building is in London, E1 (just off Brick Lane). The room is clear, about 8m x 24m, so no fiddly obstacles to work around.

If not reasonable, any suggestions of individuals or companies I could try to get alternative quotes?

And, finally, does anybody who has tackled this sort of thing before believe that it is a realistic DIY proposition? I installed the floor, having dug out 65 tons of concrete and levelled (every metre!) 800 running metres of new joist to support it, so I'm fairly competenet at many things, but floor sanding I've only tried once on a floor rather a lot smaller than this. If so, I've had conflicting advice so far - some have said use paint stripper to remove the court markings before sanding, others have suggested just sanding-off everything. Can anyone advise on this?

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You could buy 60 litres of Junkers high performance sports floor lacquer in clear silk/matt finish for @ £500, enough to give your floor 3 coats (with prelak). This gear is made for high traffic areas and purpose made for newly sanded floors.

Paint stripper isn't required, a drum sander will remove everything, just initially you will use more sheets as the paint will clog them up, but coarse drum sanding paper goes quite a long way at about £2.50 per/sheet. Your floor would have been treated originally with something similar if not the same thing, being a sports floor, and once the court markings are erased will look fantastic.

Travelling from Hull £2500 shoul do it !!!
Thank you for that.

Assuming for a moment that I do "go for it" myself, what is the best sanding strategy - perpendicular to the boards or parallel to them?

How should I best deal with the level differences between boards? Just more passes with the sander on the higher boards? Or the same number of passes, but varying the speed of travel?

For reference, here are a couple of photos of the floor, the second highlighting the level differences and court markings. Obviously, the exhibition isn't currently there.



The boards are concealed nailed, so no prep work to do there. And it is Junkers flooring so, yes, I imagine that the material you suggest would be a pretty good "fit".
Although people on here don't like quoting prices I would say that for your location the figure you have been given is a fair one. Judging by the photograghs there is more work involved than just sanding. You can always google for other companies.

A professional will use a belt sander rather than a drum sander and will usually sand at a slight angle to the boards to get rid of any high spots/level differences.

As with anything you could tackle it yourself ( I wouldn't recommend it ) - depends on the finish you are hoping to achieve. Done properly you will have a finish that will last for years - done incorrectly you will have a finish you will regret for years.

Good luck whatever you decide.
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As far as quotations go, labour costs fluxuate for different parts of the country agreed but materials such as floor lacquer are freely available to anyone and internet prices are sometimes better than trade prices!!

I only use a belt sander for herringbone or basket weave. On straight laid planks i find a drum takes the top off much quicker.
I would start with 40 or 60 grade (coarse) paper on a floor in this condition until you are into the bare wood and yes, it's perfectly feasible to iron out any obvious high spots first. Start off in a NE/SW direction then cross over to a NW/SE directon or vice versa, always finishing off in a North/South direction (along the grain). Then change the paper to a medium grade and continue as previous only use the North/South direction a lot more.
Finally, Change the dust collection bag (important!!) and the paper to a 120 grit and finish in a North/South direction only (along the grain).
Top Tip !! wet a small area (1 square metre) with a damp cloth, in a few different locations, and look at it from different angles of natural and artificial light, this will show any imperfections... if you're not happy, carry on with the 120 grit paper for as long as it takes. It could be a while.....
Next,,, hoover the remaining dust up and you will see gaps in the flooring, some quite large. To fill these gaps you need to mix the sanding dust form the (important bag) that is sill on your sander with a product called "Lecol" and use a plastering trowel to fill all those gaps in the same fashion you would plaster a wall but obviously a lot thinner. Then you sand it all over again. Once finished, you will probably have to re-fill some gaps and sand again until the floor is gap free and solid. You are then ready for your finishing coat of lacquer, oil etc.

The labour content of a project like thsi is LARGE but the material aspect quite minimal. To save money you could do the groundwork yourself and get a pro in to finish but they'll moan about what you have done i'm sure!!

You will get conflicting advice on this subject but the advice above works for me every time with many happy customers.

Good luck !!

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