If you are a handyman in the least, you may be tempted to sand your yellow birch floor by yourself. Although it is recommended to call on a professional or make sure you are skilled enough for this kind of operation, doing it yourself is not impossible and can save a substantial amount of money. If you have decided to take on this adventure, follow these guidelines...
WHAT IS THE DISTINCTIVE FEATURE OF THE YELLOW BIRCH?
|The yellow birch is a relatively hard wood. This species is thus more resistant and can undergo 3 or 4 sandings. The type of sanding mainly depends on the wear or the type of finition of the surface you want to restore, and whether or not you intend to stain the yellow birch floor.|
Since the yellow birch is a rather hard wood, you can start using a rather coarse paper (40 or 60). The sanding will be tougher than that of softer species.
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE SANDING YOUR YELLOW BIRCH FLOOR
CHECK THE CONDITION OF THE FLOOR
The first to do to prepare your yellow birch floor for best results and maximum durability is checking its overall condition. If it has been stained by water, calcium or animal urine, more than one sanding may be needed and some planks may also need replacing. If some rug or other flooring has been stuck on it, it is important to remove a maximum amount of glue from the surface before sanding it; otherwise the sanding operation will become much tougher.
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If your varnished floor is damaged, you will have to assess the remaining depth of the planks. These must be at least 3 mm thick; otherwise sanding the floor may potentially cause cracks to appear. This will be more likely if the grooves and the tabs have been weakened or if nails show. It may be impossible to repair the floor in the case of major structural problems such as gaps between the planks. Then the floor has to be changed all over.
GATHERING THE NECESSARY GEAR FOR THE SANDING
On the other hand, if the floor is thick enough, sanding your yellow birch floor will radically change the look of the room provided that you know how to do it adequately. To do so you will need...
...a floor sanding machine (drum or barrel);
...an orbital sander for the edges;
...a triangular sander or a paint scraper for the corners;
...an orbital floor sander (for the last sanding step);
...sandpaper (that neeeds frequent replacing)
...a vacuum cleaner to remove the dust after sanding;
...a protective mask to avoid breathing the dust;
...a 220 volt outlet (if you are using an industrial sanding maching)
DOING THE NECESSARY FIXES
Planks thrusting out or caving in may cause oversanding and needless weakening of the floor. Nails and cramps may particularly damage sanding machines. Level and nail or remove all exceeding parts.
Spacing between laths is a natural phenomenon caused by variations of temperature and humidity. However if the spaces are so important that they make sanding impossible, you will have to wait until summer to maybe fix the floor by adding putty and changing some planks.
Finally fill all cracks and holes by using wood paste.
FORESEEING THE DETAILS THAT MAKE THE WHOLE DIFFERENCE
Before beginning sanding it is important to take several precautions that will make the job easier to do when sanding time comes.
First make sure to clear the surface that needs sanding. Although it is not absolutely necessary to remove baseboards and mouldings, doing it will allow you to do a professional job. To do so, cut the paint joint between the wall and the board. If you need a crowbar to remove the board, insert it between two spatulas or place a piece of wood against the wall in order to avoid damaging it. Number each board and remove any nail or cramp from the floor.
Remove all doors and closet shelves that could hinder the sanding operations Take down the wall any object that could fall because of the vibrations. Pull up the curtains or take them away.
Turn off all fans and block access to floor air traps to prevent dust from spreading in the whole house. Isolate the room from the rest of the house, but make sure to ventilate it by keeping a window open.
If some painting is done while you are sanding the floor, wait until the sanding is over to apply the last coat of paint. This way you will avoid needless touch-ups.
Finally make your floor clean by removing all grease, glue or dirt that could reduce the efficiency of the sanding.
THE SANDING OPERATION
The sanding operation itself includes several steps depending on the fineness of the grain used and the type of surface to be sanded. The size of the grain usually varies from 40 to 150. The different types of surface are the surface itself, the perimeter and the corners. Each of them calls for a different type of sanding tool. While the rental fee of a floor sanding machine amounts to about 50$ a day, professional dustless sanding is worth about $4\sq.ft.
According to the type of work to be done, some steps may not be necessary. Sanding with 40 or 60 grain is useful to remove old varnish or to level a highly damaged floor. At this point begin at the centre of the room and sand lengthwise. If you are not used to working with this type of machine, make sure you get familiar with it before beginning using it.
Go on using the edge sander from left to right in order to go along with the rotation of the machine. Finally use the corner sander or paint scraper and sand manually. No matter the type of sander, applying pressure on it is useless; if you do, you might damage your floor. Vacuum the floor after each step and clean with a humid cloth in order to make your sandpaper last longer.
THE 4 STEPS ACCORDING TO THE GRIT SIZE
On a new unvarnished floor, starting with an 80 grain is sufficient. If it has already been sanded with a coarser grain, this second sanding will close the pores of the wood and remove the defects caused by the first sanding. Sand as long as necessary to erase all scratches caused by the first sanding. Do not forget to vacuum and clean with the humid cloth again.
The purpose of the third step is to correct the defects left by the first two steps and make the surface as smooth as possible. Use a 100 and/or 120 sanding grit. Use an orbital sander to erase the traces left by the floor sanding machine. Sand two to three feet wide starting from the wall toward the centre of the room. Stop after this step if you are not going to stain the floor. In order to avoid any risk of spontaneous combustion inside the house, throw out the vacuum cleaner bag containing the wood and old varnish dust and make sure it is tightly closed.
For perfect finishing or if you are to apply stain, it will be most useful to keep sanding with a 150 grain using an orbital sander. Because of its 3 or 6 rotating head and the vibrations of its rectangular plate, it will not leave any marks or uneven spots on the floor. At this point, you have to take care so as not to leave any marks on your yellow birch floor with sharp objects or with water; these marks will show at the time of finishing.
THE FLOOR SANDING MACHINE “TOUCHY” FEATURES
The floor sanding machine is a very effective tool which may also quickly and badly mark a yellow birch floor. Begin sanding in the middle of the room and follow the wood grain. This means that if the planks form a 45-degree angle, you must follow this direction. Gradually get used to it and learn how to lift the drum or the barrel so as to avoid leaving marks on the floor. Make sure you keep moving the machine while the paper is in contact with the floor and lift the drum or the barrel every line you shift directions. When you go back to the centre of the room, begin 2\3 out of line with the previous sanding. Do not always lay down the drum at the same place so as to avoid leaving any mark that will show by the end of the sanding operation. Using this technique will probably allow you to sand down to 6 inches from the edges. If your first attempts dug into the wood, be aware that this can be fixed to some extent. Sand around this spot using long tapering moves to reduce the holes caused by the drum or the barrel.
APPLYING A FINISHING PRODUCT ON YOUR YELLOW BIRCH FLOOR
EXTRA SANDING STEP BEFORE STAINING THE WOOD
As we previously stated, if you want to stain your yellow birch floor, it is important to sand it to 150 grain while using an orbital sander so as to reduce the marks and obtain an even colour.
CLEANING THE WORK AREA
Once the sanding done, vacuum all dust starting with the ceiling, then the walls and ending with the floor. Make sure to remove all sanding residues including the dust in cracks. At this point you will need to use a vacuum cleaner, not a humid cloth.
If you want a brighter colour, you may add methyl hydrate just before applying the stain.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT FINISHING PRODUCT
What if this sanding was the last one? If you choose to apply varnish, you will have to go through the same steps within ten years or so. On the other hand, if you choose to apply wax or natural oil on your yellow birch floor, you will have done it for the first and last time. No more wood dust problems!
To compare the main differences between wax, varnish and natural oil, download our comparative guidelines.