I honestly don’t even know where to begin with this write-up. Floors. Our beautiful hardwood floors. The very thing I fell in love with when first stepping into the house. Two stories of nothing but natural oak. And beautiful accent borders throughout the first floor.
From the beginning, we wanted to stain them darker. What we didn’t know was the two-month-long nightmare of a project we were getting ourselves into. All I can say is, third time’s a charm. (And that most contractors would have probably killed us for what we put our floors through.)
The sanding never ends
Steps in the process – sand, stain, poly. That’s all there is too it. Ha. But honestly, sanding went rather smoothly. We had a family friend over to help get us started with the circular sander we rented from Home Depot. Dan’s dad jumped in and helped with a lot of the sanding too. Took an entire weekend, but that’s not bad considering we were completely sanding two stories of a house, and had to run over it with three different grits.
Our living nightmare
The nightmare came when we went to stain. Like I mentioned before, we were going for a darker, chocolate brown color. The stain appeared to go on exactly how we wanted it – dark, but still able to see the natural wood grain. What we caught way too late was the way the stain dried – way too quickly, and almost like paint. And yes, before you ask, we tested the stain multiple times, but there was no way to anticipate the way it would dry over such a large space (without going room by room, which we now know, we should have done). Long story short, we stained two-thirds of the house before realizing there was an issue. The build-up of stain was so bad that you could wipe the top layer off with mineral spirits and actually reveal the color we were looking for.
A lot of human error, yes, but we later learned that we were also working with an awful product.
These results meant we were back to square one. Sanding all over again. Ugh. Dan’s dad stepped in to sand again, which was a huge help since Dan and I were both mentally and physically drained at this point. Once the floors were resanded, it was back to the drawing board.
Finding the right product
After trying everything under the sun, we finally came across DuraSeal – great to work with, and gave us the color we wanted. We ended up with a mixture of two parts Ebony, one part Red Mahogany. Sounds extremely dark, but on our hard oak floors, they actually came out a lot lighter than expected.
So back to staining we went. Room by room, we eventually made it through the whole house. Long story short, we were thrilled with how the upstairs turned out, but sorely disappointed by the downstairs.
Upstairs was flawless. Okay, that’s not entirely true, but they looked amazing. Beautiful color – a little light for Dan, but nonetheless, looked gorgeous. The downstairs on the other hand, blotchy as hell. If our spirits weren’t broken yet, they certainly were now. After moping around yet again, we regrouped and decided to break our project in half. Completely finish the upstairs, three layers of poly, and be done with them. And that we did.
Dan’s cousin helped us lay down the first coat of poly. Good thing he was there. As bubbles came through, he assured Dan that they would smooth out as the floors dried. And that they did.
Two coats later, and they came out absolutely beautiful. I’ll wait to the end to show you all the pictures (or you can just scroll if you’re impatient like I would be).
Ohhhhhhhh halfway there….
Moving on down
Now that we had the upstairs looking gorgeous, it was time to tackle the disaster that was downstairs. We found out the source of the blotches, and were able to fix that issue, but not until we resanded yet again – thankfully, for the last time (yes, I said last time – there’s a glimmer of hope in this story).
Staining finally went smoothly, and for the most part, so did the poly.
The stairs were Dan’s baby, and those probably came out the best. A bit darker than the floors, which is exactly what he wanted. The next step for the stairs will be to paint the risers white and stain the railings, giving it an updated look, while still keeping the original woodwork intact.
In the end, this project was a 6-8 week nightmare that turned out beautiful. Was it worth it? Yes, absolutely. Would I do it again? Absolutely not. Okay, that may be an exaggeration. After a few months, I’ll likely forget the pain we went through, and look to tackle another floor. Already thinking about the hardwood floors in my childhood bedroom that my parents would love for me to work on.
These floors set the stage for the look of the entire house. You can see a sneak peak of the paint and trim in some of the “after” photos. Nothing will be as difficult as this. And yet, nothing will be more rewarding.