More than ever before, homeowners are tackling projects themselves rather than calling a professional. The reasons range from a need to save money to a desire to achieve the satisfaction that comes from doing the work and seeing the results.
Floor care is a good example of an area that homeowners are trying their hands at. Whether it's old, wooden floors to new vinyl tiles, your customers are willing to get the job done themselves, but they need help, and that's where you come in.
The process of refinishing wood floors takes patience, as there are many steps and they must be done with care. By properly explaining the process to customers and directing them toward the right piece of equipment, however, the results can be stunning.
The very first question that rental personnel should ask is what type of wood floor the customer has. Tongue-and-groove solid-wood flooring is typically 3/4" thick and can be sanded several times in its life. Factory-finished, engineered wood flooring, however, has a thin layer of solid wood at the surface which can't be sanded more than once. Laminate wood flooring - which is artificial - cannot be sanded at all.
Once the type of floor has been determined, the next step is to choose the right machine for the job. Drum sanders are highly effective at making the rough cut - which removes the old finish and levels the floor - but are large and don't fit into very tight spaces.
Drum sanders must be used with the grain of the wood and, if used carelessly, can also leave stop marks or dips in the wood surface if the operator stops the machine in one spot while it's running.
Orbital or rotary sanders are easier to use than drum sanders but they are not designed for heavy sanding. They can fit into tight spaces, so are good options for areas where a drum sander can't fit. Orbital sanders can be used against the grain of the wood.
Getting back to the refinishing process, instruct customers to first empty the room of all furniture, rugs, etc. and to remove the shoe mold or quarter round, if present. Nails must be set at least 1/16" below the wood surface.
The floor should be cleaned with a mop to remove all hard debris, such as tiny rocks or pebbles, which could get caught under the sanding pad and create deep scratches.
It's then time to make the rough cut. Use a heavy grit sand paper (usually 40 grit or lower) on a drum, orbital or rotary sander to remove all old finish down to bare wood in the open spaces in the room. Use the same grit sand paper on an edger to remove all old finish down to bare wood along wall lines and in tight spaces that could not be reached with the bigger sanders.
The rough cut will leave significant scratches in the wood surface. The intermediate cuts will smooth these scratches out and continue to level the floor. You should carry at least four grits of abrasives for the sanders and edgers: 20 grit, 40 grit (or 36g), 60 grit and 100 grit.
Rental businesses should offer tools for scraping the corners where the machines can't reach. A 1" scraper should do the trick. Complete the rental package with the scraper or your customers will not finish these areas properly.
Finally, the floor is ready to be screened, using a rotary or orbital polisher, before finish is applied. This process is sometimes ignored or the rental store is unaware that this will give their customers a better finish. Contractors always screen the floor to blend the different sanding patterns made by the sander and the edger. The store should sell a white pad and 100-grit screen if the customer is going to use oil-modified poly or 120-grit screen for water-based poly.
Before applying finish, instruct customers to thoroughly vacuum the floor to remove any remaining dust and debris. They should then use a damp cloth or towel to tack the floor, which will remove any dust caught in the wood grain.