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," Strickland says. "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.
"We suggest you carry the following sand paper for the sanders and edgers: 20 grit, 40 grit (or 36g), 60 grit and 100 grit," Goddard says. "These four grits of abrasives will sand most floors and follow the idea of not skipping too many grits while sanding."
Rental businesses should offer tools for scraping the corners where the machines can't reach. "A 1-inch scraper will do the trick," Goddard says. "Most stores do not offer this. 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," says Goddard. "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, says Strickland. They should then use a damp cloth or towel to tack the floor, which will remove any dust caught in the wood grain.
"According to finish manufacturer's instructions, apply the first coat of finish on the floor," instructs Strickland. "After the first coat is dry, the finish will feel a little rough. Use an orbital or rotary sander and a very fine grit of sand paper or screen (120 to 180 grit) to lightly buff the coat of finish. This will give the finish a smooth feel and will prepare the floor for the next finish coat. Thoroughly clean the floor and apply the second and third coats of finish in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions."
Strickland offers a helpful hint for applying chemicals to a finished floor. "Plot your exit out of the room," he says, noting that doing this ahead of time will help prevent becoming trapped in a corner with no way of getting out besides stepping on newly applied finish.
Resilient floor refinishing
Not all customers have wood floors. Some have a need to care for or refinish their resilient floors, which include tile, linoleum and sealed concrete.
According to Joe Crowder, product manager at Powr-Flite/CFR, the first step in caring for this type of floor is to determine whether or not it has a wax on it. If it does and the customer wishes to refinish his or her floor, it's necessary to first remove the wax. This is done using a floor stripper.
Much like the process of refinishing a wood floor, it starts with cleaning up all debris. Then, liberally apply the floor stripper to a portion no larger than 10' by 20', Crowder says, so the stripper won't dry. Allow to dwell according to the manufacturer's recommendations.
"Begin scrubbing the floor using a floor machine with a stripping pad or brush," Crowder says. "Be sure to clean all of the finish off. This may take several passes with the floor machine or additional applications of stripper. The corners and sides of the room can be scrubbed using hand stripping pads or 'doodle bug' cleaners."