Sanding and refinishing our oak hardwood floors

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Back last summer we decided to update our living room by sanding and refinishing the floor. 

When we first converted the space a few years ago from what was originally a large garage we laid solid oak hardwood flooring. It was still in really good condition so we knew we didn't want to replace it, but it was starting to show signs of age. The room is south facing and has full width windows so it gets a lot of sun and the colour of the floor had gradually changed over time and acquired a yellowish tinge due to sunlight exposure.

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Here are a couple of pictures of what it looked like before. As you can see it wasn't terrible but the polyurethane in the varnish had made it start to look quite yellow so we decided to give it an update, stripping it back to the bare wood and then refinishing it to achieve a paler, whitened oak effect.

Before hiring the sander we spent a day removing everything from the living room and taping up cupboards and doors to stop the dust getting inside. We also took off the skirting boards. Preparation always takes longer than you think!

Once we were left with an empty space the sanding could begin. As we were stripping back hardwood flooring rather than pine the hire shop recommended that we use a Bona Flexisand which has a rotating disc rather than a drum. When we tried it out we were initially impressed - it was much easier to manoeuvre than the drum sanding machines we've previously used. It also neatly captured almost all of the dust in a bag so there was hardly any mess, but unfortunately after half an hour or so of using the most heavy duty grade of sandpaper available it became obvious that it just wasn't going to do the job. The varnish was stubbornly refusing to come off so we reluctantly returned the machine to the hire shop and swapped it for a drum sander instead. This was a lot more effective (if noisier and messier too) and just 24 hours, and lots of hard work later, after finishing it off with an edging sander we had a pristine pale new new floor ready for refinishing.

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I'd done some research into different finishes and reached out on Instagram to ask for advice and recommendations. My lovely followers were incredibly helpful and I received lots of useful suggestions from people who'd recently undertaken their own flooring projects.

Several people recommended soap and lye. This is often used for achieving a lovely pale Scandi Dinesen style effect on douglas fir flooring but can be used on hardwood too. I initially looked into using Auro Hardwood lye but this is best suited fairly low traffic areas though so while it would probably be fine for a bedroom or guest room I was worried that it wouldn't be hard wearing enough for the living room.

In the end we opted for Osmo Polyx Oil Tint in white (3040). This gives a pale whitewashed or liming effect and you can apply either one or two coats depending on how 'white' you want the finished effect to be. We applied two light coats to achieve the effect shown here.

I was really happy with the finish we achieved and would definitely consider using Osmo again on a flooring project in our new house. (This isn't a sponsored post by the way - I'm just sharing the product details because several people have asked me about it). The finish is water repellant and dirt resistant and you can apparently make spot repairs to specific areas or apply additional layers in the future without the need for further sanding.

The total cost of the project was around £400 for the products and the sander hire... plus a lot of labour. So it was an affordable way to give the room an update. We were really pleased with the results but I'm not sure it's a job I'd be in a hurry to tackle again myself. Sanding hardwood flooring is completely different from sanding pine floorboards. It's much more labour intensive. It was pretty tough to remove the varnish and it took two of us two days to finish the job (plus a couple more days for applying the oil tint and waiting for it to dry). It is doable but it's not a pleasant job and to be honest next time I would probably hire a professional to do it and save myself the trouble. But there's nothing like sitting back and admiring the fruits of  your labour afterwards.

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We'll be tackling more flooring projects throughout our new house. We'd like to use parquet in the living room but are thinking about using slate tiles for the hallway (which needs to be able to withstand muddy boot and paw prints) and are undecided about the kitchen and bedrooms as yet. You can follow our renovation journey here.

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All images by Design Hunter.