Hardwood is incredibly tough and durable, but after years of tenant turnover, regular cleaning, and everyday wear and tear, wood floors can start to look less than perfect. Restoring hardwoods to their original sheen is relatively simple if the scratches and marks are only in the finish rather than in the wood itself.
Buffing is a great way to make your hardwood look new again without having to refinish it. It removes small scratches and material that might dull the finish on your wood floors, and it gives them a much brighter look. It can also help fill in scuff marks and scratches.
To buff your hardwood floors, first, you need to clean them. You can use a mop or rag with a cleaning solution, but it is recommended that you find a specialized buffer. These machines have a rotating pad that uses a buffing compound to smooth the surface of your floor. There are different types of buffing compounds, and they all come in various grits. You will need a coarse grit to rough up the surface of your floor, followed by a finer grit to smooth it.
Then, you can polish your hardwood. This will give it a nice sheen, but it won’t hide any imperfections in your flooring. This step can be done manually or using a high-speed or random orbital buffer. It’s important to do a quality job of polishing, or your wood will not look as shiny and new.
Once your floor has been buffed, it’s time to seal it. This will protect the hardwood from water and other liquids that could damage it. It will also fill in some light scratches and scuffs, but it will not address deep scratches or dents.
It’s important to buff your hardwood regularly to prevent scratches and other damage. Putting felt pads on the bottom of furniture legs is also a good idea to prevent scratching. You can also use rugs to cover the most trafficked areas of your home.
Ultimately, if your wood is looking dull or scratched up beyond repair, you may need to consider refinishing. While it’s a more involved process than simply buffing, it can restore the original shine to your floors and can remove more serious stains than standard cleaning or polishing can. You should also consider refinishing if you have a lot of water or food stains on your floors that can’t be removed with regular cleaning or buffing.
Wood Stain or Paint
When it comes to wood furniture, one of the first decisions you have to make is whether you want to stain or paint. Stains are thinner than paint and soak into the wood grain, preserving some of the original wood texture while also adding color and beauty. They are typically cheaper and offer more protection against water than paints.
Paint, on the other hand, covers the entire surface and is often used for furniture that will be exposed to harsh weather conditions. It comes in a wider variety of colors and has more sheens than stains, making it easier to match your décor or to choose something that will highlight the natural beauty of the wood. Paint can cover more imperfections than a stain and tends to last longer, but it does not protect the wood as well against scratches or fading from sunlight.
Wood stains are usually made from dyes or pigments that are suspended in a liquid vehicle, such as water, alcohol, petroleum distillate, or linseed oil. They are then applied to the surface of the wood and allowed to dry. Some stains are opaque and create a solid color that sits on top of the bare wood, while others are transparent, so the underlying wood is still visible.
Oil stains typically have a slow drying time, making them easier to work with than water-based ones. However, they also need to be wiped off promptly so that the excess does not dry into a chip or peel. Linseed oil is the preferred binder for these types of stains, but they can be difficult to find as they are not as popular as they once were.
Gel stains are a newer type of wood stain that uses a very fast-drying formula, so they can be more difficult to work with than oil stains. They can be identified by checking the ingredients list, but they are almost always labeled specifically as gel stains so that people do not mix them up with varnishes or lacquers.
If you are using a gel stain, using a pre-stain conditioner before you start is a good idea. This will help the wood absorb the stain better, which can result in a more even appearance and reduce the likelihood that there will be any drips or spots that need to be touched up later.
Filling in Deeper Scratches
If your floors have a few deep scratches or other blemishes, you can use wood stain to cover them up and make your hardwood look new again without having to sand down the floor. Just like with the light scratches, you will need to find a wood stain that matches the existing color of your hardwood.
Before you get started, take a damp microfiber cloth, and clean off the scratched area of your hardwood flooring or piece of wood furniture. This will remove any dirt or residue that may be trapped in the scratches and help you achieve a more even finish. Now, using a small amount of filler putty (this is available at most hardware stores), apply the putty to the surface of the scratch. Use a small tool or your finger to spread the putty in a line across the surface of the scratch. Continue until the entire scratch is filled in. You can go over the putty again if needed to give it a more even finish.
Once the putty has dried, use a small dab of touch-up paint to fill in the area that was covered by the filler. You can also use a wood stain marker that is designed to be used on hardwood floors. These are available at most hardware and specialized online retailers. Once you have found the correct color, use a small brush to apply the paint to the putty and lightly cover the area that was covered by the scratch. Again, be careful not to over-apply the paint as it can create a darker area that will draw attention to itself.
After the touch-up paint has had a chance to dry, you can apply a clear coat of finish to the entire floor to protect it from further damage. Once again, it is important to follow the instructions on the can regarding how quickly you need to apply the clear coat, as some products vary.
Regular maintenance and cleaning can keep your hardwood looking like new for years to come. However, it is best to prevent damage and stains before they occur. Sweeping your hardwood regularly and using a dust mop can keep the dirt and debris from getting ground into the wood, which will create a dull appearance. Placing rugs in high-traffic areas can also help protect your hardwood and prevent damage from people or pets that might cause dents or scratches.
Wood that isn’t sealed is vulnerable to moisture and the elements, which can discolor or distort it. Sealing also helps wood resist wear and tear from everyday use and provides a protective barrier. The sealant comes in a variety of finishes, including polyurethane, varnish, and lacquer. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, but most wood lovers agree that a clear sealant is the best choice.
Before applying any type of finish, sand the hardwood to smooth it. Start with 400-grit sandpaper and move over the surface in the direction of the grain. After sanding, apply several thin coats of the selected sealant, allowing them to dry in between each application. When you are finished, remove the dust and residue from the surface using a tac cloth. Always wear a mask when using sandpaper to avoid inhaling wood particles.
Besides filling in deeper scratches, wood stains or paint can also cover minor blemishes and discoloration. Once you’ve selected your desired color, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure a good application. It’s important to let the stain or paint dry thoroughly before sealing it.
While it may seem obvious, it’s worth mentioning that you should never use cleaners containing ammonia, vinegar, wax, or oil (including soap). These substances can damage your wood and leave behind residue that makes recoating difficult.
Wood sealants come in a variety of colors and sheens, so you can choose the one that will match your style best. Some people find that the sheen of a polyurethane finish is the most durable, while others prefer the natural look of a varnish or lacquer.
The main advantage of varnish is that it does not yellow over time like lacquer but requires mineral spirits or turpentine to clean. It is also toxic during the curing process, so it’s important to take precautions when working with it. On the other hand, lacquer is easier to work with but can yellow or chip over time. For these reasons, many people choose to use a combination of these methods to make their wood look new again.