Refinish 2200 ft2 Brazilian Cherry Hardwood Floor

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Project by Wolfdrool posted 12-12-2017 09:02 PM 2051 views 5 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I divided this project into three sections, tackling each in sequence. Dividing the floor into three sections made the whole thing more manageable. I worked on this on 6 weekends, some evenings, and some mornings, over a span of two months. The project included a foyer, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, a family room, a study, and a master bedroom.

This was my first floor project . I found the information at to be a great resource. The author of the ebook states that you can get great results following his instructions, and I have to say this came out better than expected. The author recommends using a drum sander to do much of the sanding, but I used a Bona Flexisand DCS buffer fitted with a 6 disc multidisk accessory for the whole project. This did an amazing job and helped to ensure that the floor stayed nice and flat. Some say it is much slower than drum sanding, but I found my total sanding time was not far off time estimates using a drum sander. Plus, hooked up to a powerful shop vac, and dust control is excellent. I used hand sanders for edges, also hooked up to dust control. I hand sanded under toe kicks, which was laborious, but our toe kicks are only 3 1/4 inches high which was too low to allow access to power tools. I could not find a toe kick sander nearby to rent.

Don’t try to sand over the edge of a stair or across uneven boards with the Bona machine. Luckily, I learned this by reading about this caution online before I started. The risk is that the powerful multidisk will catch an edge and cause damage. I had no issues, but I avoided overhangs at the stairs and did not have any other structural issues to avoid.

I did the study first to practice and learn. By the time I finished the second section, I learned enough that I went back and re-did the study when I did the third section.

I used the Varathane Water-based satin finish and really like how it turned out. Only one day after the fourth coat was dry, the finish was hard enough where I could not make a mark with a fingernail. The old oil finish was never this hard even in its prime. We waited a few days to put furniture back. I even lost a grip on a drawer set, dropping all the drawers onto the new finish. I grimaced as I picked up the drawers, expecting to see damage to fix. But, not a scratch!

The instructions on this Varathane product expressly say not to use a roller to apply it, but I used a roller and it leveled out quite well. It goes on quite stippled, but levels out in just a few minutes. I have to say the first coat did not look totally even in terms of lap marks, and that made me worry the first time I used the product when starting out. But, I power buffed at 320 grit to smooth it out. Then the second coat looked even, and I was quite relieved. The third coat looked really good, and the fourth coat looked spectacular. Plus, after the third or fourth coat, I could buff out selected areas that might have a contaminant like hair or something, and the rolled on finish would blend invisibly into the whole floor. Power buffing the first coat turns out to be very important to the look of the final product. All the other sections worked this way. By the third section, I had a lot more confidence in how the finish would develop from coat to coat.

You can safely walk on the finish in socks after two hours, but I would avoid working or living on the new finish for a couple days after the final coat dries.

The bare floor will be hugely vulnerable to stains. If things spill or get on the bare floor, a permanent stain is likely. Except for me working, we avoided doing anything on floor other than walk across it in socks until the fourth coat was dry. We avoided exposing the bare floor to food, drink, pets, and family activities.

By dividing into sections, I was worried whether I could blend one section into another or whether the seam would show. This turned out not to be a worry at all. At each seam between former section and unsanded new section, I sanded the juncture with 320 grit paper on a 5 inch sander, being careful not to sand through the first plank of the older section. Then, when applying the coatings, I overlapped the current section with one plank of the older section on the first coat, two planks on the second, etc. for an invisible join. Part of this success is that the Varathane product self levels so well and blends with itself so well.

The is a good resource, but I would add the following additional lessons:

1. Stay on 36 grit and don’t try to move up to higher grits to smooth things out until you get the old finish off and the tone evened with the 36 grit. I had to do one section of the floor twice at 36 and then work on isolated trouble spots with the hand sander to get the tone fixed in areas where the floor was the most worn and compromised. Then, moving through the higher grits after that is straightforward and faster. This is crucial. I re-did the first room I did (study), because I did not appreciate this until the second area I did turned out so good.

2. Switch out sanding discs often. Once the discs stop cutting well, continuing to use them wastes time. Overall, I used about $300 in sandpaper disks for sanding the field and for edging for all four grits (36, 60, 80, and 100). This sounds like a lot, but compared to the retail cost of hiring a contractor, this is pretty reasonable. Buying sandpaper disks in bulk makes the cost per disk pretty reasonable.

3. Edge sanding, particularly under counters, is really time consuming. Yet, it is key to the job looking good. The eye is really drawn to the edges. In contrast, sanding the field with a machine is not hard at all and goes surprisingly fast.

4. I edged along with field sanding on each grit. Usually, I field sanded first and then edged. But, on the last round of sanding I found I needed to edge first and then sand the field second, or else the edges would look different than the field. I bet 70% of the sanding time is edge sanding.

5. The first coat of finish doesn’t look good. So much gets sucked into the bare wood. There are lap marks no matter how careful you are keeping a wet edge on that first coat while moving down plank lanes. But, amazingly the first time I experienced this, things even out on the second coat after the first coat had been power buffed out at 320 grit, and then things look great on coat 3 and spectacular on coat 4. The first coat looks like a fail. If the prep was good and the finish product is good, it works out to be spectacular.

6. Things must be really clean when applying the wet coats or else hair, particles, etc. contaminate the floor. These can be dealt with on the first coat, as I would buff at 320 grit after the first coat, but they need to be avoided on coats 2, 3 and 4. I started wearing a hat and long sleeves to keep hairs out of the finish. I went from tens and tens of contaminants to two or three things that needed fixing using the hat strategy.

7. I used a lint free roller (Purdy) to apply the finish. The finish goes on stippled when using the roller, which makes it easy to see where you are working. But then it levels out amazingly, It’s like magic, really. The roller is really fast. Cutting in at closets, counters, etc. still takes time, but still goes fast with the roller. In tiny areas, I used pads. But rollers are better when you can use them, as pads can drip.

8. Washing rollers and pads doesn’t really work. No matter how much you wash, the things end up crispy at least in part and won’t lay down a smooth finish. The solution was to store the roller and pads in a zip lock bag and each would stay fresh for reuse. Then, I’d just throw it away after the section was done. They do wear out, though. For each section, I did two coats with a roller, then switched to a second roller.

9. When applying the water based finish, buffing the first coat at 320 grit was essential to smooth the floor (the grain gets raised) and to help ensure that the lap marks disappear and the floor looks even after the second coat.

10 comments so far

View splintergroup's profile


3774 posts in 1992 days

#1 posted 12-12-2017 09:37 PM

I love BC as a project wood. Hard as H*ll on blades, but but has beautiful color/grain and is inexpensive when I buy it as unfinished flooring 8^)

Your project looks like a lot of work, but the results look worth the effort!

View bushmaster's profile


3939 posts in 3052 days

#2 posted 12-12-2017 09:44 PM

That a deluxe floor. Great job on the resanding. especially that big of an area, did well I would think it would take a month of Sundays. Hard wood.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

View bobasaurus's profile


3633 posts in 3953 days

#3 posted 12-13-2017 12:14 AM

That’s a serious refinishing job, wow. And your house is beautiful. Well done.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View AJ1104's profile


1090 posts in 2429 days

#4 posted 12-13-2017 02:56 AM

Tremendous job on your floors. The kind of project you can enjoy everyday!

-- AJ

View AlmostRetired's profile


221 posts in 1484 days

#5 posted 12-13-2017 07:24 AM

Love those floors. Had to have the ones in our new house refinished after the folks we bought it from moved out and left the fridge valve cracked and the water ran under the floor for 24 hours. They look great now….as do yours….great job!


View sras's profile


5455 posts in 3899 days

#6 posted 12-13-2017 04:35 PM

Lots of information here – thanks for sharing!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Ken90712's profile


17867 posts in 3958 days

#7 posted 12-13-2017 05:10 PM

A+++++++++++++, and then some. I’ve done our whole house and it’s a big job. But like you mentioned break it down to sections and just chip away at it. Very beautiful work.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3636 days

#8 posted 12-13-2017 07:12 PM

This floor is a magnificent piece of work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View oldnovice's profile


7555 posts in 4137 days

#9 posted 12-13-2017 10:17 PM

I refinished two floors in my house in Freeport, something I will not try again …. too old for another attempt.
However, it appears that you tackled your project very methodically and meticulously.

-- "It's fine in practise but it will never work in theory"

View Upgrayedd's profile


129 posts in 1952 days

#10 posted 12-14-2017 06:12 PM

Nice Floors!

I divided this project into three sections, tackling each in sequence.
- Wolfdrool

I think you divided in 4 sections… 4th section is the essay post :) wordz, wordz, lotta wordz

-- Upgrayedd - spelled thusly, with two Ds, for a double dose of this pimping.

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