How to remove stains from hardwood floors

REMOVING STAINS

Water and other liquids can penetrate deep into the grain of hardwood floors, leaving dark stains that are sometimes impossible to remove by sanding. Instead, try bleaching the wood with oxalic acid, which is available in crystal form at home centers or paint stores.

How to remove stains from hardwood floors:

1. Remove the floor’s finish by sanding the stained area.

2. In a disposable cup, dissolve the recommended amount of oxalic acid crystals in water.

3. Wearing rubber gloves pour the mixture over the stained area, taking care to cover only the darkened wood.

4. Let the liquid stand for 1 hour. Repeat the application, if necessary.

5. Wash the area with a solution of 2 tablespoons borax in 1 pint of water to neutralize the acid.

6. Rinse with water, and let the wood dry.

7. Sand the area smooth.

8. Apply several coats of wood stain until the bleached area matches the finish of the surrounding floor.


ELIMINATING SQUEAKS

Wood expands and shrinks according to weather conditions— especially humidity—causing floorboards to rub against each other and against the nails holding them in place, and thus to squeak. It pays to check, however, whether the source of persistent squeaky boards is more than a change in weather. Sometimes shifting or squeaking boards can indicate a bigger problem, like leaking pipes or drains. Be sure to check under the floor to make sure it is free from water damage or rot.
Although there are little tricks to get rid of those squeaks, sanding and refinishing the floor is not one of them, so don’t let any professional talk you into something you don’t need and that won’t fix the problem. Little tricks are good, but to truly fix the problem, you will need to uproot your flooring and repair what’s going on underneath it.

TIP:
One trick, for a temporary fix, is to put some baby powder between the boards that: squeak. Step on the boards in a bouncing action to allow the powder to seep into the joints.

Painting Concrete Floors

Preparation is especially important when the surface to be painted is a concrete floor, such as in a laundry room or workshop. First you will want to repair any cracks or holes. You will next need to prepare the concrete with a muriatic acid solution. This process is called “etching.” It’s similar to etching glass— scraping off a bit of the top so that the paint has something to adhere to. Caution: muriatic acid is strong enough to burn skin and eyes. Before you begin the etching process, put on the proper safety gear. If you can’t ventilate the work area, wear a dual-cartridge respirator.

How to prepare and paint a concrete floor:

1. First, sweep and scrape off the dirt from the floor. Clean off any grease, oil, and other contaminants using a cleaning solution.

2. Rinse the floor well to remove all traces of the cleaning solution.

3. Mix the solution to etch the floor by adding 1 part muriatic acid to 3 parts water. Do it in this order—do NOT add the water to the acid.

4. Apply the solution, using 1 gallon per 100 square feet, and scrub the floor with a stiff-bristled brush. Leave the solution on the floor until it stops bubbling.

5. Rinse the floor thoroughly with clean water. Wipe it down with a damp sponge mop to eliminate puddles.

6. If the floor isn’t dry in four hours, repeat the rinsing procedure.

7. After the floor is completely dry vacuum it to remove any powder residue left by the muriatic acid solution.

8. You can now paint the floor with an alkyd or urethane latex floor and deck enamel. It is best to paint with a roller and long pole. First paint the edges then work from the wall farthest from the door back toward the door.

Hardwood Floors – Choosing Stains and Finishes

CHOOSING STAINS AND FINISHES

I really love dark stains—I have mahogany on my own floors— but you can pick what’s in fashion or follow your personal preference or how the color matches the rest of your house.

The same goes for varnishes; it depends what you’re going for. For example, if you have an old cabin, you’re not going to want a high-gloss finish. You’re going to want a matt finish or semigloss.

I always check with my local hardware store and ask someone who knows their stuff about stains and varnishes because new ones are coming out all the time. A knowledge able salesperson will also be able to advise you on the best finishes for various climates.

Not that advice is always foolproof. The first time I did my hardwood floors, I asked the guy in the store what kind of finish I should buy—choosing between semigloss and high gloss. He told me that high gloss would look like I was walking into a high school basketball court—too shiny. So I got semigloss—and it barely shined! After putting in so much work on a floor, I wanted it to shine. Its personal preference, of course, but I went back three months later and got the high gloss, and it did not look like a basketball court ably because I had old wood floors. They were shiny but it just looked like they were clean.

Again, take advice, but at the end of the day, always trust what you like. And sometimes, you just have to experiment.

When shopping for stains and varnishes, I usually use the big hardware stores because of the selection they have; sometimes the smaller stores will only have two different types of varnish. The bigger stores will have ten or twelve different kinds, with a wider price range to fit your budget.

If you’re really on a tight budget, you may want to get the cheapest varnish, instead of the best, most expensive varnish. This might apply if you’re doing a “flipper,” and getting rid of the property; you may just want the quickest fix, the one that is going to cost you the least amount of money. If this is for your own house, and you don’t want to revarnish or change the look often, then get the very best quality stains and varnishes because you’ll save money in the long run. If it’s an investment property or a rental, then you’ll probably be looking at the cheaper options.


TIPS:

• The easiest way to apply stain is to put it on rags and rub it on the floor. You can also mop it on.

• Varnish is generally easier to mop on. Some companies have their own mops specific to particular products.

• Its common sense, but starts in the farthest corner and work your way out of the room. You have to let it dry, typically for forty-eight hours before you put furniture back, though usually you can walk on it after twenty-four hours.

• Put felt pads on the bottom of your furniture. That way, when you want to move it or adjust it later, you won’t ruin or scratch your beautiful hardwood floors.

Floors or Stairs Squeak

Problem: Floors or stairs emit annoying squeaks when stepped on.

Background: Floor or stair squeaks are common in homes and are usually caused by floor components rubbing against each other. Squeaks can be caused by floor materials that have dried out and become loose or separated. They may also be caused by loose X-bridging between the joists, by gaps between the joists and sub flooring, or by plumbing pipes or ducts rubbing against the joists.

What to do: First try to pinpoint the area of the squeak and see if the problem can be fixed from below the floor or stairs. Check to see if the squeak may be caused by the X bridging lumber, which is used between the joists visible in the basement. You may be able to correct this by cutting away wood where the Xs cross with a handsaw. Check and readjust any loose pipes or pipe hangers in that area. If there is a gap between the joist and sub-flooring, try driving in wedge- shaped shims above the joist. The squeak may be caused by the separation of the sub floor and floorboards. In this case, try driving screws through the sub floor, into the boards above, to draw the two together. (Make sure the screws reach only about halfway into floorboards.) If this doesn’t work, try using concealed nailing from above, or lubricating the squeak area.

Special advice: Before driving nails through hardwood flooring, drill pilot holes that are slightly smaller than the nail size to avoid splitting. Start the pilot hole at the edge of the board and angle it down and toward the center of the board. When refastening stair treads to risers from the top side, drive flooring nails at an angle toward each other. In either case, you can use a nail set to avoid marring board surfaces, and wood putty to cover the nail holes.

Helpful hint: In some cases you may be able to stop the squeak by using powdered graphite, available at hardware or auto parts stores. Spray the graphite into visible cracks in the area of the squeak. This may lubricate the parts that are rubbing together and stop the noise. Another option is to reinforce the tread/riser joints with wooden blocks, using construction adhesive and wood screws.