Before Moving, Do Floors, Part 2: The During

After ripping up the carpet, the next steps were prep work, sanding, cleaning, staining, and then finally varnishing (polyurethane). This is not a quick process and was very labor intensive, but in the end worth it!


Gotta pull up allll this stuff… in alllll the rooms.

When we pulled out all the carpet – which was a massive chore in itself – I think we nearly killed ourselves trying to move carpet in and out of the house a few times! A heavy roll of carpet will steamroll right over you, no joke. Anyhow, we were able to get a good look at all the floors, and what we were dealing with. The upstairs bedroom would have actually not needed much work, but someone had carelessly dripped paint all over the floor in a previous life, so that needed a redo. As noted before, the downstairs floors also needed complete redos, since they were down to bare wood in the middle, but varnished on the sides.

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Prepping the downstairs


Upstairs bedroom, floor covered in paint splatters and staples

So we got to work ripping up carpet staples, nails, tack strip, and the quarter inch round finishing strips on the bottom of the baseboards. This is a several day chore, if there are a lot of staples left over (there were) from previous carpeting. Then we had to turn off the a/c (thanks for the 90 degree heat that week, nature) and tape off all the vents, as well as any electrical outlets. Basically any holes that sawdust could get into needed to be taped off.

Then, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning the floors as best we could!

Next: Sanding.

Sanding is a beast. It is a monster. You will get hot, sweaty, dirty, sore,  and irritable doing it. BUT! The operation of the rental machines themselves isn’t really as bad as many websites make it out to be. If I can do it, you can do it! We used a belt sander and orbital edging sander (rented) plus several handheld ones that Dan’s dad had, to finish out and smooth down the edging.

The belt sander was really not all that hard to operate – you just need to make sure you move slowly and keep moving while it is on – if you stop, you will sand a valley into your floor.


Beginning work with the belt sander


This is what the floor looks like after one pass with the belt sander, and no edging.


After a few passes with the belt sander. Still not quite ready for the next grit of sandpaper!

You also need to go around the edges with the orbital. Now THIS is the machine that will make your arms sore as heck, but it is very effective at getting tight corners and edges. The thing that really took the longest was this first round of sanding – to do everything properly, you need to sand three times, starting with a low grit paper and working your way up to about a 150 grit paper. The first pass, with the low grit, absolutely needs to take everything down to bare wood, as the other two passes will basically only buff out scratches made by the sander. So, it took many hours and many… many passes with the coarse sandpaper to FINALLY get everything down to bare wood. There was much swearing.


This is what it should look like before you start moving to a higher grit sand paper


Floor all sanded and ready to be varnished!

After getting off the original finish, it took more time and effort to blend the edging together nicely with the middle of the floor, where the belt sander had done the job. And more effort after that to make sure that all the scratches from the orbital were out (we missed a few but it’s ‘good enough’). It took us about a week of work in the evenings and a full weekend of 20 hours of sanding to get the floors ready for staining and varnish.

On the plus side, the floors in the upstairs bedrooms looked fabulous, so we decided to not stain them, and just polyurethane over them, to show off the gorgeous original old growth yellow pine. Woo!

The downstairs floors had some ‘shadowing’ from where they had previously been stained that wouldn’t sand out, so we stuck to the original plan of staining those a dark red mahogany.


Dining room floor, during the staining process

After staining, we coated all the floors with 2 coats of a Minwax satin high-build poly. More on the varnishing process in the next post! Stay tuned for that and pictures of the shiny happy floors.

Things I Learned…

Tip 1) Get to Know Your Neighbors! You never know who has talents that they can help you with. We hired a next door neighbor to lay the Berber carpet in our upstairs bedrooms for a fraction of the cost of what it would have been to go to a store like Home Depot to hire someone. It’s cheaper, you encourage strong bonds with your neighbors, and your money goes directly to a ‘real’ person instead of a chain store.

Tip 2) Getting up Tack Strip and Baseboard Trim: again, if I can do it, you can do it! All you need are some tools you have lying around, and proper use of them. You can buy fancy prybars and such, but really a hammer, chisel, and something for leverage (I used a screwdriver) will work fine. I followed the instructions on this YouTube video and it worked like a charm:

Tip 3) YouTube is Your Friend. If you don’t know how to do something, search for it on YouTube and find how-to videos. We were both total novices at doing this, but educating ourselves on YouTube helped immensely. Like with the tack strip, I struggled for about 15 minutes trying to get up one tiny piece, and finally looked up the video on how to do it properly. Finished the rest of it in about 2 hours, for all the rooms. Don’t be afraid to ask the interwebs for help!

Up next – the shiny end results! Er, I mean the end results that are shiny, not a shiny end, whatever that is.


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