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Life after Green Shag Carpet 
                 - Finishing Wood Floors

You just bought that cute little bungalow down the street! It's your dream house, the layout is perfect, that woodwork is wonderful and the shag carpet is very, very green! But the good news is that you found wood floors under that dreadful carpet.  Grimy, pitted, discolored wood floors, but wood floors nonetheless!  Here is how to make certain that those wood floors become a gleaming, natural treasure in your home:  

1. Remove that green carpet and the tack strips around the edge. Invite the neighbors and hold a bonfire to celebrate the end of an era. (Just kidding!)  Better yet, call your local landfill or recycling center for information about the proper disposal of the carpet.

2. Look at the boards. If they are too damaged, it might be better to just replace them.  If all you need is cosmetic work or small patches, then by all means refinish them!

3. For those brave souls who want to refinish the wood floors in a condo or apartment home, think of your downstairs neighbors. Just walking across hardwood floors can sound as if you are doing a fandango to those below. Large area rugs can solve the problem and preserve harmony in the building.

4. Make the acquaintance of your local rental shop. You will need a drum sander for the bulk of the stripping. They can be bulky. Can you handle one? If not, hire a professional with muscles, curly hair, blue eyes and a nice….but that's another article! Where was I? Oh yes…you can get by with a small orbital sander for the edges near the walls.

5. You need to wear ear protection and a mask which will allow you to breathe clean air as dust will go everywhere! And I do mean everywhere! 

6. Nail down any loose boards or nails that may be sticking above the surface. Fill any cracks that you find with wood filler. If the crack is too large, you should replace the board itself. Visit your home improvement store to match the wood. They can even cut the wood to size for you!

7. Open the windows! Turn on a fan! Make certain the area is well-ventilated

8. Clear the room and tape the doors that lead to other rooms if practical. This will keep the dust from spreading as much. (But face it, you will be doing some major dusting before you're finished!)

9. Never turn on the drum sander when it is in contact with the floor. You can sand some awful-looking gouges in the floor before you know it! Tilt it back, turn on and gradually lower it as you push the sander forward. Lift it off the floor when you reach the end of each pass. Keep the power cord out of your path to avoid an accident. (Sanding through a power cord is NOT a good idea!)

10. Start your sanding with coarse sandpaper. If the floors and finish are really badly scuffed and pitted, run the drum sander diagonally across the floor to ensure you get most of the gunk (gunk…that's a technical term!) off.

11. Switch to a finer sandpaper and sand with the grain to ensure a finer finish. Sand the edges of the floor around the walls with the orbital sander. You may have to use a sanding block to get into the corners. (You didn't think this was going to be easy, did you?)

12. To seal the floor, remove all the dust and grime on the floor with a vacuum, then a slightly damp lint-free cloth. Using a clean dry lint-free rag, apply a penetrating sealer. Make sure the sealer is compatible with the type of polyurethane you will be applying! When in doubt, ask the expert at your local home improvement store!

13. After the sealer dries, buff the sealer with a floor polisher with a buffing pad. (Visit your friends at the rental shop again! Are you on a first-name basis yet?) 

14. Clean the floor again to make sure there is no grime or dust, and then apply the polyurethane. Use a painting pad (this is easier and faster) or a brush. 

15. You should sand between coats of polyurethane with a fine grade abrasive steel wool. Always work in the direction of the grain.

16. Allow each coat to dry, (Great excuse to leave the house and go shopping!) but let the floor dry at least 24 hours after the final coat. 

There! Wasn't that worth all the hard work? Now, if we can just get rid of that disco ball on the bathroom ceiling!

About the Author:  Pamela Cole Harris is a mother, a writer and an editor with 35 years experience. Visit all-homeandgarden.com for more articles by Pamela and additional articles on creating a kid-friendly home.   

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