Screening Floors

Screens are clog-resistant sanding disks. Screening removes the floor finish without cutting into the wood itself, so you should only screen a polyurethane finish, a nonpenetrating plastic coating that sits on top of the floor. But, you can't screen a polyurethane floor that has been waxed. And you can only screen when the finish is worn, scratched or dull but the wood beneath is not stained or damaged. Before you start. Remove everything from the room you can—especially items that collect dust, such as furniture, carpets and paintings. Seal off all doorways with plastic sheeting and masking tape, seal off duct registers with plastic and tape around all cabinet doors. Weather permitting, open the windows and place a fan in one to blow dust out. With or without a fan in place, wear a respirator. Temporarily remove the quarter-round or base-shoe molding along the baseboard and countersink any flooring nails that stick up. Screening pointers. Screening is done with a 16-inch floor polisher, which works like a giant oscillating sander. It won't take off on you like a drum sander and doesn't require a lot of strength. Renting one costs around $25 per day. The 60- to 120-grit disks used with this unit cost $6 to $10 each. The weight of the floor polisher and a synthetic-wool pad hold the screen in place. Before attaching the screen, take the edge off it with 100-grit sandpaper loaded onto a palm sander. This knocks down any high spots on the disk that can dig too deeply into the finish when the polisher first starts up. You'll be screening most of the floor with the floor polisher and screens. To be thorough, use four screening grits, from rough to smooth (60-, 80-, 100- and 120-grit). For corners and edges, use a palm sander or sanding pad fitted with sandpaper. Once you have completely finished, sweep down walls and vacuum dust from all surfaces. Then pick up remaining floor dust with a tack cloth, which is a 4-sq.-ft. treated cheesecloth ($2). Bag the sawdust and leave it outside, away from anything flammable (sawdust can spontaneously combust). If you can't find the time to do the work yourself or don't want to be around that much dust, hire a professional floor refinisher. This will cost 90 cents to $1.50 per square foot, depending on how much screening needs to be done and whether the floor needs one or two coats of finish.

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