Keeping distressed look when refinishing wood floor

I have a 80-year-old hardwood floor in my American Bungalow and I'd like to sand and urethane it while preserving the distressed look of the floor. The wormholes, larvae trails, nicks, chips, cups, gaps, water stains...I want to keep 'em. (People are paying good money for this kind of distressed flooring these days). Rustic is what I want.
Which means I don't think it's a good idea to run a monstrous sanding machine over it several times--as every DIY article on the net advises when you Google "refinishing wood floors."
I am thinking of using a pro-quality orbital palm sander with a not-so-coarse grit and sanding enough to make sure there's no splinters or other imperfections that will rip into my bare feet. Then just urethaning the floor a couple of coats and not have to worry about sanding between each coat.
Wearing kneepads, and resting my back every half hour, I'll do one room at a time over a few weekends.
Any thoughts on:
1. My plan. 2. What grit of sandpaper I should use. 3. Water-based urethane sound good? 4. Anyone of you tried something like this before?
Thanks much!
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Wwhatever brand you want waterbased finish. Dries quickly with less odor than oil based. Flecto WB varathane label has "Our hardest finish". Plan sounds good, hope it works!
On 5 Jul 2004 11:11:59 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@excite.com (cassini) wrote:

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Cassini,
I'm not sure why you want to do your sanding with a palm sander. Check at the rental place to see if you can get 100 to 200 grit drums or pads. You will get a much smoother finish this way. Use the palm sander on the floor's edges and tight spaces. Figure on a week from start to finish per room. I'd consider staining the floors. Use more than a couple of coats of urethane, at least three. And remember that the floor must dry for several weeks to a month before heavy use.
Good luck, Dave M
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A palm sander , heee hee hee , you dont know what you are getting your self into. Do you want it greyed ? Do you want it looking new with worm holes ? Are you doing what you want or what you said "people want" You want to keep water stains ??? . Umless your decorating is Rustic or its a remodeled barn and you have 12" wide gap pine it will probably be a mistake that anyone will redo. Forget the palm sander idea.
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cassini wrote:

Using a palm sander, you should finish about the time your house is 100 years old.
If you want rustic, why do you want to sand? What's on the floor now? Shellac, probably, if it hasn't been refinished in many years. Any reason why you can't clean it and add more coats if it needs it?
If you sand, you'd be well advised to rent a pad sander. They have a platen maybe 12" X 18". Paper is available from very coarse to a screen which is about 120. The only advantage (in your case) of a small hand sander is that it will sand into gentle, broad depressions that a larger sander would bridge.
Actually, for what you want to do, something that uses a flexible abrasive would work best. I'm thinking of something like steel wool but that wouldn't leave bits of steel. There must be something like that, don't know.
-- dadiOH _____________________________
dadiOH's dandies v3.0... ...a help file of info about MP3s, recording from LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that. Get it at http://mysite.verizon.net/xico ____________________________
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Thanks for your input and tips so far. And I appreciate your concern about my wild plan to bypass the well-traveled "rent a floor and edge sander-stain-three coats of urethane" route.
But I'm still tempted to go forward foolhardily with my plan.
If I do, I'll post my progress on a Web site where you can see before and after photos and maybe get some entertainment value out of my crazy project.
Here's what I'll do: I'll test my proposed method on the floor of the bedroom closet. It's about 4x3 feet, I figure.
Before I proceed, here's some questions I still have (followed by answers to your questions):
1. This National Wood Floor Association guide for distressing wood floors advises NOT to use a floor sanderto sand by hand with a block of wood and sandpaper! I was able to print out the PDF yesterday on this, but wasn't able to link to it today.
Here's the HTML version through Google search: http://www.google.com/search?q che:_z1nbTpuN1AJ:www.nwfa.org/member/magDetail.aspx%3Fid%3D13%26itemid%3D49+wood+floor+distressed+how+to&hl=en&ie=UTF-8
I know this NWFA example isn't exactly "on point" with my situation, but my question is:
If the NWFA can recommend sanding a wood floor by hand, then why can't I sand mine LIGHTLY and carefully by hand with my trusty Porter-Cable 7336 3.7 amp variable speed Random Orbital Sander? URL: http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid#16774
2. Before the age of electricity and power sanders and respirators, how the heck did people refinish their wood floors? What tools did they use? Did it take them 100 years to refinish their floors?
Now here's your questions:
Q: A palm sander , heee hee hee , you dont know what you are getting your self into. Do you want it greyed ? Do you want it looking new with worm holes ? Are you doing what you want or what you said "people want" You want to keep water stains ??? . Umless your decorating is Rustic or its a remodeled barn and you have 12" wide gap pine it will probably be a mistake that anyone will redo. Forget the palm sander idea.
A: I'm not sure what you mean by do I want it "greyed." I want it to have a distressed look (because it is distressed) but preserve/protect it with a few coats of something or other. I don't mind if areas of wear and tear or stains create an inconsistent look to the stain. If in the course of sanding, I end up removing the stain color, I don't mind. I can live with the "natural wood" color.
Q: If you want rustic, why do you want to sand? What's on the floor now? Shellac, probably, if it hasn't been refinished in many years. Any reason why you can't clean it and add more coats if it needs it?
A: I am not sure what finish is on the floor now. I seriously doubt its any product made in the last 30 years. I believe I need to lightly sand because there are some rough spots that will give you a splinter if you walk around in your bare feet. Also, won't sanding help a finish coat "take" better? Your "clean-add more coats" idea is intriguing. Any recommendations good ways to clean the floor? Can a "clean-sand some rough spots-add more coats" approach work?
Thanks, look forward to hearing from you.
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cassini wrote:

Reasonable ___________________
Not necessarily. Two types of top coats - shellac and lacquer - will amalgamate with an undercoat of the same; i.e., the vehicle dissolves the surface of the undercoat and the old and new flow together into one.
I don't know when shellac fell out of favor but it was the preferred finish for many years. Quite possibly because it dried rapidly and finishers could apply several coats in a day. Used to be inexpensive too. Times change... :( The vehicle is alcohol, same will dissolve it if you want to test.
There is also nothing wrong with oil as a floor finish, IMO. Easy to apply, easy to maintain. _____________________

Soap and some water...TSP... _______________________

Sure. You would need to determine what is on it now so you could apply new that is compatible or a barrier coat first (shellac) if not.
-- dadiOH _____________________________
dadiOH's dandies v3.0... ...a help file of info about MP3s, recording from LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that. Get it at http://mysite.verizon.net/xico ____________________________
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Two finishes amalgemate with previous coats, lacquer and shellac. No sanding between coats is required if not runs or dust nibs. Shellac was the floor finish used for YEARS and will soften if alcohol is applied. Wet a Q-tip with alcohol and apply it in an inconspcuous spot like a corner. If the finish softens it's shellac. New coats will melt into old.
On 6 Jul 2004 13:05:16 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@excite.com (cassini) wrote:

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snipped-for-privacy@excite.com (cassini) wrote in

Floors were scraped in the old days. That technique is now used for a distressed look. It would e considerably faster than a palm sander.
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replying to cassini, Oak Park Rehabber wrote:

I have the same issue -- The floors are in pretty bad shape -- water stains and different colored finishes in different rooms -- but I don't want the floors to look brand new. Did your method work?
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