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My Maple Mistake

Lately, it’s felt like we’ve fallen off the DIY wagon.  It’s been at least a month since I painted anything, our house has been clean…like no dust kind of clean, and it hasn’t stunk like polyurethane.  It’s weird.  And oddly doesn’t feel like home without those things.  But we’re back in the proverbial saddle and started refinishing the hall floor which will later lead into refinishing the living room floor.  Here’s why the floors need refinishing:

They’re in rough shape.  We’re talking finish completely worn off from years living underneath nasty-ass carpeting and general neglect.  They needed refinishing…desperate refinishing.  We do have plans of replacing all the flooring on the first floor with wide pine, but since that’s a long way down the road, we needed to do something about our current floor situation.  So late on Friday afternoon, after we called it quits from our day jobs, Colby and I buckled down in the hall for an evening of floor sanding.  Prepping the floor started with removing all the art from the ski map art gallery so it wouldn’t get all dirty.

We also removed the heating vent, then taped plastic over the doorways to keep the living room and the dining room from getting ridiculously dusty.

I even put my old college text books to good use as anchors for the plastic sheeting…oh…and Harry Potter too.

And while I was busy taping off the plastic, Colby was busy going over the hallway with a fine tooth comb vacuum nozzle (it’s flat and wide and easily catches on nails) to find any remaining nails or staples in the floor from when we removed the carpeting way back when.  Note to any future floor refinishers…remove all the nails!  They can do damage to your sanders!

After the floor was all cleaned up and ready for sanding, we closed ourselves into the hallway and started sanding.

And of course we suited up with a pair of 3M 8210 N95 particulate respirators.

Since my last camera was damaged due to extensive amounts of dust in the lens from taking sanding shots, I vowed not to take my new camera anywhere near severe dust situations.  Thus, no in progress sanding pictures for you.  But I do have an after the dust settles picture.

So our approach to sanding and refinishing the floor is a bit on the unconventional side.  We used a pair of Dewalt orbital sanders and some fine grit sanding discs.  Normal people rent a floor sander.  Since we’re cheapos, were only sanding a small space, had a floor with most of the finish already removed, owned a pair of sanders and many sanding discs, we chose to just use what we had.  We tried this before when we refinished the parlor floor and loved the results so we decided to do it again.  It works for us but it may not work for everyone.  After less than an hour of sanding, we were happy with the results so we let the dust settle, cleaned up and prepped the floor for staining.

This is where things got a little hairy.  You see…staining is like waxing in the Karate Kid movie…stain on, stain off.  You apply the stain, let it sit for a minute or two, and then wipe any excess off.  When applying this process to our floor, almost all of the stain wiped up.  None of the stain soaked in.  Arrrrggggghhhhh!  WTF mate!  This is when Colby started freaking out about the floor possibly being Maple.  After some quick Googling we learned that Maple is one of the hardest, if not THE hardest wood to stain.  Stain doesn’t take, it ends up being splotchy, and the results are never good.  Uh-oh.  This kind of put a damper on our consistent, dark floor theme for the first floor.  Back to Google to see if there was a way to do it.  That’s where I learned about several 12+ step processes to staining a Maple floor.  I didn’t really want to spend months working on this floor so I made an executive decision.  Let’s just wing it and see how the thing turns out.  We opted for layering on a decent amount of stain in a small section of the hall and then let it sit overnight to soak in.  After letting the stain set for about 16 hours, we came back to find a nice, consistent dark color.  Score!  The floor was still a little sticky but it seemed dry enough to poly.  So out came our favorite, Varathane floor poly.

The first coat of floor poly went on a little rough.  It tended to pool and bead in a couple of areas, mostly spots where the floor was still a little tacky from the stain.  Five coats of poly and we were very happy with the beautiful, dark wood floor boards we were left with.

So in the above pic you see how there is quite a divide in color between the farthest boards and the closest boards?  Well, the boards closer to the wall were the trial area of the floor.  The next four, lighter colored boards were the second round of staining/polying.  To keep our hallway still walkable/usable we’ve been working in small sections.  Finish one section, let it dry until it’s walkable, then move to the next section.  It makes for a slow process but it keeps our sanity.  Anyway, the four boards closer to us is the result of the second round of floor staining/polying.  You see how much lighter these boards are than the first round?  That’s Maple for you!  It’s inconsistent at best!  Depending on how the whole floor refinishing process ends up, I may end up sanding a few of those boards and restaining to try for a richer tone.  But who knows.  It may look fine once the whole floor is done.  So we’re a few square feet down in this little floor refinishing project with many more to go.

I originally thought this project could have been completed this weekend but the Maple staining debacle is slowing the process down considerable.  A 16+ hour stain drying period is really throwing a wrench in my floor refinishing schedule.  I’m hoping to have it all done and ready for a big reveal on Thursday but no promises.  We’ll see how far I get!

Pssst…I added a few rooms to the house tour page this weekend including the parlor, living room, and porch.  Go check them out!


    1. Totally worth it! The 24+ hour dry time is killing me but patience prevails! Thanks so much for the sweet comment!!!!!

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Angie's Roost Campbell Family in front of home in 2021

Hi there! We're the Campbells. We traded in Maine city living for the country life in Vermont. You'll find us here fixing up a circa 1781 historic home, growing our own food, and filling this home with the memories and things that matter. Read more about us...

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