Before I commit to replacing my worn and damaged hardwood floors, I’ve decided I should explore the less extreme (and less costly) option of repairing or refinishing it, so I called my friends at the World Floor Covering Association to see if they could offer some expert advice. The WFCA is a font of flooring wisdom and can provide you with information on just about anything you’d ever want to know about all kinds of flooring materials. They referred me to Len Daubler, the director of technical services for Anderson Hardwood Floors, a division of Shaw Industries. Len used to run his own flooring company, and gave me some advice on determining whether my floor was reparable or not.

I told him I was thinking of painting or restaining and refinishing the floor, but I wasn’t sure if doing so would be possible, since the flooring material is actually an engineered wood with a thin 1/8 inch layer of wood atop a composite substrate. It’s also glued down to a concrete subfloor, rather than nailed to a raised subfloor. “That’s pretty thin but it is possible to sand this kind of flooring,” he told me. “But when a floor is glued down you run the risk of it coming up when you sand.” He also explained that there’s a process known as screening in which the floor surface is lightly abraded with a very fine grit sandpaper, powdering the finish and allowing the new coat of paint or stain and finish to bond with the wood. “That would be best and cheapest way to remedy your floor,” he told me.

If we were to paint the floor, he recommended using an oil-based paint, like the ones used for gym floors, for durability. Unfortunately, I’m keen on avoiding oil paint, since it off-gasses volatile organic compounds, those nasty toxic fumes that contaminate the air. So if I follow through with this approach, I’ll be staining and finishing with one of the newer low- or no-VOC products on the market. I’ve referenced several brands in my book Green Living By Design (Filipacchi Publishing). Tomorrow I’ll research floor repair firms in the area to see if I can get a first-hand evaluation on the possibility following through on this approach.

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