Going through rough patches to achieve great things

Our story so far: The first step in sanding hardwood floors in the church we were turning into our home required a drum sander and 24-grit sandpaper.

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24-grit sandpaper
That’s a drum sander in the background; 24-grit sandpaper nearest, and 36-grit right behind.

Have you ever seen 24-grit sandpaper? I hadn’t. I’d only used the relatively even sheets of sandpaper to smooth edges and surfaces on furniture I painted. How cute. Twenty-four-grit sandpaper is the wicked sumo wrestler of finishing materials—it looked like it had gravel on it and if you got in its way, you’d be flattened.

At this point, I used a floor edger to sand right up to the walls in the sanctuary; this step required the operator to kneel, and since I still had my natural joints, I was elected. Then someone (usually Tyler, but sometimes St. Johnny) used the orbital sander with 60-grit sandpaper going with the grain.

On ordinary wood floors, one might be finished sanding. But we didn’t have ordinary wood floors; we had 126-year-old wood floors. Over the course of a century, the floor had settled everywhere except where the beams in the basement supported the structure. This left narrow grooves in the sanctuary floor that remained untouched by the stand-up sanders. Seated on a rolling flat cart low to the floor, Tyler used a belt sander and a hand-held oscillating sander to smooth out those grooves.

Final pass was with an orbital sander and 80-grit sandpaper.

Of course, vacuuming was required after each sanding step.

And that was just the sanctuary floor. We had to do the whole thing all over again in the master suite (with maple flooring, which is much harder than pine), in the Hall of History and on the second floor. In total, we had about 2,200 square feet of hardwood to finish.

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Tomorrow: Sanding the second floor. Read about it here.

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