Some strippers need to be neutralized with mineral spirits

Q imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors: I sanded my 10-yr-old oak floors this weekend. 30 hours sanding using the 10×8 pad sander. After all of that, I found that some of the grain is darker in some boards, meaning that the old varnish absorbed into that grain. The old finish is oil based.  No stain.

If I reapply oil based varathane and no stain will those darker grains show significantly? Also to refinish oak stairs treads, risers, everything, can I use varnish/paint remover, scrape and then orbital sand?

A: I have to take a poke at you since you are taking work away from me. 30 hours to do this job and you don’t have a coat of finish applied yet? I could have sanded and finished 2000 sq. ft. in that time. Is your project that large? Since you had to rent the machine and spend your time, what is 30 hours of your time worth. I guess by now you understand that this line of work is to be apprenticed? Sorry, this leaves me mystified.

To answer your question: I doubt the darker grain will show significantly when a coat of finish is applied. I had a strange oil spot on the floor I am sanding this week. It would not disappear with sanding but I was fairly certain that it would not show with a coat of finish. I was correct.

You can use the method you mentioned for the stairs. I would be interested to know, based on the hours you have spent and the materials you have used, how much you are making per hour for this job. Or put another way, if you used the wage you make at your current job, how much this job actually costs.

Follow-up Q: I know, it was bad. Only if you don’t like sanding though! I can’t measure the work I do at my house in terms of wage, my time is basically free to me. If I were to pay someone to do all the renovations I have done this summer, I could only have gutted my house and not rebuilt anything. The funny thing is that my floors were in good shape before I started, or so I thought.

Just to clarify, if I use varnish remover on the stairs and scrape, does it need to be neutralized with anything? I don’t want any residue in the grain to lift the finish after I’m all done. Anyway, your site is quite helpful and makes people like me feel better to know that people with less of a clue have done this before.

A: Some strippers need to be neutralized with mineral spirits after. Circa 1850 has a stripper that doesn’t need that done. Check out their line up at From my perspective, the one good thing that comes from a home handyman trying my job is they learn how hard I have to work to make a living.

Incidentally, if you ever need a small hand tool for sanding small areas, the Porter Cable random orbital sander does an ace job. This is one of those sanders that uses a disk with the Velcro backing. Put a 60 grit on that and see what kind of job it will do.

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