Q. Jen asks: I have an oak hardwood floor that is covered with carpet and pad. I want to remove the carpet and pad and clean and finish the oak floor. Any advice?
A. "Buried treasure" -- that's how we refer to an oak floor that has been covered with wall-to-wall carpet. Hardwood floors were standard equipment in homes until plywood and cost-conscious construction made its way onto the scene. Unearthing an old wood floor can add significantly to the appearance and value of your home. Although a carpet and pad can offer some level of protection, the nails used to hold the tack strip at the perimeter and staples used to attach the carpet could mar an otherwise pristine finish.
Carefully remove the carpet and pad. If the pad is attached with staples, carefully remove them using pliers. Use equal caution to remove the tack strip using a pry bar and a small hammer. Be sure to place a small shim shingle or other protection between the pry bar and the floor.
With the carpet and pad out of the way, thoroughly vacuum the floor and then sponge-mop a small section at a time using a cleaning solution such as Spic and Span. Remember, wood and water don't mix, so be sure to go easy with the water. Once clean, use a soft white terrycloth dampened with mineral spirits to test if the finish consists of wax or a hard finish such as polyurethane. If the surface appears dull after wiping a small section with mineral spirits, it is waxed. If the finish appears to be revitalized, the finish likely is polyurethane.
If your test reveals that the floor is waxed, apply a new coat of either liquid buffing or paste wax. The wax should fill in the nail and staple holes and result in a smooth and uniform finish. If, on the other hand, the floor has a polyurethane finish, buff the surface with a 3M maroon buffing pad and apply one or more coats or new polyurethane -- making sure to buff between coats. A 10-inch flat pad works best when applying finish.
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