These days, refinishing a floor almost always means walking behind a large orbital sander until you’ve buffed your floor down to the bare wood. Then, you will mop on polyurethane and wait days for it to finish curing. This is a very efficient process that works for many newer floors. However, if you have nold floor, that might not be the best process. Older hardwood floors are not finished with polyurethane but are, instead, waxed or oiled. If that’s the case, and if you want to preserve the aged patina of the wood, you should consider scraping it.
Scraping The Finish
Scraping the hardwood floor is perfect for old floors for a number of reasons. For one, it will actually enhance the look of your hardwood because the scraping will not be completely uniform. Since it won’t be completely uniform, the light will hit the different places on your floor differently. That will enhance the patina of age and antiquity. Secondly, scraping will not take very much wood off the surface of your floor. Therefore, the patina will be preserved. That’s in contrast to a big orbital sander that will take off all of the imperfections as well as the stain.
How to Scrape
To scrape an old finish, you’ll need a few tools. You need mineral spirits, clean cloths, and a scraper. You can use a draw knife, a cabinet scraper, or even a putty knife. Either one will give you the control you need. The goal is to scrape up the old varnish or wax without actually scraping the wood. You’ll inevitably get some wood as you’re scraping, but try to avoid that. Work by pushing the scraper away from you so that you don’t slip and hurt yourself. Always scrape with the grain of the wood, never against it. Work in sections, methodically moving across the floor.
After a while, you will notice that the scraper is doing more sliding than scraping. That means that it’s time to get a new scraper blade. You might feel it starting to dig in instead of scraping; that’s also an indication you need a new blade.
If you’re having serious trouble getting the finish up, you can soften it with a chemical like paint thinner or mineral spirits. That should make it easier to pry up the old finish. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to vacuum or sweep away any scraps of old varnish and wood. Clean the floor, and you’re ready to refinish it.