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Sanding a parquet floor: the basics

Sanding a parquet floor: what you need to know.
Wood is a first-rate choice for your flooring. A wooden floor adds a distinctive touch and a warm ambience to an interior. However, regular maintenance is essential to preserve its beauty. It may be necessary to sand the floor regularly and according to wear and tear to restore it to its original shine. Care should be taken, however, as not all parquet can be sanded. Only an expert parquet installer can carry out a proper renovation diagnosis. Let's take a look at the steps involved in professionally sanding a wooden floor.

Sanding a parquet floor: is it always possible?

Before tackling the subject of sanding parquet floors, it's important to remember that not all types of wooden floor are suitable for sanding.
Sanding is reserved specifically for certain types of floor, which we'll look at together:

1. Solid parquet :
Solid parquet is made up of natural wood strips of a significant thickness, generally around 2 cm. In addition to its authenticity, it is characterised by its sturdiness and durability, withstanding more than 100 years and up to 20 sanding cycles, depending on the thickness and type of wood.

2. Engineered parquet :
Engineered parquet is made up of three layers: a layer of noble wood on the surface, a layer of softwood, and a layer of plywood underneath. It is more affordable than solid parquet, but sanding is limited to a maximum of about 6 times, because it is thinner.

It is essential to note that sanding removes some of the top layer of a parquet floor. Excessive or repeated sanding can cause irreparable damage to a floor, which is why it's best to leave it to an experienced craftsman.
For engineered parquet, sanding should be exceptional and carried out with care. It is advisable to check the initial thickness of the noble wood layer to avoid excessive removal.

Is it possible to sand a laminate floor?

The major industrial development of recent decades has been laminate flooring, which has made wood flooring accessible to everyone.
Laminate flooring can cost up to six times less than solid parquet. It is actually made from composite materials such as PVC, which makes it different from wood and makes it unsuitable for sanding without risk of damage.
It is also not advisable to sand vinyl or other imitation wood flooring, as only natural wood floors can be sanded.
Laminate flooring can, however, be renovated by sealing, but without the need for too much prior sanding. A light sanding with a very fine grain allows a coat of varnish to be applied without the risk of marking past marks or irregularities.

How often should a parquet floor be sanded?

The frequency with which a parquet floor needs to be sanded is often determined by the condition of the floor, but as a general rule, we recommend sanding every five years or so.

There are certain signs that sanding is necessary:

- A floor that turns black when you wipe it with a wet mop, indicating inadequate protection by the sealant.

- Persistent marks that don't come off.

- A large part of the floor looks stripped.

- Scratches that can no longer be concealed by simple waxing/oiling.

In addition, sanding may be necessary when renovating an old house with old floors that look worn. Note that if you've replaced a few boards during the renovation, sanding is essential to even out the level of the floor. It is also essential to harmonise the colour.

The main stages

Here are the steps to follow when sanding a parquet floor, from preparing the surface to sealing the finish, including choosing the right tools:

Preparing the surface: Before you start sanding your parquet, make sure you move all the furniture to allow your craftsman to work in optimum conditions.
Take this opportunity to locate and request the replacement of any damaged boards before sanding. Make sure there are no nails sticking out, as this could damage the sander. Don't underestimate the risk of accidents.

Important tip: make sure you work in daylight for better visibility, open the windows and make sure that anyone near the site wears protective equipment such as a mask, goggles and suitable footwear throughout the work.

What tools do I need to sand a parquet floor?

When sanding a parquet floor, the choice of equipment is essential. Here's what your craftsman will need:

1. Sander: A parquet sander is more suitable and easier to handle than a conventional sander, which isn't very powerful or robust. Parquet sanders can be belt or eccentric sanders:

   - A belt sander, like the Ouragan, moves back and forth with great regularity to follow the wood strips. This is the sander of choice for first-time floorers.

   - A multi-disc sander, like the 4D monobrush, works in a circular pattern, generally offering more power and greater efficiency. It is preferred by younger craftsmen because of its versatility.

2. Sanding paper: The choice of sanding paper is crucial. The grits vary from fine to coarse, with a higher index indicating finer paper.

   - Fine 120 grit sandpaper is ideal for finishing to eliminate sanding marks.
   - To strip wood thoroughly, a craftsman starts with a coarse 40 or 60 grit sandpaper, then moves on to 120 grit for the finish.

There are no rules, however, because it all depends on the parquet and the abrasives, which come in different materials (silicon carbide, ceramic, zirconium). Every craftsman has his own habits.

For areas that are difficult to access, such as corners, a craftsman will use an edging machine with longer or shorter noses depending on accessibility.

How to sand a parquet floor

The way you sand a parquet floor depends on the layout of the boards:

- Herringbone parquet (laid at right angles): sand diagonally to obtain an even result across all the boards.

- Strip parquet (parallel strips): sand in the direction of the wood grain for a uniform result.

- Mosaic parquet (checkerboard with square panels): sand in the direction of the light to maintain a harmonious appearance.

By following these methods, which are adapted to the layout of your parquet, you'll achieve optimal, aesthetically pleasing sanding results.


Beginner's mistakes to avoid

Here are a few recommendations to help you avoid common sanding mistakes made by beginners or non-professionals:

- Avoid staying in one place for too long when sanding, as this can accentuate defects and irregularities such as indentations or waves.

- For optimum results, change your abrasives as soon as you notice a reduction in sanding efficiency.

- Sand regularly in the direction of the floorboards or in the direction of the light for an even, attractive finish.

- After sanding, parquet becomes very sensitive to dirt. Take all the necessary precautions to avoid stains and shoe marks in order to maintain the quality of the work carried out.

Sanding machines available from DIY shops or hire companies do not provide the same quality of work as those used by professionals, who have more powerful machines that are perfectly mastered. The more you sand, the more wear and tear you put on the floor, not to mention the number of abrasives you use. In the end, the savings in time and quality are incomparable.


What finish should I choose?

Once the varnish has been sanded, make sure the floor is thoroughly cleaned by first vacuuming it and then damp mopping it.

There are three main options for finishing a freshly sanded floor:

1. Sealing: a sealed parquet floor requires less maintenance. A sealing varnish is used to give your floor a shine and lasting protection. A sealed floor can be cleaned with a slightly damp cloth. Be sure to use suitable products to avoid dulling the varnish.

2. Waxing: You have the option of waxing your floor to nourish and protect it. Waxing should be applied once or twice a month depending on how the floor is used. Waxes can be neutral or tinted. Maintenance is more tedious but remains the choice of those who love old-fashioned parquet floors.

3. Oiling: Choosing to oil a floor rather than seal or wax it depends on a number of factors, such as aesthetics, durability and maintenance. Here are a few things to consider: Oil penetrates deep into the wood fibres until they are saturated, offering protection against moisture and dust. What's more, it offers an infinite range of decorative choices. Regular maintenance of oiled parquet is very simple, requiring only light care as early as one year after installation.


In conclusion

Sanding a parquet floor gives a clean, smooth, flat surface to old or damaged parquet, floors and new or old staircases by removing stains and old finishes (sealers, oils, waxes, paints, etc.). The wood is left bare, uniform and ready to receive the chosen finish. This stage is a delicate operation if you want to preserve your parquet floor for a long time. It requires a great deal of attention, because careful sanding guarantees the success of the final applications, the exceptional restoration of the grain and the optimum rendering of the appearance of your finish.

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