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Refinishing Beveled Hardwood Floors

Now that millions of prefinished beveled hardwood floors have been installed in homes across the USA, most notablyVideo on this page since the early to mid 90’s, many homeowners aren’t sure what to do. Should we keep the bevels or sand them flat?

USA Made hardwood floors

It Depends. What Kind Of Bevel Is It?

Over the years four of the most common bevels include:

Micron beveled edge
Micro beveled
Eased edge
Full Bevel
Micron beveled edge
Micro beveled
Eased edge
Full Bevel

About The Differences Above

With the exception of hand scraped and distressed floors that have become more popular since the early 2000’s most will be faced with the micro and eased edge bevel format. This includes major manufacturers in the likes of Bruce and Hartco (Armstrong) where a large portion of tract home developments utilized their brands. The deeper full beveled edge lost a lot of steam when manufacturers began producing the smaller bevels.

Micron Bevels

Fortunately it’s easier to track this one. Micron bevels have been popular with Canadian manufacturers more than USA brands. Reasons can include slower and more careful milling operations or an eye towards better quality. The two USA brands mentioned often had two things in mind; cranking out large quantity with fast production. Essentially mass produced hardwoods that had flaws here and there, notably uneven vertical height differences. That in itself explains utilizing the micro and eased edge format discussed on other pages within the site.

More About Bevels

Some hardwoods will have bevels on all four sides while others may only be beveled on the side joints. The latter is more of a USA characteristic with the floor we’re refinishing here. Bevel differences can vary slightly from one manufacturer to the next as well. Where one may describe theirs as a micro bevel it may be closer to an eased edge as I determined in this case.

About This Job

This job consisted of refinishing two types of hardwoods with an eased edge floor in the dining room that connected to a kitchen with a square edged floor. Chances are great you won’t run into this situation but it made the decision simple in what to do. Sand down the beveled floor to match the square edged area.

Beveled hardwood floor flat
Square edge light colored

The Start

For any hardwood floor that requires removing a lot of deeper surface damage or bevels, a 45 degree direction is the preferred method in the first sanding sequence. The purpose of the angled sanding is two fold; removing more material and flattening the top surface of the floor. Remember I mentioned height differences above?

Sanding Grit

Professionals will differ in what sanding grit to use in starting, but going to a very coarse grit can create more time to sand out deeper scratches in the subsequent stages of sanding. Here the guys have been accustomed to starting with a 36 grit while using a better quality sanding paper in the Norton Bluefire that works well to remove more material.

Norton Bluefire 36 grit
45 degree angle start
Norton Bluefire 36 grit
45 degree angle start

By examining the next picture, the depth of the eased edge ran less than 1/8 of an inch in most areas. This was after drum sanding the floor on a 45 degree angle and running a straight pass with the grain while using the aggressive 36 grit sand paper.

Checking depth after 36 grit sanding
Checking depth after 36 grit sanding

This Floor Needs A Heavy Hand

It was obvious after the first two sequences something had to change. Increasing the drum pressure by adding weight to the (and a second new sanding belt) the machine was aggressive enough to remove most of the bevels. With two additional passes over the entire area with a finer grit progression of 60 and 80 all the bevels were removed. For edging the perimeter or along the wall areas, similar grit runs were also used.

Folks, don’t expect a rental machine to handle this heavy workload. Only high quality professional machines can get through this kind of workout with a few breathers along the way to prevent over heating.

Heavy tool box added
Bevels gone on left side
Heavy tool box added
Bevels gone on left side

Thinking Of Keeping The Bevels?

With the first three mentioned above, keeping a beveled appearance will be a struggle even for the best finishers. Reasons include the quality of the milling with the original hardwood and the sub floor condition when it was installed. Let’s explain that. With imperfections in the vertical height of the hardwood, more hardwood gets removed with higher boards; the bevel becomes smaller than you will find with other areas. As far as the original sub floor, if it wasn’t flat when they installed the hardwood the sanding equipment will ride high and low areas, “digging in” or not removing a similar amount in some low areas. The next picture illustrates this problem perfectly.

Deeper bevels remain. No consistency
Deeper bevels remain. No consistency

Incidentally! This Is Not An Aluminum Oxide Finish…BUT

Procedures would have varied had the hardwood contained an aluminum oxide finish (mainstream in the late 90’s). To this day (2017) Bruce does not use an aluminum oxide finish on most of their products. For those with other products, chances are great some form of enhanced aluminum oxide finish has been used in the manufacturing creating a different procedure than I am mentioning here.

Finished hardwood area between dining and kitchen area
Finished area between dining and kitchen area

Costs & Time Involved

Expect higher costs from better finishers or one to two dollars more per square foot for sanding out bevels like the example shown here. Be very weary of any bids that come in very low. Chances are those guys will not have the knowledge to finish the floor properly without leaving sanding marks everywhere, especially with the edger.

See The Video

Contractor: Al Havner & Sons
Specialty: Refinishing
Location: Metro Detroit, Michigan

Al Havner Al Havner & Sons
Contact: 248-549-4640

Transcript of the video

Maybe you’re wondering. Why sand the bevels out? TheVideo transcript job consists of two areas that connect and have an older square edge board profile, so the customer wanted the areas to blend or look the same. The darker gunstock colored areas are the beveled floors.

By using the illustration with a dime you get a better idea of how deep and wide the bevels are. Another issue to consider was the finish. We decided it was probably a standard Bruce prefinished strip floor that did not have any newer aluminum oxide type finishes, so the decision was made to start with a 36 grit paper on the drum sander.

In starting, the finisher works the floor on a 45 degree angle. This is also an effective method of flattening out the area as prefinished hardwoods do have some vertical height differences from one board to the next. In this case one pass is made with the drum sander then he runs back over the same area again and repeats through the entire room. The next sets of clips shows the aggressiveness of this first step with the 36 grit paper.

While using the same drum sanding paper it’s now time to cut the floor again; this time with the direction of the grain at a slower pace, which begins to remove the cross grain scratches made by the 45 degree sanding earlier.

Next it’s time for a sand paper change with a new 36 grit. Some weight is added to the front of the sander which causes it to become more aggressive taking the bevels completely out on another straight and slow pass with the grain. This next illustration with the dime again shows the considerable difference the last pass made with the new paper and stepped up aggressiveness with the drum sander showing all the bevels removed, except along the wall lines where the edger comes into play in the next step.

Also using 36 grit on the edger, the finisher applies more than usual pressure and succeeds in removing a great deal of the bevel. This is followed a second time with the same grit to remove all the bevels. The finisher also hand scrapes and sands corners and other areas the edger couldn’t reach.

The next step calls for a finer 60 grit paper on the drum sander and edger which works to remove the deeper 36 grit scratches made by the first set of sanding sequences. After trowel filling the entire floor the final sanding steps are performed which includes edging and drum sanding again. This is then followed up with a buffer and a 100 grit wire mesh screen to make the floors ready for a dark stain and a water based finish application.

So what does a procedure like this cost? Prices will vary everywhere, but a good ballpark number to go by is an additional one or two dollars a square foot over and above a standard refinishing job. This does not include aluminum oxide type finishes on the existing floor. Rates may also be higher for stain jobs.

If everything comes out right you should see this (before and after pictures).