SandFree FAQs

Questions About How The Process Works+

Q. What does SandFree do?

A) SandFree is a chemical wash and abrasive process to prepare the existing finish to receive a bonding coat to which the final coat of urethane can adhere. You will have the option of selecting the Base Grade Finish – which is an air-dried urethane or the Premium Finish used on Brunswick’s bowling alleys which is a catalyzed water-based urethane. With both finishes, we will perform Phases 1-4. The purpose of Phases 1-3 is not to remove the existing finish, but to soften and clean the surface to prepare it to receive a new finish. The existing finish may come up, due to the abrasive pads, if it does not have a good bond to the wood, but the purpose is not to remove the existing finish, and removing the finish is not necessary.

Q) Can I get an idea of how my floor will look?

A) Yes. Wet a paper towel. Rub it on the worst areas of the floors – gray, black, faded. For 20 seconds, before the water begins to dry, you will get an idea of how the gloss finish will look. This is an excellent predictor if you are refinishing a natural floor. If the floor has been stained, you will probably need to apply ColorMagiQ. ColorMagiQ will improve the color differences in the floor. But, this improvement won’t be visible when you do the water test – obviously because the color issues of the scratch haven’t been resolved.

Q) Will it fill holes in the floor?

A) No and Yes. It will fill the holes left from the nails in the tackless strip from a previous carpet installation. It will fill the staple holes. It will not fill bevels between boards or major gouges in the wood from previous problems.

Q) Will it get rid of scratches?

A) Maybe. SandFree is focused at the existing finish. If the scratches are in the finish, they will be removed. If the scratches are in the wood, they will not be removed. SandFree only works on the finish, not on the wood itself. We have developed a Recoloring System – ColorMagiQ – which is a method to stain not only the scratches, but to enhance the color of the existing floor, and to even change the color to something as exotic as hunter green, cherry red, or any color you may desire. You also may ask for SurfaceMagiQ which will fill gouges in the floor. Our experience is that we can recolor the scratches, but there will still be a dent in the floor.

Q) Will it remove paint?

A) Phase 1 will loosen the paint, but it is the mechanic who will use different chemicals to remove the paint. It will not remove paint on a gym floor. It has removed oversprayed paint. Your technician will have special chemicals on his truck to remove the paint as quickly as possible.

Q) How durable is it?

A) This is a question of appearance retention. We feel the base grade finish will have a satisfactory appearance for 1-2 years. We feel the premium finish will last 6-8 years. You may still scratch the surface, but considering the whole floor, we are confident you will experience satisfactory appearance retention for the time frame we recommend. You are getting a very expensive, very durable finish designed for the special needs of bowling alleys, but you can choose a satin, semi-gloss, or gloss finish.

Q) What are the temperature requirements?

A) It depends on what we are doing. The men would like a reasonable amount of heat when we are running the Sand-Boni, certainly above 50 degrees, although we have done buildings, in the winter, with only temporary heat. We used to think we needed temperatures above 65 to apply urethane, but we’ve found that not to be true. In fact, we’d prefer the room to be in the 50s, although that doesn’t happen often. We’ve done office buildings with less than 50 degrees of heat, and the Premium Urethane “flowed” beautifully, dried normally, and formed a beautiful finish. What we can’t work around is too much heat. The problem with too much heat is that both finishes – the Base Grade and The Premium – dry too quickly. This premature solidification traps air bubbles that naturally should rise to the surface before the hardening takes effect.

Q) How can I find out more about the process?

This website will give you a complete history of the work completed, and also let you know about jobs in process. There are pictures showing paint removal, the floors after Phase 1, 2, and 3, the ColorMagiQ System, floor repair – just about everything we do.

Q) Will it work on engineered wood?

A) Absolutely. In fact, we feel SandFree is the only method that can recolor and refinish an engineered floor offering multiple finishes and the ability to change the color. Because the wear layer is so thin, you can’t afford to sand it. Because we only affect the layer above the wood, this is perfect! If you maintain the finish you won’t wear out the wood.

Q) Can you repair localized damage?

A) Yes. We have replaced boards, hand-scraped boards, sanded boards, stained the affected areas, filled gouges with SurfaceMagiQ, and then performed a SandFree process on the whole floor. If you don’t expect a perfect match of new wood to old wood, it works beautifully. Opting for the ColorMagiQ system increases our ability to repair localized, damaged wood.

Q) How do you deal with stair treads and risers?

A) We do stair treads and risers by hand.

Q) What is curing?

A) Curing is associated with the Premium Urethane finish and is the hardening of the urethane caused by a chemical reaction when we combine the “catalyst” with the urethane. It hardens from the top down. Therefore, the urethane may feel dry, but it isn’t hard. As the hardening continues downward, the urethane is curing. The urethane is more than 50% cured in 6 hours, 90% cured in 24 hours. 100% curing occurs in 48 hours. The Base Grade finish dries in less than 30 minutes, because it is air-dried.

Q) Do you do gyms?

A) Yes. Traditionally gyms are refinished each year by “screening” the floor and applying a coat of oil-based urethane. That is a 2 phase process. The problem with “screening” is that it doesn’t clean the floor – you are sealing in the dirt. We have pictures of the difference this can make. In addition to darkening the floor after each application, the dirt eventually causes the urethane to chip forcing a resanding. Ours is a 5 phase process – the first 3 phases are used to soften the finish and prepare the floor. We have data that will prove SandFree┬« will reduce the long-term cost of maintenance may make it possible to not have to sand the floor after 10 years. Additionally, the gym floor is left in pristine condition, with little if any darkening, restoring the “grip” to reduce slips and falls. We only use the Premium Urethane on gym floors or other commercial spaces.

Q) Why is it that your stripping process doesn’t eliminate the original finish? Wouldn’t it be easier to start the refinish with raw wood?

A) There is no stripping process. The first phase conditions and softens the existing finish and makes it ready to accept the bonding coat. We don’t need to remove the finish. We need to prepare it to receive another coat of finish. Any finish that is present after Phases 1-3 has a good bond to the floor and is providing protection for the floor. We add to that protection. There isn’t any reason to remove all of the finish.

Q) Can you plug into the wall?

A) The SandFree machines plug into the wall – they use 110 power. If we are sanding your floor, 2 of the sanders plug into the wall, but the large drum sander needs 220v current. We also have a smaller drum sander that will use 110 power. Our men will ask to use your circuit box where they can clip directly into power from the electric company. If, for some reason, that is a problem, they can use your dryer connection. Using the dryer connection isn’t our preference, because sometimes the electricity at that point is corrupted and the machine won’t get a full 220v.

Q) Do you guarantee against certain negative appearances which might pop up later, like clouding, cracking, or peeling?

A) We don’t guarantee against clouding – but clouding is generally a condition of maintenance. Cracking and peeling is guaranteed. If there is any cracking and peeling, we will credit you for the SandFree expense and charge you to sand the floor. The sanding charge is normally twice the SandFree charge.

Q) Should I install new quarter round?

A) If we are taking up carpet and pad, probably the existing quarter round has already been taken up. In this case you should plan on having us install new quarter round.

Q) When can I paint the new quarter round?

A) As long as you don’t use painter’s tape or any other type of tape, you can paint the quarter round in 72 hours. If you are using any kind of tape, DON’T adhere the tape to the floor. It would be much better if you didn’t use any tape at all.

Questions About Color+

Q) Will it get rid of pet stains?

A) Probably not. If the stains are in the finish, yes, but more likely the stain is in the wood and will not come out. It may, or may not be able to be sanded out, depending on the thickness of the wood, and the depth of the stain. There are other options to deal with pet stains. We can replace a board to resolve the problem. If you sand your floor, before finish is applied, it may appear that the stain has been removed. If you use a natural stain, the likelihood that a stain will reappear is less. If you use a darker stain, because the acid of the pet stain may have chemically altered the wood, the affected wood will receive stain differently than the unaffected wood, and the stain may reappear. Your best chance for success is to replace the piece of wood, even if you are sanding the floor.

Or, you can use the ColorMagiQ System. This is available with both the Base Grade and the Premium Finish. Essentially, we try to darken the entire floor so the stains are not as obvious. With the Base Grade finish, the ColorMagiQ System is more opague. The Premium Finish still reveals the grain of the wood.

Q) Does it change the color of the floors? / How will my traffic areas look?

A) Normally, before the wood wear layer is damaged, it will look gray. The gray color is dirt and will be removed. But, you may be left with a different wood color because the top layer of the worn area is different that the top layer of the unworn area.. This is especially obvious if the wood has been stained, or pre-finished. If the wood is natural, the results will be much better. Do the wet paper towel test and see if the results will be satisfactory for you. If you have requested the ColorMagiQ System, the technician will work to recolor the damaged areas. This may involve one treatment of the damaged areas, and then an enhancement of the whole floor color.

Q) Will the gray areas in front of my sink be eliminated?

A) These gray areas are caused by the deterioration of the finish, and possibly the wood, which then permits dirt to build up and penetrate the wood. We get the dirt out, but the gray areas may become darker brown than the rest of the floor. If it is water damaged, we may be able to ColorMagiQ the individual boards. The ColorMagiQ is an extra charge, but usually well worth the effort.

Q) There are black spots in front of my sink. Will they come out?

A) Probably not. These are most likely caused by water and there is resultant wood damage. Do the wet paper towel test and see if the result will be satisfactory. We can ColorMagiQ the area to improve it.

Q) Is SandFree able to change the color at all?

A) SandFree, alone, removes the dirt on the floor. This may lighten the color of the floor. Without adding stain to the urethane, this is the only, very slight, color change that may occur. ColorMagiQ changes the color of the floor – either to enhance the existing color, or to change the color entirely. We prefer to go from light to dark. Going from dark to light only lightens the floor by approximately 15%.

Q) The grain is black. Will this come out?

A) Take a wet paper towel. Rub it on the grain. If the towel becomes dirty and the grain lightens, SandFree will improve on the condition. If there is no change, the color of the grain has changed and will not be changed by SandFree. We’ve seen this in rare instances in Bruce pre-finished floors from 8-10 years ago. Possibly a mold was entrapped by the finish, and degraded to erode the grain and change the color to black. We can use ColorMagiQ to lighten all of the tones of the floor. We’ve added butterscotch to a pine floor stained provincial, and it looked like South American tiger wood.

Q) Can I change the color?

A) Yes. ColorMagiQ can change the color of your floors. The results are the best when going from a light floor to a dark floor. You can apply ColorMagiQ in layers. Each layer will intensify the color but also reduce the amount of grain that shows through. This is most evident after the third or fourth coat of color. We don’t recommend more than four coats of ColorMagiQ.

Questions about Existing Finishes+

Q) I think I have nice wood under my carpet, what can I do?

A) We’ve been very pleased to find out that protecting the wood underneath, is one of the great qualities of carpet. In our area, we’ve been blessed with really good wood that was installed from the thirties through the seventies. The wall-to-wall carpet has protected it beautifully. We’ve found that when we take up the carpet, we can, with only a little extra work, fill the nail holes from the tackless strips and repair isolated boards. So, the first step is to schedule us to take-up the carpet and pad. We can determine the condition of the wood, and see if a SandFree process will work. Most of the time it does. We’ll then schedule the SandFree process in 2 or 3 weeks, and you’ll have great looking floors.

Q) I have been waxing my floor. Can you SandFree this floor?

A) Yes! Over the past years, we’ve figured out how to remove wax. We do a number of apartment buildings in the Philadelphia area that have been waxed for decades. We’ve developed a Phase 0 – which treats the floor and removes the wax. Then we do the rest of the 5 Phase process. Wax is not only applied as wax, but is also available in any of the quick polish products. It is most helpful if you can tell us what, if anything, you’ve been putting on your floor.

Q) I understand the floors are not completely stripped of the existing finish – wouldn’t this lead to a bit of unevenness if some of the original finish comes off and some doesn’t?

A) We haven’t had a problem with unevenness. The abrasion of the pads in Phases 1-3 has a smoothing action – something like wet sanding. Any unevenness is taken care of by the filling nature of Phase 4 and Phase 5 of the Premium Finish process, or by extra coats of the Base Grade Finish process.

Q) I have used an acrylic polymer. Can I SandFree over this finish?

A) Yes. We can dissolve the acrylic polymer (new in 2013). This product – Glo B’ Gone – has been used in residential areas and even at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Removing the acrylic polymer does a lot for the appearance of the floor because normally the polish has sealed in more dirt, and pet hair. As we work through layer after layer, that dirt and pet hair is being removed also.

Q) Should I use an acrylic polymer on my floor?

A) No. Acrylic polymers were designed for vinyl tile. They need to be recoated every 6 months. In addition, these polishes are very susceptible to damage from both water and alcohol. Urethane is a hard finish – resistant to all spills. Additionally, urethane reveals the beauty of the wood more clearly and protects the floor for twice as long as the acrylic polymer. Acrylic finishes don’t even offer a much lower price point as inexpensive, air-dried, urethanes are now available. Simply put, we can dissolve acrylic polymers but we can’t dissolve urethane finishes because they are hard.

Q) What is Orange Glo?

A) As I understand it, Orange Glo is an inexpensive acrylic polymer polish. Other acrylic polymers include Mop N’ Glo and shoe polish. The shine is short term – 4-6 months until it needs to be recoated. If you are using Orange Glo, we can help you get it off of your floor.

Q) Do you remove Orange Glo when you SandFree?

A) Yes. Glo B’ Gone will remove Orange Glo, Mop N’ Glo, and the other acrylic polymer polishes now being applied by some franchises.

Q) I have gaps between the boards. Will SandFree fill these gaps?

A) No.

Q) Can you SandFree over varnish? shellack?

A) Yes and yes.

Q) My finish is chipping. What will happen during SandFree?

A) The abrasive pads may remove more of the finish, but if the chipping continues after Phase 3, you should think about sanding your floor. If the existing finish appears chipped, but the chipping has stopped, you should consider getting a 2nd coat of our Premium Urethane to fill the depressions.

Q) My existing finish is peeling. What should I do?

A) Peeling is worse than chipping. When a finish is chipping, there is some problem with the bond to the floor. When a finish is peeling, there is no bond to the floor. If after Phase 3, there is still finish left on the floor, then the floor should be sanded.

Questions about New Finishes+

Q) Isn’t oil-based urethane better than water-based urethane?

A) For a long time oil-based urethane was considered better than water-based urethane, but that was a long time ago. Especially over the past 5 years the water-based urethane manufacturers have improved their products – especially those who have introduced the catalyzed products. We feel that the water-based product that we use is much better than the available oil-based products – harder, longer lasting, and more clear. It is used by Brunswick on their bowling alleys. Also, it costs 8 times more than oil based urethanes. You have to know that you’re paying for something. Additionally, as the government began to regulate the VOC content of products, it significantly reduced the quality of the oil-based urethanes. My personal opinion is that the government will force oil-based urethanes out of existence. Oil based urethanes are already outlawed in California and New York.

Q) What finishes and sheens are available?

A) We have 2 finishes – Extender and our Premium Grade Urethane. The Extender comes in 1 sheen – Semi-Gloss. The Premium Urethane comes in 4 sheens. High gloss – looks like a bowling alley. Used in heavy duty commercial spaces – like gyms. Semi-gloss – has a lot of sheen but doesn’t look like glass. Can be used commercially or residentially. Satin – very little bit of sheen, but creates a beautiful, mellow floor tone. Most popular of the finishes.. = Best for hiding dog scratches. Adds a nice patina to the wood. Finally – Absolute matte – no sheen. Doesn’t look like there is any finish on the wood. We use this in museums, only. We most frequently use Extender to get houses ready for sale. It is worth the small increase in price to get the Premium Grade Urethane.

Q) If I have dogs and children, which sheen – satin or gloss – is best?

A) I feel, you should use the Premium Finish with a satin sheen. Because Gloss is more reflective than Satin, Gloss shows more dog nail scratches.

Q) Which sheen should I use?

A) The oldest, most abused wood looks the best with gloss. Due to the absorption of the wood, the sheen comes out looking like semi-gloss. For floors that have been well kept and maintained, I think satin looks the best. Satin is our most popular sheen.

Questions About Pricing+

Q) How can a sanding price be less than or equal to a SandFree price?

A) It can’t. It is impossible for a sanding price to compare to a SandFree price because of the difference in the cost of labor. Sanding is labor intensive. SandFree is labor efficient. To properly sand a floor, there have to be 3 passes with a drum sander, 3 passes with an edger, and 1 passes with a buffer. If they are making 1 pass with each machine, your floor won’t look good.

If the pricing is close, you need to find out what the hidden charges may be. Are they moving the furniture out of the room? Are they moving it back into the room when they are done? Are they using water-based products? Will there be odors? Are the products environmentally friendly? Have they asked you to get a truck to store your furniture? Is there an extra charge for the steps? The landings? Access charges? Trip charges? Minimum charges? Have they quoted time and material prices? Have they given you maximums for the time and material work? If the prices are close, there are charges that are going to be coming later. You need to protect yourself and make sure that you have maximum amounts on any labor that is open ended.

Q) Is it really 1/2 the cost of sanding?

A) Yes if you use the Premium Finish. Regardless of which finish you select, we are always less than sanding. The only time sanders are close to us in price is when they cut down on the number of sanding passes they will make on your floor. Sanders normally offer oil based products to cut their costs. But using oil based products eliminates many of the benefits of our system. The odor is extreme. The drying times are not hours- they are days. And, I am of the conviction that the catalyzed water based products perform better in the long term. Our experience has been excellent.

Questions About Scratches+

Q) Will it get rid of scratches?

A) Maybe. SandFree is focused at the existing finish. If the scratches are in the finish, they will be removed. If the scratches are in the wood, they will not be removed. SandFree only works on the finish, not on the wood itself. If the scratches are a different color than the rest of the floor, you can opt for the ColorMagiQ Service, which beautifully resolves the scratch color issue.

Q) Do I have to sand the floor if I just want to take care of a few scratches in the wood?

A) No. You have options. You can get the ColorMagiQ Service which will recolor the scratches and enhance the color of the rest of the floor or you can do a little work yourself. Some of our customers have gotten very acceptable results by going to the local hardware store, and getting a stain that most closely matches the wood. They then apply this, as carefully as possible, on the scratch. Because the scratch is opened, raw wood, the stain will adhere. If they get stain on the areas surrounding the scratch, normally the stain comes off during the SandFree process in the areas where it was put on top of urethane, as opposed to the raw wood. The end result has worked well, and it saved the cost of our sending a technician out. One note – this must be done 3 days before we do the SandFree. The stain is oil-based, and because we are using water-based products, the stain must be completely dry or the gas bubbles from the off-gassing will form under the urethane.

Q) How can I tell how the scratches will look?

A) Wet a paper towel. Rub it on the scratch for about 5 seconds. Stand up and look at the scratch. With no other work, this is approximately how the gloss finish will look.

Q) Is there a way to improve on the scratches?

A) If you’ve done the wet towel test and the scratch appears to be a different color than the rest of the wood, your best option is to get the ColorMagiQ Service. If you want to do the work yourself, you can get a matching stain and wipe it on the scratch 3 days before the floor is to be SandFree’d. By changing the color of the scratch, very acceptable results have occurred.

Q) What is the difference between a gouge and a scratch?

A) A gouge is much deeper than a scratch. With SandFree we have a chance of completely resolving a scratch, but we can’t always resolve the dent caused by a gouge. In some cases we can use a stainable putty which will be successful. You’ll need to check with your SandFree representative.

Questions About Sanding vs. SandFree+

Q) What are the benefits of sanding?

A) When you sand a floor, you get a new layer of wood, and unless the damage to the wood was too severe, you also sand out the imperfections. What you lose by sanding, is between 1/32 and 1/16 inch of wood thereby reducing the lifespan of your floor.

Q) Is there dustless sanding?

A) No. Dustless sanding is promoted by a company that makes large vacuums that are installed in trucks. They reduce the dust, but it is not dustless.

Q) Other than the lack of fumes, dust, and inconvenience, are there other advantages to your system over refinishing in terms of durability or appearance?

A) An unappreciated advantage is that, if there is an existing finish, you end up with more finish – because we don’t remove it, we prepare it to receive another coat – and you haven’t lost 10 years of wear on the wood by sanding away 1/16th of an inch of the wear layer. We refinish the Philadelphia Art Museum and the local restaurants less frequently now because the floors are so well protected.

Q) How much wood is removed by sanding?

A) If the sander isn’t removing gouges, stains, or other imperfections that require deeper sanding, he will, if he is very good, take off 1/32″. If he isn’t good, he may take off 1/8″.

Q) The floor in the kitchen appears to be stick-on vinyl tile. I do not know if there is wood floor under the tile. In the event that there is wood underneath, is it possible to remove all the glue and residue from a vinyl floor using your process?

A) No. The floor would have to be sanded.

Q) What do I do if I’m not sure if I should SandFree or sand my floors?

A) With the introduction of ColorMagiQ, the number of floors needing sanding has been greatly reduced. If you want a perfect, new layer of wood, with an exact stain color, you should sand the floor.

Q) Can you sand out the bevels?

A) No.

Questions About The Day of the Process+

Q) Will you move furniture?

A) Yes. In fact, furniture is the determining factor of the per foot price. If there is little, if any furniture, the price will be very low. If there is furniture, but it can be moved to a room that we are not refinishing, the price is a little higher. If there is furniture and we can’t move it out of the room, we have to do 1/2 of the room, and then move the furniture, and do the other half. That is the most expensive option.

Q) How long will the odor last?

A) The odor is minimal. We spent 2 days refinishing the community center and gym at the Overbrook Presbyterian Church. Pre-school, choir, session, weight-watchers all continued occupying the building while we worked. There was 1 complaint about odor. We asked them to wait 1/2 hour, and the complaint evaporated along with the odor. Your salesman may have sample bottles of each chemical and you can smell for your self. If you are using ColorMagiQ, there will be an odor that will last for a few hours. The more coats of ColorMagiQ that are applied, the longer the odor will last.

Q) How long until I can walk on the floor?

A) If you select the Premium Urethane Finish, you can walk on your floor in socks, in about 3 hours. With shoes, in about 8 hours. It would be nice to give the floor 24 hours until the furniture is replaced. The floor is 90% cured in 24 hours. If you use the Base Grade Acrylic finish, you can walk on the floors in shoes in 1 hour.

Q) What should I do with my dog?

A) It would be nice for your dog to have an overnight.

Q) Can I be in the house?

A) There is no problem with odor, but you shouldn’t walk on the floor while we’re doing the work. At the least, you’ll introduce dirt to the processed floors. After the men leave, you can walk on the floors, in socks, in 3 hours. You can walk on the floors in shoes in 8 hours and move your furniture back after 24 hours. Again, if you are using ColorMagiQ there is an odor.