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Many homeowners are leaning more into the idea of installing hardwood floors, which are easy to maintain and classically elegant. They also add value to a home and collect less microbes and debris. People with older homes may be lucky enough to have hardwood under their carpeting—and they may not even realize it. Even if the wood underneath your carpet looks to be in poor condition, that doesn’t mean you can’t refinish it to its former glory. Using our guide to working with reexposed hardwood floors, you can restore your flooring to its original and beautiful state.

Remove Tack Strips, Staples, and Glue

You never know what you’ll find when you decide to tear up your carpet. Try not to let the initial visuals discourage you from completing the project. Some carpet is tacked or nailed down; other installation options use adhesive-like glue. To remove tack strips, staples, or nails under the secured carpet and padding, you’ll have to pull them out manually. Though tedious, the task is easy enough. Later, you can fill any major gouges with wood filler. Just match the filler’s color to the type of wood your floors are made of. There are many solvents on the market to remove glue; they’ll either eat away at the glue or soften it so that you can scrape it off.

Clean the Floor

Once you’ve removed sharp staples and tacky glue from your hardwood, you’ll want to clean your floor. Use a scraper to remove large chunks of dirt and stuck-on mess. You can use a scouring pad with mineral spirits to clean tough areas. Find a wood cleaner, and apply that elbow grease. Use only as much water as necessary, and dry the wood after washing it, as letting moisture sit on the surface could further damage it.

Sand the Area, and Clean Again

Once your floor is as clean as it’s going to be and dry, you’ll start the sanding process. Be sure to seal off doorways with plastic to protect your home from dust. Using a drum sander, sand the room—there are different grits of sandpaper to choose from. You won’t be able to get the perimeter with a regular sander; for that you’ll want to use an edger sander. Then, buff the room and clean the floor again. Using water on untreated floors is dangerous, so vacuum aggressively and choose a water-free solvent such as a mineral cleaner. Dust will prevent an even coating when you’re staining later, so be sure to clean as much as possible.

Stain and Seal

Once your floor is free of dust, you’ll want to choose your stain shade. Your color preferences may be based on the wall color, the look you’re trying to achieve, or the amount of light in the room. Put down test areas of stain to choose from your top three colors; stain is easy enough to sand off again. Once you’ve decided on the color, stain and seal your flooring. Choose a flooring sheenthat gives the flooring the finished level of shine you desire.

Finding a hidden gem such as hardwood under your carpet will save you time and money as you make the transition into solid-surface flooring in your home. Whenever possible, capitalize on that previously installed wood and give it the TLC it needs to come back to life. Following this guide to working with reexposed hardwood floors should help start you on a plan of attack for your idyllic home.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.