Will I regret a soft wood floor in a high traffic area?

jlc102482January 25, 2011

There is a fir (I think) subfloor under 2 layers of linoleum in my kitchen. It was installed in 1949, so it is not old growth wood. The subfloor is visible in the basement and while it's a great color, it's also soft. I can make a small dent in it with my fingernail if I press hard.

My original idea was to tear up the lino and use this fir subfloor as the regular floor. I don't except it to wear as well or look the same as the oak hardwood floors in the rest of the house. I'm OK with it looking "rustic" or lived in, and I know it won't look like hardwood. But now I'm wondering if it might wear to the point of looking like heck. The kitchen is a high traffic area to begin with, and the most frequently used entrance door to the house is located there. We have a cat, too.

Does anyone here have NON-old growth fir floors? Is it a really bad idea to use a semi-soft subfloor as a regular floor in a high-traffic area? If the subfloor did end up looking really beat up, it would be a while before I could save up to install hardwood.

Thanks for your thoughts on this!

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I've finished subfloors that way as an experiment in a couple of my own homes. No pets. Family of one. No shoes indoors. Worked out fine.

Depending on the variety, fir is as soft or softer than most common pines. For high traffic long-term use, I'd say not suitable. But you can always try it with a couple coats of urethane and see if you're okay with the results six months down the line.

Here is a link that might be useful: Janka ratings

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 11:52AM
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I would lay new hardwood or tile over the subfloor. Fir is too soft to use in a high-traffic area.

I have found the biggest killer of hardwood floors are dogs, and you don't have any. so you can always leave the floor and see how it treats you and then lay a new floor over it if needed.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 9:06PM
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We have wide pine floors, 12 - 20 inch planks, oiled with Landark oil. In the high traffic area, exterior door into kit, I am after 2 1/2 yrs getting some patina. Live in New England and we do not remove shoes. I have had a few big dings and just a rub of the oil protects the wood.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 11:18AM
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I love the look of my Douglas Fir floor. If your second choice is installing something over it, what do you have to lose by giving it a go (except some hard work and the price of urethane)? If it starts looking bad, by that time you'll have saved up for your hardwood. If not and it still looks good, then you have some fun money!
There are some finishes called "Gym floor" which are designed to to really durable--they would be your best bet to use.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 11:48PM
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I had pine in a high traffic area with 2 dogs and it was destroyed down to bare wood and deep gouges in less than 2 years. It had character that's for sure, but I thought it looked terrible.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 9:22PM
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Douglass Dir is actually one of the harder 'softwoods.'

The distinction is hardwoods are deciduous, while softwoods come from evergreens.

Balsa is a hardwood, as is poplar.

There are numerous 'softwoods' that are far harder than both.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2011 at 6:50PM
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We did a reno 10 years ago that involved a large country kitchen and what was the master bedroom in an old farm house. The master bedroom was already fir floor and the kitchen had some layers of lino on it, the fellow doing the reno tore all of the old lino off and tried to sand off the old black tar like glue that held down the original lino. It was taking forever, so he took the fir floor up in the kitchen and turned it over and refinished the other side. It is a very high traffic area and we now have 2 corgis tearing around and it is starting to show some wear. But it is an old house and suits the era of the house. What was the master bedroom we took the wall part way back opening it up to our kitchen and made it our tv sitting area. Made it all very useful. The floors are not perfect but they suit the old house.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 8:59PM
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