fir floor painting prep

changingitupMay 27, 2011

Hi, After tearing out layers of flooring hoping for a fir we could refinish this is what we ended up with (pic). It appears that it was lived on as a main floor, probably years ago, because there is wear and obvious repair work done to it. I am not sure if the green tint is a paint or old glue, does anyone have an idea about that? However, I was thinking I would like to paint it. The problem is the wood lines up in places like in the picture and is staggered in others. Is there a filler that I can use to successfully mask that joint so there is not such an obvious line? Has anyone else ran into this and what was your solution?


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It needs to be sanded by a professional; it's not a DIY project. If the sanded floor is nice I recommend a clear finish by a professional.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2011 at 6:14PM
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There is no reason why floor sanding cannot be done with rental equipment by a reasonably talented and determined DIYer; Renovator8 sounds suspiciously like someone selling services. The equipment is big and heavy, mind you.

What to do about your floor? Ironically like Renovator8, I would not write it off as a clear floor on the basis of what you see here. It is possible that sanding that line of joints will make them less evident, and even under the wear and tear you may have a 20-50-year floor yet. I would say that as long as the tongue-in-groove joints are still closed fairly tight, you have a usable floor. I know this because our TIGs were worn through and then it is impossible to prevent long slivers from coming off the edges of the boards. AFter a visit to emergency for one big sliver and a few other doozies in the kids' feet, I would not recommend trying to save a floor that is that bad. End joints are not as bad as exposed edges!

The other reason to give it a good sanding, or strip the paint at least, besides to really see what you've got, is to get good paint adhesion. But also, where the floor flexes the paint will chip, so one thing that matters about that line of joints is, does it move? If so, then even if you use a flexible compound like latex caulk, your paint will chip there. You'd have to secure the boards from underneath if you can if they don't meet on a joist.

I did paint our upstairs attic floor because it was pretty far gone and had been sanded down a ways already. I used regular hard filler. The boards move, and the paint chips. I don't mind it too much; it's lightly used and easy to touch up every now and then. Glossy paint looks way better than flat, just as an aside.

All that said, that looks like really beautiful wood. If it is too far gone as a floor as currently constituted, and if you have an appetite for punishment, you might be able to pull up the boards, remove the nails, and relay the wood better, perhaps with some new wood added. I wonder if getting the TIGs recut is possible?


    Bookmark   May 28, 2011 at 2:24PM
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It's kinda funny... The first response spoke to my husband, the second to me. Thank you for the heads up on the mega splinters, tweezers had been added to the kitchen utensil drawer but I hadn't considered ER visits, now temporary rugs are down! The joints are on a joist so pretty solid. Was the chipping in your attic mostly a problem where you used the hard filler? Also, did you prime, latex paint and then add a top coat? If so, was it polyurethane? Do you think that would help with chipping? Hubby wants to lay a floor over it, but I am undecided and the longer I live with it the more I like it, but the longer I live with half stripped wallpaper, exposed drywall, and no baseboard, the more it all fits together! It is our 'style' these days!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 1:02PM
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I have fir floors as well. One, I sanded and refinished, the other I painted.

The sanding was on the second floor- turned out beautifully with the help of the rented oscillating sander (EZ Sand). The old growth fir is so beautiful once all the layers of paint, dirt and use are sanded off. That particular sander was easier to use than the bigger, heavier sanders, (and haul upstairs!) and since I had a basket-weave pattern, it was the only sander I could use as a DIY'er, due to the changing grain patterns.

The walk out basement entry I just repainted as I knew it would get a ton of traffic. I did a checkerboard on the floor using oil floor paint - no sanding, no stripping- just went right over the old. It took 4 coats, but after 5 years there are only a couple of chips, and it still looks great. This is the main entry used in my house.

As far as the butt joints in the floor, you could leave them as a type of 'character', showing the 'use' of the old house that many of us treasure. Or, . a very skilled person could pull them up and re-lay them and some of the surrounding boards to get rid of that consistent butted joint look. That is something I'm planning on tackling in my oak floors where the old floor registers were pulled out when forced air was put in. Unfortunately they just slapped a bunch of boards in, so there is an obvious square that stands out from the rest of the floor. If you go this route yourself, you'll need a few extra boards (can you pull some out of a closet somewhere?) that you can replace with, as one will have to be damaged to do the initial cutting to start the job.

Whatever you decide to do, remember the floor is something you'll look at all the time, so be sure you really like what you decide to do. I'd hate to see you settle on leaving the butt joints, then later regretting not changing it when you had the chance. Especially in a room where you'll see this all the time.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 12:05PM
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In my opinion, painting those floors will make the in-line joints all the more obvious, unless you paint a pattern where the eye is drawn to the pattern instead of plain paint. With a sealed floor, your eye goes to the grain of the wood, and not to the seams so much. Whether you paint or not, the floors need to be sanded; I would do that first and then see what you have. I don't think you will have much luck trying to hide those seams.

The splinters really can be an issue. My floors are beautiful with just a spar varnish on them, but there are some bad splinter places, most which I have repaired. I understand why your husband wants to put new floors over them; I would to if we had kids running around. I've dug out some 6 inch splinters from my foot. Ouch!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 3:37PM
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I'd go with sanding the floors first, to see what is really there. I always prefer stained floors over painted...and either over relaying a new flooring product, unless it is full hardwood flooring rather than any of the laminates or engineered flooring made now. You can still buy real wood flooring, and even lay it yourself, but the old would have to be taken up first.

Sand first, paint later if you don't like the result--but a painted floor will decrease the resale value.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 9:26PM
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Here is a photo of part of the floor as it starts to chip. Some sections are worse but that photo didn't turn out. It is indeed just where there is hard filler that is breaking as the boards move. We actually knew this was going to happen... our reason for filling the cracks was partly so that when we painted, no paint would seep into the cracks... just in case some future owner does want to refinish, they won't have a reason to curse us as they struggle with paint between the boards! My husband would have used latex caulk, but I couldn't cope with the application process for that, and I did this particular job. As to how I painted, it was a bit of an accidental selection: latex primer, latex floor paint, alkyd floor paint. I know, bad sequence, but again I didn't want to work with alkyd but ended up with it as the latex (which was flat) simply didn't work out. Again though, it's a light use floor and I don't mind - this is a case where ANYTHING would be better than the original (dark, dingy) condition. I did finally find, much later, a glossy latex floor paint from Behr at Home Depot, but other than that, believe me, it doesn't exist.

Oh dear, I just noticed that there is a grid showing from a rug underlay I put there... need to repaint!

I know exactly what you mean about the half-finished look! We've lived with it for 18 years, the kids have grown up with it and now that they are pretty independent we are just now getting going on some finishing things. And while it has gnawed at me to not have things done, I think we have in the long run made better decisions because of the delay. This has been useful from such things as selecting paint colours to the design of replacement windows. We know the space really well in all lights and seasons, we know what our needs are, and we know what of the partially finished things we have valued and what has not worked. So I wouldn't counsel you to rush. Any decisions you're not sure of and don't have to make yet, defer until you are sure, or, as with the floor, don't do anything irreversible if you can help it. We still haven't refinished most of the stripped moulding, for example, because we're not sure yet how we want to do that. But at least we're finally getting it up!

We did do one thing I really regret, namely to replace a section of original fir wainscoting with new pine, and worst of all, we discarded most of the old fir. Curses! I hate the pine, and although I would not have wanted to live with the unstripped fir all these years, I would now love to still have it and be able to strip and restore it. I do have some, but not enough.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 2:12PM
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The joint in the picture is not the only one, there are many more with no apparent pattern, otherwise painting a design may have helped blend it. The look I was hoping for is exactly what Karinl has, a nice solid, consistent color and your right, Diane, the joints are going to stand out and distrct from that. Either way the amount of work with pulling them up and re-laying them would not be worth the outcome so Oldhousegals point of being pleased with them later, may be the factor here. Right now the kitchen is torn up and they fit in, but maybe once the 'new' used cabinets go in, there might be some regret. Columbiaguy1, these boards make up the subfloor so I was hoping to go over them with new wood . You mentioned pulling them, is that because you thought they were over a sub? Or is there another reason? The two rooms adjacent to the kitchen have oak floor right on top of this 'fir' floor/sub. so by laying right on top of it we end up even

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 2:54PM
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If this is the subfloor the wood may be too rough to get good lengthwise joints after sanding.

The issue of it being a subfloor and not level with adjoining rooms makes me think that going with a new floor would not be illogical at all. You should definitely think about all the aspects of living with this floor one way or another before you make a decision. Once cabinets are built in (if you are going with built-ins) it will be tough to make a change in level. And as for having all old stuff, the look does wear on you after a while if it's not restorable to reasonably nice condition!

Don't make the decision through guilt or some adherence to a preservationist ideology. Those are well and good in their place, but when they don't work for day-to-day life, they don't work - and they also won't necessarily sell a house, as CG mentions. Given that this is a subfloor, which you hadn't mentioned earlier, I think you could make a guilt-free decision to go with a new floor over this. And I would say to go with solid wood, not laminate.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 1:50PM
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