Removing Paint From Pine Floors

ReddoorJune 10, 2013

Hi all, longtime reader, first time poster here. I moved into a 1922 bungalow recently and have slowly been working on it. Our house has hardwood floors throughout (some original, some newer) except for in one bedroom which has some dirty old carpet in it. Well, I finally got around to starting to pull up the carpet today and now I see why they left that room carpeted. Unfortunately someone along the line painted the entire floor green. So my question is, as a complete newcomer to refinishing floors, is removing this paint and redoing the floors something I can take on myself without ruining my wallet or my marriage? Should my first step being getting this paint tested for lead? Would I need to use a chemical stripper or a sander? Again, I've never done this before and these are the original 1922 pine floors. From what I've read pine is hard to work on and I certainly don't want to ruin them. Then again, I'm not sure you can do worse than green painted floors....

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It's possible it was painted over some other kind of finish which will make it easier to get off.

SoyGel is good on pine floors - you need to let it work and work and work (days, if necessary) Cover with plastic to keep it wet while it's on the job.. It is reasonably un-foul to work with. There are other products, but some are extremely vile to use, and not healthy to breathe while doing so.

You can rent a drum floor sander (and an orbital floor edger/sander) to take the green paint off. But you may not be able to get it all out of the cracks and nail holes and dings without going too deep.

It is really easy to get yourself in trouble with a drum sander, by sanding off too much wood.

Secondary rooms often had painted floors in old houses. It's not a modern thing. Perhaps you could consider just leaving it painted? Or doing it another color, that pleases you more. Deep ox-blood red/brown is a common choice.

If you don't sand, and are meticulous about gathering the goop-y mess that is created by strippers, the lead issue may be moot. You can have it tested, though, if you're worried.

Sometimes paint will come off with a steamer, worth a try. I've only had that happen once, but it was a joy when it did!



    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 10:10PM
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Oh, believe me you can do worse than green painted floors! I'll trade you for mine. :-)

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 10:41PM
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Soy gel. It is simply amazing. I've been stripping woodwork and just thrilled with how well it works. Cleans up with water and doesn't smell, and doesn't burn your skin if you get it on you. I do use gloves to clean it up
But no worries if get it on you - just rinse off.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 11:47PM
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Thanks for the advice everyone!

Before I read these I did go purchase one of those 3M home lead testing kits. I tested it twice and it came up negative for lead both times. I do think it's probably a somewhat modern paint job. I recently rebuilt the closet in this room and was ecstatic to find almost pristine floors under the carpet there. I could also see it peaking out around the threshold to the room. That's why I was shocked when I started pulling up the rest of it today. It does look like the floors had some other kind of finish on them before they were painted green. Also, it kind of looks like somewhat even painted the walls green at one time and got some on the white doors in the room. Overall, they did a pretty sloppy job as you can see by how straight the end line in the door is from the pic. I'm going to look into SoyGel now. I looked at drum sander rentals today and was kind of intimidated. Might try a few things before I go that route.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 12:17AM
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I've been using citristrip and cheating. I cover the goop with plastic wrap. After a few hours, scrape it off with a spackle knife, and wash the residue with a plastic heavy duty scrubbing pad and warm water. I don't use a lot of water, just enough to get the area clean. I've had great results and it's a lot cheaper than the soy stuff. With soft pine you really don't want much water and be careful with the knife.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 10:15AM
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We had brown painted floors upstairs. They're wide plank pine up there. We rented some sort of a sander from Ace Hardware...touted that any homeowner can use it. I've seen them at Menards also. It's not a drum sander. It was really easy to use. It doesn't gouge the wood like a drum sander can do, or take off on you like a drum sander can do. I don't know, we thought it was really easy. :)

    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 7:40PM
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Well, I was all set to take this on myself. Spent the last couple days reading up on SoyGel and drum sanders, trying to decide if I should strip it first or just start sanding. Even went out to check the prices on renting a sander. But first thing first, I had to remove the rest of the carpet (I had stopped pulling it up when I discovered the paint). Well, unfortunately I got another surprise when I almost fell through the floor! Turns out there are some broken planks against one of the walls. One is completely broken off and if I stood on it my foot would go through. The surrounding planks are all pretty messed up as well. In addition to that bad spot there is one small hole along the other wall and a sizable gap by the door from settling. I got pretty freaked out as I have zero experience in repairing a wood floor. After a while I ended up calling a floor guy to see how much it would be for a repair/refinish and just to ask how he would repair it. I just picked a local guy that had good reviews, his info didn't say anything about experience with old homes. I called and tried to emphasize that these were old original floors and I really want to save them. Much to my surprise he told me that he was currently working on a 1925 home nearby and invited me over to see his work. He seemed to really know his stuff so I had him over today to do an estimate. I was shocked at the prices he gave us. I know you pay for what you get and he seems knowledgeable, but it's going to be a tough decision. Don't really have the money he's asking for, but I also don't feel too confident in my abilities to repair broken planks.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 9:10PM
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Are they tongue and groove or just square planks?

Can you post a photo showing more of the room so we can see how big the area that needs fixing is?

Is there a subfloor under the planks?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 10:58PM
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They are tongue and groove and there is no subfloor. This photo is before I took the tack out. The room is roughly 120 square feet. The main damaged area is on the left wall kind of under the light socket. The planks go all the way across the room (about 10 feet). They originally may have been longer, because I know that they cut out the wood floors on the other side of the wall (which may have been moved) to drop in one of those big shower fiberglass shower units in the 60s. How do you repair something like this without taking out the whole plank?

Also, I know prices vary by region and what kind of work you want done. But does anyone have a rough estimate for floor refinishing costs? This guy charges by the room instead of square foot, which I thought was odd and it still adds up to be very expensive. He's also trying to entice us with a small discount if we do the adjoining room. I know it's probably a sales tactic, but I find myself believing that it will look kind of strange to have one nice looking floor stop at the doorway and the rest of that part of the house remain in a semi-rough condition. Granted, he definitely seems to be knowledgeable of old floors and he says the price includes the repair and that he can get salvaged pine tongue and groove from a contact to closely match what we have. I'm looking for other places to get quotes from, but not having much luck so far.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 1:23PM
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I almost hate to say it, but I like the green! It may look nice after furniture and perhaps another coat of paint.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 2:27PM
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It's actually kind of grown on me, too. There is quite a contrast at the door when it turns into a non-painted floor though. Worst case scenario we will just get the broken planks fixed and live with the green for now.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 4:18PM
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You can repair a partial board by cutting it off and putting a short board in its place. Kind of messes with the full-length board effect, but that's the option to pulling the whole board. If you're replacing several adjacent boards, you'll want to stagger the seams (i.e., cut-off points).

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 6:30PM
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So without a subfloor, how will I get the new board to fit snugly against the other, i.e. not fall under the house? I'm also guessing it needs to be as flush as possible for the sander to work well. Will it fit in there snugly because it's tongue and groove or do I need to somehow connect the new and old planks with glue or nails?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 1:13PM
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Ooh, good point about no subfloor.

Usually with board replacement you trim off the bottom side of the grooved end, tuck the tongue into the neighboring board's groove, and rotate the board down so the top of the new board's groove rests on the tongue of the other neighboring board. They're not nailed to each other, the new board is just face nailed.

But you've got nothing to face nail it to. :-) So you'd need to put some additional blocking down there, preferably from below, to nail to. You'd want to trim the bad board over top of a joist so one end of the new board would rest on it, and perhaps put a short piece of blocking between the joists it will span, so that the center of the board rests on the blocking and can be nailed to it.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 6:59PM
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How wide are the boards? And how thick?

It's a repair that requires only moderate skill, but good knees and patience.

Weedyacres described the process ... you need a table saw to slice off the bottom of the groove, put the patch in place and nail it to the joists. The table saw will be useful for other projects too.

You also need a hand-held saw with rotary blade, and a "oscillating multi-tool" with a nail-cutting blade is useful.

It's possible to add "sisters" to the joists to give yourself a wider spot to match the ends on. Attaching them is easiest if you have a "palm nailer' (basically a small pneumatic nailer)

All of the tools are probably less than 1/10th the cost of hiring a pro ... and you will be using them on other projects.

If you are interested, I can look up the links and get some pictures of the process.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 9:49PM
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Thanks for the advice, I looked up some more info on this and I think I've got it figured out. I am going to have some help though and will be able to borrow a table saw. Already have a circular saw. So hopefully it will get done as soon as I find some replacement planks. In the meantime I'm gonna start trying to strip some paint off with Citristrip. I've been using it to do my door hardware and it's been good, but if I can't stand the smell I will probably break down and buy the soygel.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 11:15PM
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