pine flooring refinish

kzarina17August 7, 2005

Hi everyone,

I live in an old 1925 foursquare home that unfortunately has gone through alot of PO renovations.

The space I am inquiring about is our upstairs. We have three bedrooms and a bath. Since we've moved in, (2 years)

we've stripped wallpaper, gutted one bedroom, tore out carpeting and have since refinished all the rooms with fresh paint on the walls, doors and woodwork.

I have old pine floors throughout. I have considered carpet and have decided against it. I had an estimate done and the cost to refinish is less than carpet. I am thrilled because I prefer the natural floors, hands down.

My questions on the floor are this:

How nice do refinished pine floors come out?

Are the endless carpet nails and tackstrip removal extremely apparant?

What kind of filler is used when filling cracks, nail marks, etc..

Our floor installer also told me that he'd use a water based finish. He said that the oils are becoming illegal to use and that the product he uses is professional grade and extremely durable.

Can someone that has had pine floors educate/prepare me for what I am in for and also what to expect?

Thanks so much!!


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Our upstairs floors are pine .We had them redone, they were stained ugly dark almost black.They were sanded with a big floor sander.Then they put 3 coats of water based poly on them.They are now a beautiful honey warm color .Love them.My house 1700 was completely restored.I could never go back to carpet.I really like my hardwood floors.I like seeing nails in floor,We didnt have cracks etc.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 7:12AM
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pine and hardwood are two differant animals! hardwood usually has 2" wide boards, pine usually is 4" or larger. hardwood is, well, hard, it doesn't scratch as easilly, so it hold up very well. pine is soft, it will scratch very easilly and the covering will flake off. well done and quality are EXTREMELY important, and even then care will be needed to keep the floor looking good. rollerblades are out! ;-P use coasters under furniture and use the felt kind, not the plastic kind. hard shoes will even damage pine floors. make it a "leave shoes at door" rule and you can be very happy.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 12:31PM
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Your house is considerably younger than mine so it may be different, but I was wondering what you meant by "cracks"?

Between the individual boards .....? Those cracks should not be filled as doing so may result in damage as the boards expand and contract over time. Nail holes and carpet tack holes can be filled with matching filler, though the job is extremely tedious to undertake.

I don't belong to the poly finish (neither water nor solvent based) school, especially on pine. Pine is so soft that I don't think it holds up as well as with a penetrating sealer, which not being a surface treament can handle the dings and dents a pine floor gets with more grace. Plus penetrating sealers are easier to touch up and reapply in worn spots.

I would take your floor guy's claim that "oil finishes are illegal" with a grain of salt, and certainly check it before ruling it out. Floor guys like poly.

There are a wide variety of proprietay oil finishes, plus the traditional standby of pure tung oil, which is what I use on my 165 year old wide board pine (not heart) floors where I have any finish at all.

I prep a floor by cleaning it rigorously, and try to avoid sanding as that removes the beautiful patina and color of an older floor. Pine floors freshly sanded and encased in plastic (poly finishes of any kind and sheen) look about as appealing to me as plastic covers on upholstery. I don't mean to be insulting to anyone who has done this to their floors; I know it is the conventional (and popular) solution. However, many people don't realize there are other attractive and serviceable floor finishes.

The one drawback to a tung oil finish is that once you've done it, I don't believe that you can subsequently put poly down. As I understand it, oil that remains in the cracks (and to some extent in the pores of large-pored woods) will interfere with the bond of the poly, even after sanding.

Keep in mind, too, that with the age of your house for secondary rooms, the floors may never have been intended to be seen. Paint, carpet, floor cloths of oil cloth and genuine linoleum may have been the orginal coverings. Plain, pine T&G was the cheap flooring option in those days.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 1:53PM
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We have a 1918 foursquare with fir flooring upstairs. We have not done any major work or sanding of them over the years and you may mean by 'crack' what I call gouging or worn spots in places. I have sworn over the years that a bad spot just magically shows up! I know it's not true, and if we had done more with the floors they may not have, but they are there. In a few spots the finish has worn enough that there is very rough wood, other spots actually have some gouging with rough wood. The danger with these in soft woods is slivers in bare feet we discovered. And not small slivers at that. Since we haven't repaired all of ours, if this is what you have also, I don't have a good answer. But would caution that care be taken with those spots on soft wood as they will get larger or reappear if damaged.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 2:26PM
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We had the floors done in 93 they look good as the day we did them.I think the pine floors turned out beautiful upstairs.I sure wouldnt use tung oil on them.We have that on our kitchen cabinets.The guys that did ours are experts in thier field,We're totally satisfied.e wouldnt spent thousands restoring to skimp on finish on floor.Most people dont classify wood floors as hard,soft .Hardwood , generally to average person means wood floor.I would suggest you see some floors done and you decide,

    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 3:24AM
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doesn't matter what "most people" think-- hardwood is hard wood, and soft wood is soft wood. Each with different qualities.

Wondering if anyone has used epoxy finish-- since its harder than poly or anything does it resist denting? I had it on maple floors once and it was gorgeous, the floors took on a pinkish gold tone different than the brown of poly.

I think the idea of using oil or penetrating finish on floors is that it gets deeper into the wood fibers than a surface finish like poly, and strengthens the wood and thus may be more resistant to dings and dents?? -- pls. correct me if I'm wrong about that...

Actually you can use poly over oil finishes-- SOME oil finishes that is... there are some which contain wax and other things which would keep the poly from adhering.

Mostly pine floors were meant to have carpet on them, so that's my solution for now-- area rugs in areas which get heavier use.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 11:41AM
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Hi everybody,

Well, I had two estimates done from two different guys with really different ideas on refinishing.

The first guy inspected them and thought it better to sand, fill in the nail holes and the cracks on the floors. By cracks, I mean where the boards are not touching eachother. He explained that he'd use a pro-grade water based finish, three coats.

The second guy was alot more thorough. He will sand them down completely so that the wood looks new. He explained that he will counter-sink any nailheads and fill them in. He will leave the cracks alone. He said that if you fill them with filler that over time it will break out of the cracks, due to shrinking and expanding. (I'm in Ohio, with alot of weather variations.)

He uses a poly finish, two coats are a gym floor finish, top coat is a satin to avoid seeing every imperfection in 80 y/o wood.

Total cost for approx. 360 sq.ft. is $1,060.00 including all materials and labor. That includes 3 bedrooms, hallway, 3 steps and a small landing.

So, tell me, anymore input? What do you think you would do? Oh, and does amyone else have cracks between the boards, and if so, how do you keep them clean?



    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 1:50PM
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it sounds like #2 is slightly more knowledgeable bc he's correct about the reason for not filling in between the boards... the price seems about what you'd expect.

Except Id wonder about how aggressive he would be with the sander in attempt to get it looking "like new"... he could take so much off that there wouldnt be any left for future sanding?

I was going thru a bit of angst about my pine porch floors as in some areas there are gaps where there was water damage and in living room it was worn and splintery, and finally I just let it be OK that they're 100 yrs old with dark streaks and deep honey color. Once they're refinished and the beauty of the wood is brought out, with finish put on, all those things which you thought were flaws will just be "character."

    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 6:42PM
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Hi again!

My second estimate says he will take the finish off and down to clean wood. I really will have to ask if it will be eligible for future sandings.

I'm wondering too, does anyone have any experience with a "gym floor" finish?

I am just so excited to not have to go with carpeting, I really dreaded the thought of it. I also am not after perfection, I like my old house and all it's little flaws.

What is a usual color of stain used on pine floors?

Thanks again,


    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 10:43PM
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Re: gym floor finish, we used a type of that (oil based) 15 years ago in our foyer. We thought then that the flooring there was oak, but I think it seems somewhat soft for oak. We did sand and there were some marks left from the sander (we did it, so that may be the reason). It is not the same flooring as upstairs. We used a 'gym coat' that was being used at that time by a near-by school that is older than our house. We had seen how it had held up in the gym as well as all the other soft wood flooring, so decided to use it. I do not remember the name of it.

The finish is amazing, it has hardly worn in all these years, but we do have a rug by the front door. But the one negative to me when we applied it was the noxious fumes. The smell of the finish was really offensive to me and noticeable for quite some time. (Not everyone in the house was bothered by it, but I was in the house all day). Wished we had been able to move out for awhile. I am not sure if the formulations are different now than they were 15 years ago. You might want to check on that.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 2:29AM
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I just had a 1923 fir floor refinished in my bungalow--the porch floor. There were several large cracks, as you describe, which they filled before putting on three coats of water based poly. It looks gorgeous. I'd be careful in having someone sand "all the way down" to make it look new. You want to keep the patina and simply sand out the scratches or dents to the degree that you can. As others have noted, no matter what you do, a pine floor is extremely soft. Dog or cat claws, dropping keys, etc. will all leave a mark.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 8:32AM
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I'd lightly sand - just enough to get rid of old varnish - and apply a few coats of a penetrating oil sealer.

Fill any large holes, but leave the small stuff and the cracks between the floorboards. Yes, you see a lot of nicks and dings, but what you have is "patina" ... look up the price of "distressed" wood flooring some time. It's not cheap to get a hundred years worth of wear on a new floor.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 9:21AM
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First of all, I have to agree with Kasha Kat, and respectfully disagree with Bulldinkie. There is a *significant* difference between hard and soft wood flooring materials. Lay parlance may not note the difference, but how the various floor materials respond to finishes and wear *is* considerably different. What works for oak, is not necessarily - or even likely to be - the correct solution for soft pine. (There are some harder, or heart-wood pines, which can be quite hard, though, probably not in a house the age of yours.)

Anyway, you probably have soft pine floors, so you need to work with that.

Please carefully consider the counsel you've gotten here to not have the floor sanded back to "new wood". First of all, you can only do this so many times and then the flooring must be replaced because it becomes too thin. So avoiding it, where possible, is the best from a preservation/ conservation of the building point of view.

The second issue about going down to new wood is that you will be sanding off the patination of the older material. Now, patination may look just like grubby old wood to some people, but many of us really appreciate it, and you'd be surprised how many people pay extra to get distressed replacement flooring to achieve the look/style you're considering paying good money to have sanded off!

A light sanding to get the old finish off can do wonders, while leaving you most of the beauty of well-used floors.

Now, of course, I'm still plumping for you to consider a non-poly (or gym floor) finish and look at some of the more traditional finishes, including a variety of penetrating sealers, etc.

Unfortunately there is no Preservation Bulletin that deals only with floors, but there are several books on caring for and repairing old houses that discuss these issues. I could list some for you if that would help you do some research.

About the cracks between the boards, just leave them empty. The only housekeeping need is a good vacuum cleaner. Filling them will give you problems down the road. I have old pine floors and the cracks are nearly closed now, (NY in Aug.), but by the end of the heating season they will have opened up enough to loose a Bic pen. This is perfectly normal, regular and not a problem. I have friends who had the floor cracks filled in their house. The crack filler material has been pushed out in some areas and the edges of the boards compressed and distorted during the inevitable swell/shrink cycles. (This is a different thing from filling severe dings and old tack holes.)

Our modern eyes admire the smooth shining plane of a floor (a gym floor comes to mind). This is an appropriate flooring look for a modern building, but it's not what was there when your building was created, so trying to achieve it (and you can) is a dubious choice, to my way of thinking. It really depends on the look you're going for: if what you want is the look of an older building remodeled to a modern aesthetic, then opt for the gym floor look. However, if your building would look better to you as a carefully buffed and well-loved older home, then, please, look at other alternatives, as well.


    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 12:52PM
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First off if you read ...I said mine were UGLY almost BLACK thats why we sanded,as far as the comment about hardwood floor ..look at decorating forum.People say do I want carpet or hardwood floor.They think hardwood floors means just wood.I know theres differences I have pine upstairs,oak downstairs.As far as that goes you could get someone that specializes in antiqueing.The floor looks like it was there YEARS>>>>Theres many choices....My husband has been a builder for 35 years, I think I know theres different wood floors.You asked opinion I gave you mine do what you want.Im TOTALLY SATISFIED WITH MINE.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 4:08PM
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Uh, I agree with bulldinkie...most people when thinking of hardwood floors, think wood, not the kind of wood. I have pine up and maple down in my 1896 home. I sure don't walk around saying I've got hardwood down and soft wood up! Mostly I just say wood...:) We've dropped things on ours (upstairs), got a dog, and I don't see anything in the way of marks. I didn't want them asked about a stain...we did ours in fruitwood. It's closer to the downstairs on the maple, we just polyed it. 3 coats. Same upstairs. After the stain dryed of course.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 7:12PM
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I'm pretty sure that I have pine throughout my home. My last home had pine in the center and oak around the perimeter, it was kind of neat.

My challenge right now is removing tiles from our son's bedroom. It is coming up, slowly and leaving behind a terrible black, sticky gunk. I am being cautious as I can and fortunately the tiles are pliable and not breaking into pieces.

I am pretty certain that I will follow through with the "gym floor" finish. The floor will be topcoated with a satin poly and it also has to be able to withstand 4 very busy kids. I'm not sure how far down the sanding will go, however that is something that I can and will negotiate, especially if we ever intend on another refinish.

You guys are a wealth of knowledge and I am so happy to hear different varieties and techniques on making our homes the place we call home. We may not all agree on which technique is best, but I am sure that we will all agree on the love we feel for our old homes.


    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 8:13PM
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All the gym floors I ever saw I thought looked fake too much poly.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2005 at 1:34AM
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RE: pine floor refinish

I'm no expert, but when some friends of mine wanted their 3rd floor to have newly installed prefinished oak hardwood, I undertook the project. After I ripped up all the carpet underlay and 1/4 inch ply, there were some wonderful 5 inch pine t&g planks, full of paint and wax and whatever...they decided they wanted to keep the planking and return the new hardwood...I do have a lot of reno experience, but had never redone floors. There were at least 6 coats of paint, and some sort of waxy top make a long story short ...that was three years ago, and with a lot of long hours, a few dozen sanding belts, and a matte finish water based topcoat, the floors still look amazing. You say it's the second floor, don't worry too much about dents, chances are you won't be up there with shoes. Do not fill the cracks, as all have said above...bad idea. I am currently renovating my own home(1923), and we are refinishing the pine floors in the three bedrms and halls upstairs. The only thing I do have to do, is produce some "knots" to replace the half dozen that fell out, and I do have two cracks that I will repair, they are quite wide, and I will shape a long pine "sliver" to fit into the crack, glue it in, plane it close to floor height and sand away...hope it works....good luck with your pine refinishing, it's always better to reuse than replace, after all a tree is a terrible thing to waste.......

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 9:55PM
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We just refinished out 100+ year old house. We lightly sanded the orginal floors and put down 3 coats of Waterlox. This is not a poly, and I am from the camp of NOT using a poly. I also prefer an Oil, it just soaks into the wood better. It does smell, but that goes away in a few days. The other thing I like about it is I can easily put another coat on if I choose, can't do that with Poly.

We used pine wood in the new addition. Same finish. Love it. You have to be the "right" person to appreciate pine for flooring. Its really beautiful when the planks are WIDE! The construction crew was overheard more than once admiring our addition, but could not understand why we did not pull and replace those "old" floors.

As other have said, do not fill the gaps between the floors. If you *really* have to , then wait until winter when they are dry and shrunk, and put hemp in between.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 11:57AM
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Put the hemp in during the summer when humid and swollen, DOH!

Better yet, just don't do it.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 2:33PM
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Our house is 250 years old with the original various width pine flooring. we just sanded down one of the rooms to restain as we wanted to just do the spots that needed it but the previous owner mixed the color and there was no way to do it again and match it.we are planning to put down waterlox sealer/finisher, now to get a matte look we want to then use the waterlox matte finish. i have spoken to the company who highly reccomend doing this but would love to hear from anyone that has. i read that Wianno used the waterlox and is happy with it. anyone else? i also have three austrialian shephards who scatch this soft wood when they run. we have put many area rugs and runners around to try to help protect it. Does the waterlox hold up well? if not is it easy to repair?
thanks so much

    Bookmark   November 3, 2005 at 12:15PM
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I know this is an old thread, but are there any pictures of pine with waterlox anyone wants to share? I, too, am considering Waterlox as a compromise between DH's love of the super-poly gym floor look and my desire for the richness and authenticity of tung oil!!


    Bookmark   August 9, 2006 at 9:23PM
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Poly doesnt necessarily mean high sheen ...They have low,satin sheen too .We used satin just a slight shine.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2006 at 10:37PM
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Our heartpine floors in our 1890 home are not "soft" and they certainly don't have splinters. They are all 2 1/2" wide boards...the statement about heart pine only being wide is mistaken. There are all kinds in our historic district but the vast majority are exactly like ours. They sand up beautifully and look like honey. We also have some that is "wormy" which I love also. We had them all coated with satin poly...4 coats. They still look good 3 1/2 yrs later and get a lot of hard use due to much company and water from the pool tracked in. Just my 2 cents.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2006 at 10:49AM
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I agree with trail runner.We have random widths.Some are 8"a board,the board next to it is 5",3" all in one floor.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2006 at 12:42PM
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Quick (sort of of topic) are the pine borads your 'subfloor'? OUr subfloor is 4-6 inch wide, just over 1 inch thick pine boards. In most areas of they house they are covered or painted. DH wants to work to refinish them and make them 'wood floors'.

For anyone who has finished these floors I would LOVE to see the pictures!! The bare wood ones I am all for, but the rooms that have been painted seem like a daunting task!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2006 at 12:59PM
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Yes ours is the subfloor. We had insulation put in under them via the crawlspace . 3 1/2 yrs ago. The front area in our home has very old narrow oak floors . It is nailed down over the DH said "don't even think about it !!". I don't want to tear them up even though they do splinter easily ( much more of a problem than pine will ever be) as I like the more formal look and they are very old just not as old as the heartpine under them. You don't need a subfloor I guess is what I am trying to say. Good Luck. Caroline

    Bookmark   August 10, 2006 at 2:12PM
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Speaking of splinters, we have a circa 1900 house with old pine floors in pretty bad condition with lots of nail head holes, cracks, and deep gouges with splintering. Will sanding and many coats of sealer smooth the edges enough that our baby can learn to crawl on them safely? or is it time for carpet or new wood flooring?

    Bookmark   September 9, 2006 at 8:39PM
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Sorry, no pictures yet....but we have 5 gallons of Waterlox sitting waiting to redo our wide pine floors. I liked the idea that I can re-apply again in the future without sanding as it will bond to itself.

Yes, our flooring is soft. The PO had a roller chair by his desk and when you look at the floor at an angle at that spot you can see the dents left in the floor from his chair.

As our home is 140 yr. young, we only intend to lightly sand as we do not want to remove the patina.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2006 at 11:04PM
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I've got Waterlox on a narrow board probably pine kitchen and pantry floor in a 1920's farmhouse. I have wiped some Waterlox onto some scratches to touch it up, and it works fine. The wood is soft and far from perfect, so I like the fact that I can touch it up when it needs it. I don't think these boards were ever intended to be left uncovered. I think they had linoleum to start with. These boards wouldn't have looked great when they were new. Too many splintery streaks and imperfections. I like the floor anyway. There are even a few scorch marks, from the feet on an old wood cook stove getting too hot. I think the wood in the rest of the house will be better, judging by the floors in the closets. I haven't had the vinyl scraped up yet to find out. I think it's pine, as well, though. I'll use the Waterlox on the rest of the floors when we get around to having them done. The tung oil smell didn't bother me, and it only took a few days to air out.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 6:50PM
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Just to clarify softwood/hardwood. This is primarily a silvicultural distinction. So-called "softwoods" are from conifers; "hardwoods" are from deciduous trees. When the terms were developed, they had some meaning: the wood from most slow-growing deciduous trees does tend to be harder than that of conifers.

However, in either category, there is a wide range of hardness (and other factors). Softwood hardness overlaps considerably with hardwood, particularly after the wood has aged some. For instance, Douglas fir, technically a softwood, is harder than most hardwoods, with more tensile strength. That is why it is so often used for weight-bearing and spanning in construction. Poplar, a "hardwood", is a very soft wood that is used a lot for decorative elements as it takes to shaping and carving very well-- but never for flooring!

In the Northwest, where I grew up, it is not uncommon to see old houses with good crosscut df flooring you'd almost have to use a jackhammer to dent, they are that hard (I've bent nails using old df boards to build with-- had to predrill). Here in New England, I've lived in houses with old pine flooring whose charming character was only enhanced by the dents and odd cracks accumulated over the years.

My current home has a tiny post & beam core with multiple additions ala New England, and floors that vary from addition to addition, sometimes joined in creative ways. They do show their age, and need some refinishing. I've gotten some good hints here-- thanks. My perspective is that I live in an old house, and if I wanted my floors to look like a new house, I should live in a new house. I love my funky old house and wouldn't do anything to it that would clash with its character.

Dayle Ann

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 10:18AM
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Our house has the old growth heartpine floors and I think they're pretty tough!! No knots--very clear, and they take a beating with three dogs and two little kids.

I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see pictures of people who have redone with Waterlox!!!! I really think that would work well, but I don't want to go with it without seeing it first--and I'm too chicken to do it myself with my 1 & 3 year olds in the house--we'll have to clear out as it is when the flooring guy starts working no matter what!


    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 9:35PM
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The thing I wonder with Waterlox is, if I need to touch up the floor will I ALWAYS have to use Waterlox? (What if they go out of business?)

    Bookmark   September 28, 2006 at 12:48AM
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Thanks to all - I've learned a lot! My pine floors have a tung oil finish that needs to be refreshed. I have 3 dogs & a cat, and there is some staining. Will I have to sand to get the stains out, or is that a fruitless task with pine? Also, it is a medium fruitwood stain, but the dogs have scratched it down to the unstained pine. Any suggestions?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2006 at 4:16PM
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There are so many floor finishes available that it is sometimes impossible to know what they really are without looking at the ingredients.

What is commonly called "Oil-based Varnish" is about half petroleum-derived solvent (mineral spirits) and half synthetic resins (alkyd and/or polyurethane) that have been modified with vegetable and/or plant oils (sunflower, safflower, soybean, etc) that harden by cross-linking (polymerization) when exposed to oxygen in the air. Organic metal salt driers are added to catalyze cross-linking and speed curing. All contain about 45 to 50% solids. They are easily identified by the mineral spirits (petroleum distillates) listed in the ingredients.

The industry & specification names for these products are:
Solvent-based, oil-modified Alkyd varnish
 Solvent-based, oil-modified Alkyd-Polyurethane varnish
 Solvent-based, oil-modified Polyurethane varnish

Variations on these products are:
 Moisture-cure Urethane Varnish
 Swedish Finish or Acid-cure Urethane Varnish

What is commonly called "Water-based Acrylic or Polyurethane Finish" is about 2/3 water and 1/3 acrylic and/or polyurethane resins in one or two parts and (in order for polyurethane to dissolve in water) glycol ether solvents (ethylene glycol, & propylene glycol are the less toxic ones) and catalysts to promote faster and better chemical curing. Some can be identified by the California health warning on the label. (The danger is from direct skin contact with carcinogens during application)

The industry & specification names for these products are determined by the proportion of Acrylic and Polyurethane content:
 Water-borne, Acrylic finish,
 Water-borne, Acrylic-Polyurethane finish
 Water-borne, Polyurethane-Acrylic finish
 Water-borne, Polyurethane finish

The most durable and water-resistant finishes are oil or water-based Polyurethane, then oil-based Alkyd and then water-based Acrylic. Alkyd has better UV resistance. The oil-based versions have a much higher VOC (volatile organic content) than water-based which are limited in the US but some states have set a lower limit. VOC can be lowered in solvent based finishes but it requires more refining and is more expensive. The water-based polyurethanes are more difficult to apply correctly but dry faster allowing more coats to be applied in given time period making them the favorite finish of many contractors. The higher solids content of oil-based varnishes allow fewer coats than water-based finishes but they are much slower to dry and susceptible to dust. Oil-based polyurethane varnish dries a bit faster than the alkyd version. Some water-based finishes (especially acrylics) provide a more clear and less warm looking finish and are less likely to darken later.
Water-borne polyurethane can raise the grain and cause a stain from a tannin reaction to the high pH level on certain woods like white & red oak, cedar and redwood, so a sanding sealer is often a good idea.
All of the above finishes form a hard surface film and therefore must be sanded or softened chemically in order to be recoated at a later date.

Other more natural looking but less durable wood floor finish possibilities are:
 Natural oils (Linseed & Tung Oil) see website link below

    Bookmark   October 15, 2006 at 8:52AM
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We have an early 80's built house, with 8" wide pine boards in half of the first floor. It is stained, and 80% of it looks great, but there are several sections where dog claws and foot traffic have it gouged and the original color is showing between the grains. I'd rather not get into sanding it all just to fix some of it - but can I get away with that? Is there any hope that I can match a stain with a color that has been down for 25 years? There is no inconspicuous place to try a match.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 8:41AM
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My 1880's rowhome has wide pine floorboards that were definitely a subfloor, and meant to be covered with carpet (the house is blocks from old carpet factories). They have deep inconsistencies in height, and every 5th board is flatsawn wood so that there are splinters the size of my arm, no joke!

there was no hope of adding an oil finish because they were so distressed and ugly, and sanding was out of the question (would have had to sand off hald the thickness of the board), so I finally decided to PAINT them, Yes, I know that is a dirty word. But I think in this case it was true to the history of the house, since these aren't finish floors. and i am very happy with the results.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 10:22AM
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jaymeguokas, When I removed the carpet, then the little tiles, then the thick subfloors used long ago, what I found were wide plank pine floors. 2 bedrooms had been painted around the perimeter, which meant that the original owners had a large area rug down. You could see where the rug would have lain, as the wood was bare. 1 bedroom was stained and shellaced (who knows when, not done originally, the paint was still apparent just into the room where a metal threshold probably was), with the hallway, alcove and back area and back stairs painted. I believe my floors were painted as it was much cheaper back in 1896 to paint and not stain and do some sort of top finish on them. I was told a while ago it was the poor mans finish.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 7:01PM
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We unknowingly rolled a chair on top of pinewood floors, leaving deep dents on the wood floor. The floors are about 30 years old. Any suggestions as to how to repair it. I had heard that leaving a wet towel overnight covering the affected area would cause the wood to rise. Any experience or suggestions? I'd hate to make matters worst.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2006 at 1:58AM
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george1: Try a damp terry towel and a hot iron. The steam is driven into the fibres of the wood, swelling them. It works best with raw wood, but you may have broken the finish enough for moisture to penetrate.

You can do this starting at the least obvious end. If this doesn't work, a wet towel left overnight won't help before the finish is ruined.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2006 at 7:52AM
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Our house was built in 1927 and has fir flooring upstairs and oak downstairs. We've had 2 rooms refinished upstairs so far. I paid to have the floors refinished as we just didn't have the time/energy/equipment. The floors had never been finished in the middle, only around the edges, so our "floor-guy" had to do a little fancy footwork to get the two areas to match...but he did a beautiful job of blending them.

As for filling in holes/cracks, etc., he only filled in the holes that had been there for previous space heaters. The other "imperfections", ie, chips and gauges, are simply the floor's "character" and would disrespect this old house. He didn't do anything to those. After all, I like old houses because of their history and character.

I like dark wood and the rest of the house's woodwork is dark, so I had him go dark on the floors. Here are some pictures:



Second room:

    Bookmark   January 8, 2007 at 5:08PM
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I have been reading your posts and there is just so much information!. We have a 1925 foursquare. We have pine floors in some room and carpet in another. We tore up one of the carpets and have found wood in good condition, but they stripped the stain. They did not strip the stain in the corners, so we know the basic color, but due to age the base boards are a darker color. The wood does look alittle dry. What steps do I need to take to revitalize the wood and make it look gorgeous again. How do I take care of the dryness? I found an moisturizing oil by Pledge and then there is Murphy's wood soap. Is either good for an unfinished wood?


    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 11:00PM
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I have to chime in my support for the Waterlox camp. We're slowly getting our kitchen remodeled. I used Waterlox, on recommendation of this forum, for all of our new cypress countertops and I absolutely loved the results. The new wood drank the first coat, and the next 2-3 coats made the wood look progressively more beautiful.

We have what we believe to be old cypress floors and have sanded them ourselves. We had to take off quite a bit because some portions of the floor had been painted long ago but they seemed to come out great. As soon as we get some final edge-sanding done, we are going to finish them with Waterlox, as well. In the rest of our house where we have wood floors, the immediately-previous owners of our house put poly down where apparently there had always been an oil-based finish. We have dogs and a kid and they are hard on that plastic-y finish, it is even coming up in some places (perhaps due to the previous oil finish).

Since Waterlox is almost all tung oil, I wonder if you could follow up with a coat of tung oil, should that company go out of business (heaven forbid!)?

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 10:22AM
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Hello to all. I have a reclaimed pine plank floor in a 150 year old building in Montreal, Quebec. The planks are about an inch and a half thick and are tongue and groove. The wood is very, very dry. I would like to maintain the character and charm of the wood. However, I am intending to make the building a rental property and am concerned about the wear and tear and maintenance. Has anyone tried applying an oil finish to get the color and depth and then topping it with a varnish to achieve durability. Has anyone tried combining the two??

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 1:51PM
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How do you guys deal with splinters in old soft pine flooring? I want to refinish mine, but there are alot of flaked up spots with splinters and when sanding off the old finish it seems to just get worse.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2007 at 5:37PM
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I have a 1926 bungalow with heart pine floors. Planks are 2" wide linear grain. Most of the floors have a heavy dark colored wax buildup that I would like to strip away. What's the best way to do this (chemical or sanding)? If chemical is best, what should I use, or if sanding is best, what grit do I start and end with? If possible, I prefer to steer clear of terribly toxic chemicals.

The living room floor of my home seems to have either varnish or oil based poly on it. We removed the carpet from this room only 3 months ago and already our 2 dogs have scratched the finish horribly. The waxed floors have been exposed much longer than that and they show virtually no wear from the dogs. With this in mind, I'm leaning towards refinishing with a penetrating finish like Waterlox. Has anyone else used this product on heart pine floors? If so, pictures? Any guidance on sanding and finishes for this type of floor would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 5:05PM
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When we had our floors refinished, we decided to have them completely stripped by a professional. They used a drum sander and edger and this was the first time our floors were ever stripped. (They too are old heart pine) With four children and a very busy home, we chose polyurethane, the look is nice and very durable. I don't know if I'd recommend Waterlox with three dogs. I've refinished a cedar chest and used Waterlox and it is no where near as durable as the oil based poly on our floors. Dog claws just do a number no matter what finish is applied.

Hopefully someone else can give an opinion, this is just my experience. I can honestly say that I am so glad that we ditched the carpet and had our floors done.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 7:50AM
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I recently removed old carpet from my stairway and found a nice old pine stair(a honey colour with pronounced grain). Unfortunately the stringers had been stained, which bled through onto the treads and rises(but only in the corners near the stringer) so I sanded this area by hand with a 40-60 grit sandpaper, which removed the stain in those localized areas. However, the area that I sanded was obviously different than the area that were not sanded(it was more of a blonde colour with less pronounced grain) so I used a palm sander on the remainder with an 80 grit. The original wood had that honey colour and the areas that I sanded were now more blond. I originally wanted to clear coat the stair, however, now I have areas of the original wood and sanded areas, which are very visible. Any recommendations, is there a stain or bleaching agent that will blend the two.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 9:13AM
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I sanded off very poor condition, dry, partly painted and waxed pine floorboards nearly eight years ago, back to new bright yellow unfortunately - I had not used a sander before and I went over it too much. This is a heavy use area with a fire place that coal likes to fall out of. I can say that scratches do appear, but I rarely get to repair them as they seem to blend in on the next wash and/or oiling.
I filled large gaps, (lots of them as most of the tongue and groove had broken) with beading glued in and sanded off with the belt sander, I filled small gaps with wood glue, some of it fell through. I made patches for holes where pipe work or vents had been removed with new pine.
I finished it with Danish oil, I have washed it a quite a few times with wood floor cleaner (soap and water mix) I have re Danish oiled it once or twice - it has gone a rich honey colour except for the gaps that I had filled with the beading, they remain bright yellow, which gives a pin stripe effect! (I think the beading must have been ash or some other wood as the new pine patches have mellowed to the same honey colour) The stripes are not unpleasant.
I haven't had any boards splitting where I have filled gaps, though this could be due to being in a stone house were the temperature remains fairly constant).
I have some small areas that have the tendency to splinter, I think this is due to the boards being washed with water in the past and raising the grain. I have simply raised the splinter and glued it down with wood glue, sanded lightly with paper and re oiled - unnoticable after a couple of weeks.
The scorch marks from the coal end up looking like knots. Many builders have dented it and the piano loosing a caster and being dragged across the floor added to it's patina :)

I intend to do my bedroom next, it is in v.bad condition and I have patched it from all over the house where I have replaced some floors with new pine. So this room has a mixture of painted, waxed and old and new untreated wood. The main problem is the depth of new boards being about 2mm below the others, so I am opting to sand very lightly rather than putting ply packing underneath so I will end up with some boards being proud of the others, this time I have screwed the boards down as I need to be able to lift them for utilities, I will fill screw holes with wood putty later (haven't used this before).
I like dark floors really but because of the tendency to scratch that would make deep scratches stand out more and require more maintenance.
Does anyone know what the dark brown gunk like wax is on old floor boards, I think I would quite like it if it was re applied, it isn't a stain as you can remove it with the sander, although it clogs the sanding paper up terribly.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2008 at 1:03PM
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Circus Peanut


I bet the "dark brown gunk like wax" is, in fact, wax.

You've probably already laboriously sanded it off, but you can also get wax remover in liquid form that works nicely. Kudos on the hard work you've put in - there's nothing more rewarding than reviving a beautiful old wooden floor.

You can still find modern (and not so modern) floor wax in many varieties today, if you'd like to try it over your danish oil. You might want to invest in an electric floor buffer if you go that option.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 9:39PM
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Help Needed ASAP: We have a 1922 bungalow and just got the floors sanded. Against the advice of my spouse! But there were so many gouges and raw chips. Thougt I had got a good contractor, yadda yadda; and now the caramel colored heart pine and yellow pine floors are skinned bald, have one coat of poly and the contractor is on hold until we resolve the issue. Went from caramel and cinnamon color to bright butterscotch like a basketball court. The mixed woods - so nice with patina - look calico and are way too bright. If the contractor had not gone so deep, no problem but there it is. We feel like our puppy has just gotten killed. I need to salvage this mess and want to see if we can add a tint to darken the next coat and try and better match the original color. Or do I hand glaze then then varnish. Or (and I don't want to go any deeper and do more damage then I have) do we have to re-sand and start over with some sort of tint/stain then finish. The contract refused to stain the pine - which I bought - but his efficient machines took off too much of the old surface. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 11:51AM
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I finished this brand new pine beadboard to match my century-old floor below it. It's a multi-step process but it can be done.

The first coat of stain was a very light color called "New Pine" a gel stain from Woodcraft stores. Then, a coat of garnet shellac to seal that. Then a toning/glaze coat of fruitwood stain (you may prefer early american) again in a gel stain, carefully wiped off to get just a hint of color. Finally two more coats of garnet shellac. You can't tell that it's new pine from Home Despot.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 11:23PM
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Doug, I don't think you need to panic yet. We had our heart pine floors sanded down and poly-ed four years ago and they were initially really really orange. Scary orange:

But they mellowed and now they are beautiful and deep and rich. I'll take new pictures and post them later today so you can see how the color has mellowed. My theory is that the sanding exposed wood that wasn't oxydized or exposed to sunlight. With a little time and exposure, they get deeper in color. That's what happens with cherry too, yes?

We used oil-based poly because our floor guy said the resulting color would be richer.

I don't know about yellow pine, but I suspect it will mellow as well.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 9:23AM
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Me again. I'm not sure the photo shows how much better the floor looks now -- the photo still looks pretty orange to me, but the floor is a beautiful deep color (the scratches make me cringe):

We're just finishing up an addition where we used heart pine re-milled from old beams as our flooring. Here is our old flooring (in our house for 103 years) butting up against newly milled old wood. I'm expecting the new floor to deepen to the same color as the old:

All have 4 coats of oil based poly.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 11:23AM
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I am new to floor finishing, but I learn from expierience. I was stipping pine floors with chemical stripper. After multiple failures with several brands, I consulted some trusted friends for advice. I could not strip off a layer of "waxt" substance under 3 other layers of oaint. A professional refinisher hypothesised that it was lead paint I was dealing with because of the inability of the chemical strippers to remove it (modern strippers aren't formulated to strip lead paints) and the age of the house. NOTE: lead paint discontinued in1977-pre 1977 watch out). After testiong the "waxy" paint layer with a lead test kit, it was found to be a lead beased paint.

The only way I found to remove it was to use a heat gun. Very slow work, but it removed the gummy layer.

Heat guns to remove lead paint MUST be used in conjunction with respirators rated to protect against lead fumes. Wash hands thoroghly before injestion of ANYTHING. DO NOT remove respirator while in the room with the lead fumes. LEAVE THE ROOM TO TEAK A BREAK.

AO Saftey sells a respirator rated to protect against lead for about $45.00 retail.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 10:10PM
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I have old soft pinewood floors and have been wanting to redo them due to general wear and a large lab! Has anyone used Waterlox and if so, what were the results?

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 9:35AM
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This is waterlox of southern yellow pine (ca. 1905)


    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 8:51PM
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"pine and hardwood are two differant animals! hardwood usually has 2" wide boards, pine usually is 4" or larger. hardwood is, well, hard, it doesn't scratch as easilly, so it hold up very well. pine is soft, it will scratch very easilly and the covering will flake off."

The actual hardness of the wood is not determined by hardwood vs. pine (or softwood).
Douglass fir and heart pine (longleaf pine) are very hard woods.
The finishing process is pretty much the same for the two, with physically softer woods taking a lighter touch with the drum sander.

Strip wood floors rely on all the gaps to absorb the movement, so filling them is almost never appropriate.

If you had a room 10 feet across the grain, it would take 40 strips of 3 inch wide flooring to cover.
If strips expand and contract 1/32 inch (not a very large number for real wood) over the seasons, that is a total change of 1.25 inches.

If you glued all the pieces together that is the allowance you would need to prevent buckling (like a 'floating floor').
By nailing only one edge of tongue and groove flooring (the tongue edge) the pieces are allowed to expand and contract separately.

The spread out movement over the entire width of the floor allow it to maintain a good appearance throughout the year.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 9:17AM
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Brickeyee, that's excellent advise. I just wanted to add that botanically, hardwoods are decidious & softwoods are evergreen. So far as I know, actually hardness has nothing to do with it. I'm guessing, but I suspect the term 'hardwood floor' was a marketing gimmick before the end of the 19th century to sell more expensive oak flooring as a status symbol of quality. Hence the reason that so many Victorian & later houses have oak parquet on the main parlor floors & plain pine on the upper bedroom floors.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 8:37PM
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Except for Larch and Live Oak, which are perverse. Larch is a deciduous conifer, and Live Oak is an evergreen hardwood.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 10:26PM
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Interesting, Casey, I did not know that.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 1:34AM
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What is the best filler to use for the nail holes that will match the would and absorb any stain or finish we may want to use?
We live in a very dry climate and the gaps between the boards are huge and do not change with the seasons so I would like to fill them too, could I use the same filler?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 1:56PM
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My husband and I purchased our first house this winter. We removed all the carpet linoleum, asbestos adhesive, nails, staples, varnish, etc. We used a belt a belt sander on our hands and knees, and finally treated the floor with Waterlox. This was a CHORE! It took us over a month to finish our 1300 square foot house (except for tiny bathroom and tiny kitchen). Luckily, we still had a month and a half left remaining on our lease to our apartment. It would have been IMPOSSIBLE to live there during all of this.

We are tremendously happy with the results. Every nail and staple hole can be seen, but we like that. The look isn't for everyone, but we adore them. The kitchen floor will be treated the same way within a few months. We will also use Waterlox on a butcher block counter in the near future.

Before & After Sanding

Waterlox results:

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 2:55PM
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We have a pine floor with wide planks. We have been through it all and back with this floor - the story is looong. In any case, we have now stained the floor (about 900 sf), and have decided to that we want a poly for like a gym floor, but we do not want a glossy finish. We have too much - dog, 6 kids, and a lot of traffic. Any suggestions on a product? Thanks for the help.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 1:15PM
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I'm struggling to decide what to do in a rental apartment that has a wide pine subfloor in the kitchen. The choices are to finish it or put down laminate. I'm tempted to get it finished because it's classier and reversible, unlike the laminate which will require undercutting of all the casings and raising the radiator. The cost difference isn't really the issue, Costco laminate is ~$1.70/ft and I lay it myself vs $2/ft refinishing, I'm just concerned about how it will turn out and how long it would hold up in a heavy use area like a kitchen. Laminate has it's drawbacks in an area of potential water spills too.

Any thoughts?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 2:42PM
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We had our wide plank floors professionally refinished in March.He used poly finish--3 coats .looked wonderful but now in May,we are getting sticky balls of poly bubbling up between the boards.People are waking on the floor and smearing the goop all over the floors. Why? How do we fix this and how do we clean the floor without affecting the finish?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 6:02PM
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Hello group!

I am new here and I am looking for some help. I bought my 1895 Masonic Queen Anne Victorian about 6 months ago. 98% of my home is original. I have been pulling off the carpet hiding my beautiful wood staircase. My question is with the finish on the staircase steps. The floorboards are all in great shape and are the wide planks. They look to have been finished with a paint of sorts and then a varnish type product ontop. Does anyone know what this finish might be? I would like to save teh finish and it only needs to be refinished in a few spots.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 1:02AM
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Congrats on acquiring such an interesting home.
I think the mystery finish is a faux wood graining; when the original finish (probably shellac or oil varnish) became tatty looking, to save a complete refinishing, somebody decided to cover the flaws with the paint/stain/varnish method. Graining is notorious for being nearly impossible to touch up.
The steps involved would be a very deep cleaning to remove gunk. Then any chips in the grain coat may be filled in with artists colors (even wood-tone sharpie-type markers) and finally a new layer of varnish to protect the artistry for another few decades. The aptness of the colors mixing and application will tell in the finished product.
If you did decide to strip it to the original finish (maybe it's some fabulous hardwood!) the job will be more or less difficult depending on how much grain base paint embedded itself in the pores and scratches of the wood. You would probably find yourself touching up the indelible paint spots with markers or paint to color them to match the hardwood.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 11:42AM
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I know this is an old thread, but so much good info. Was reading where some had pine upstairs and hardwood downstairs. Do any of you have a picutre of how to transition between the two floors? I'm installling wide plank pine downstairs and will stain them a medium brown color. I will keep the same color going up the stairs ( with white risers) but want to keep the top natural pine with waterlox top coat. How would that landing strip look? Thanks for any info I can get on this!


    Bookmark   February 24, 2012 at 3:16PM
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Please help, we sanded down our sub flooring which we think is pine. Of course it has nail holes, etc. Is it possible to bleach them so that they turn out a white grey color. I really don't want a yellow color.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 11:17AM
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Bleaching is hard to control - can end up very blotchy - & the chemicals harsh. You're probably better off with a white or light gray stain. Google whitewash floors for images - is that what you had in mind?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 2:14PM
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