Anyone Refinish Your Old Floors Lately?

CassandraAugust 28, 2010

What kind of coating did you use? I am looking at refinishing the original (1913) white oak ("public" rooms) and hard maple (rest of house) floors. I like the amber tones that oil finishes give but I understand more and more companies are going toward water based products. I am also interested in a darker (medium) stain for the white oak rather than its current natural look. Any thoughts or advice?

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We didn't actually do ours---the previous owner did---but just as an example, our house and the house next door are identical, and both had their floors done at the same time. Our neighbor used oil-based finish, and the PO of ours used a water-based finish. Five years in, both still look good (excluding the dog scratches on ours!)---but they are different. Ours is matte; his is shinier. Ours is a bit whiter, while his is a bit redder (both are the same rift-sawn white oak floors underneath). I've been told that dog scratches show less in ours than they would with an oil-based finish, but no clue if this is true.

I think some of the trend towards water-based finish is for environmental reasons, too, so you can consider whether that's a factor or not. The type of finish also affects what type of cleaning products you can use on it. HTH!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 8:59PM
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Both oil- and water-based finishes have advantages and disadvantages. Oil is usually shinier. But it has a high volatile content, so you will smell it for days. In fact, if anyone in your house has a susceptibility to turpentine or mineral spirits, get them out for a week or so. Water is usually more matte, less volitile and more environmentally friendly -- by a whisker -- neither is particularly eco-friendly. How could they be?

Manufacturers make both products with a slight orange cast intended to match the varnish on old floors, but the standard is a clear finish. If you want the old look, ask for the antique formulation. Or you can do what the old guys did -- make your first coat orange shellac.

However, I would strongly recommend against finishing the floors yourself unless you are very experienced with a floor sander. It's very easy to ruin a floor and there is no way to repair the damage except by replacing the floor.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 12:38AM
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We had ours refinished last January. We chose a water based natural/unstained finish. I love it! I like darker stains normally, but this area of our house doesn't get enough light and we thought it would make the rooms too dark.

Here is a link that might be useful: Our refinished floors

    Bookmark   September 12, 2010 at 1:44PM
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If your floors are in fact Doug Fir (which is actually a type of Pine, I think) then they will turn darker with time, upon exposure to light, even if you go with a clear water based finish. I think it is not 20 years, but within a year they will darken a bit, so that adjacent areas finished in different months might look a bit different.

White, heart, or yellow pine--each beautiful as well--might not darken so much. Definitely look into the VOCs released by different finishes, although your floors are only one of many sources of indoor air pollutants. We wanted oil but went with a water-based polyurethane on our fir floors. Better for everyone supposedly--the workers, the pets, the future owners, and us. They look much better than we thought they would--they are beautiful (a bit golden, a bit reddish, a bit blonde all mixed into a shockingly nice medley). Apparently they will turn somewhat more salmon-colored in the next few years--that should also look good. Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2010 at 5:17PM
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We have pine and oak. We chose to keep both natural and finished with a water based poly. My wife was pregnant at the time and we had to move in shortly after the floors were done. The odor still seemed to hang around forever, so I'm glad we didn't use oil.

My wife originally thought she wanted them stained darker. Once they were sanded, we tested a spot with mineral spirits and loved the natural look.

Here is a link that might be useful: Refinished floors

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 9:15AM
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Yes, nice thread Sue with a few different people posting pics.
And another forum where people would be doing this. Also, Remodeling Forum, now that I think of it. And that jogged my memory about another renovation website I have in bookmarks. I'll look it up later when I have more time.

Sherry, did you notice billl said above " Once they were sanded, we tested a spot with mineral spirits and loved the natural look. " Aghhh! The ones in the original post said never use mineral spirits or treated tac rags---only water.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 7:16AM
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I did mine myself and had never done anything even similar before. Did they turn out perfect? Heck no, but they are 120 years old and I didn't expect them to, no matter who did them.

Am I happy with them and does everyone who enters ooooh and ahhhh over them? Yup.

Professional refinishing would have been ideal but it just wasn't possible. By the time we reached that part of the remodel we were so over budget it was a struggle just to buy the supplies to do it myself. Seriously, I had to rent the sander and buy half the supplies one week and wait til the next to buy the remainder of the varnish, that's how bad it got in the end.

I'm certainly no professional but I can share what I learned (and did wrong) if you decide you're doing it yourself.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 10:33AM
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beth0301, I'm not the OP but I'm very interested to hear your experience with refinishing your floors. Can you share?

    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 6:41AM
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We refinished the maple and oak floors in our 1910 house in 2 stages. In 1988 the refinishers used no stain and an oil based polyurethane matte finish. In 2007 they used no stain and water based finish on the remaining oak. Both turned out beautifully. The difference was that the water finish has far less VOC's (volatile organic compounds) and as a result was much better for the environment and for us. We could hardly smell anything.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2010 at 11:36PM
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On the advice of (some) people on this board, I've been slowly refinishing all the floors in the house with Waterlox, a tung oil based finish. Most of the floors are Douglas fir that was put down 65 years ago and never finished.

I have to admit the results are nothing short of spectacular. These aren't the best before and after pictures I have, but they'll have to do.

After the carpet came up, before sanding:

Finished out, 4 coats:

It's expensive, it's hard to find, but the results speak for themselves.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 7:52PM
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We did ours 19 years ago,they still look great,We used water baserd poly too.Im very satisfied with ours.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 10:30PM
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What I want to know is,
1. What did you do with your furniture during the refinishing?
2. Did you do HALF THE FLOORS at a time and if so, how did you decide where to make the break between halves?

Should we get a POD to store everything in the house and go live in a motel for a couple of weeks? Do it all at once?

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 2:39PM
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Good question moccasin. That's exactly my dilemma. I decided to do half the house's floors (the maple) during November, and half next spring. The first half is getting done next week. I have a couple of helpers who will move all of my furniture and rugs into the other half. The only trouble is that BOTH of my bathrooms and the kitchen are on the "side" that will be done next week. So I will be living in the dining room and living room without a kitchen for a few days, with the cats, the cat litter, a hot plate and coffee pot, etc. Luckily, I can swing myself from the dining room door into one of the bathrooms without stepping on the hardwood floor, so I'll have access to the bathroom and shower. The second half of the floor, in spring, will be much easier!

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 5:31PM
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We didnt move in yet ,but we put 3 coats of waterbased poly.Let each coat dry overnite.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 9:31AM
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We used a water-based varathane on our old, much abused fir floors, and I LOVE them. I have to say that in the water-use areas of kitchen and bathroom the finish has not held up well 15+ years out and needs a re-do, but the look of the floors throughout is a wonderful honey-blonde tone that is just luminous. Somewhat less amber than the example shown by TheNarrows above. Ours is a bright house anyway, and on some days with daylight coming in, the spaces just glow.

I know that current trends are toward dark floors, and you say you prefer mid-tone, but I'd go as light as possible all the time - it's the most significant thing you can do to brighten up space. And it's a warm brightness. But obviously, test, test, test and your own taste should prevail as well as the characteristics of your space.

You can always darken floors by putting down rugs, but if you stain them, you can never lighten them again.

The wood will darken from its naked look with any finish, of course.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2010 at 1:50PM
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Not sure I agree with that in our new house we had really dark hardwood floors I hated them ,you saw all dust,dirt everything,Mine now are med,honey color love ,love them.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2010 at 9:31PM
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While we were having new floors put in our kitchen, we had them refinish the original floors in the dining room. They used a stain color very close to the original color, and the finish coat is water based...Glister, I think it was called.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 7:09PM
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I found a better picture of the finished floor after the fourth coat.

Remember, this is Douglas Fir that was under carpet and never finished out. I think it looks like bars of butterscotch. In 20+ years of working with wood, I've never seen a finish quite so dramatic. I'm eager to see what it will look like on the oak flooring downstairs.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 4:43PM
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We have red oak floors in our home - stained them with Red Mahogany by minwax, which meant we HAD to go with the oil based poly. It wasn't difficult to use, and we did the main floor while we were still in the apartment so we didn't have furniture to worry about.

We love the dark floor look - but it does show ALL the dust and pet hair.

When we had the 2nd floor refinished, we moved most of the furniture to either the living room or attic. Yes, we lived like squatters for a few days and yes the smell wasn't FANTASTIC, but it wasn't THAT bad.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2010 at 11:31AM
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Glad you posted thatgirl. As of this evening, I'm in the squatter phase (me and my two cats), all of us living in two small rooms along with piled high furniture, clothes, cat litter etc. Floor refinishers come tomorrow morning. So far, ok. . .but ask me in a few days.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2010 at 7:02PM
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