What to do with old wood floor?

sweetearth23September 19, 2011

We have an 1860's farmhouse, with original wide plank floors (don't know what kind of wood). One area, which will become an entry/study and guest bathroom, has a painted floor of ancient vintage. Ideally, I would love to finish the floors with Tung oil, but sanding them down enough to get the paint off completely would, I'm afraid, make them "too even"- and they would lose their worn edges and primitive character. However, some of the boards need to be replaced, and so I'm wondering whether I should just repaint the floor, which would be easier and cheaper, although my heart's not in it. If so, can I use a non-glossy paint? Or how could they be sanded without losing what makes them special?

What would you do?

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I'd probably go for a liquid or gel type paint remover to get rid of the paint and then take it from there.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 9:20PM
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I tried a soy paint remover with little success. It didn't work very well and took forever, and a floor guy who looked at it said sanding was the only way. I'm willing to brush up on my paint removing skills and give it another shot, though. Any recommendations for remover?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 10:50PM
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I'd go for the real paint removers, not these non-odorous/no strength modern trends. Do it at a time when you can open all the windows for ventilation. If the paint is milk based, it will still be difficult, but it will do better with the meth-type strippers.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 12:24AM
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be careful to choose a paint remover that won't raise the grain too much. removing the paint will be time consuming but it is doable. i have seen videos of people using peel-away on the ENTIRE EXTERIOR of their house. so at least you aren't doing that.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 8:28AM
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Use a real & nasty stripper like Strypeeze follow up with the liquid version, Kutzit, to clean the leavings, and report back if you have enough brain cells to type.
Wear a respirator for high-VOC work while using, and open windows. Seal off room from the rest of the house.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 9:05AM
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We had heart pine floors that had been treated badly & painted in our 1858 house. I knew the floor guy & he was instructed to sand as minimally as possible, NOT fill anything, & repair/replace only large pieces that absolutely needed it; I would do the oil finish.

We have lots of small chunks missing, splintered edges, wide cracks, burn marks in front of the fireplaces, deep stains, 10,000 tiny nails that were impossible to remove & too destructive to countersink, etc - & yet we have great looking floors (of course, I'm prejudiced, lol).

I tried using paint remover & a small belt sander in an unused area & barely put a dent in the paint - the wood was just too rough & absorbent when it was painted.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 9:29AM
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I feel like I'm losing brain cells through the normal channels, so speeding up the process makes me nervous! But I guess it's worth giving paint removers another shot in one of the corners...
antiquesilver - your floor is spectacular! That's what I was hoping for, but the floor guy warned me that sanding it enough to get the paint off will sand off the character and history. I'd love to keep the dings and imperfections (not sure about nails vs. sander, though!), so that's the dilemma.
Thank you, everyone.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 1:14PM
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Find a floor guy who has lots of experience with old houses & knows that a high gloss gym floor is NOT what you're after. It doesn't need to be sanded down to the point that it looks like newly milled, unmarred lumber with perfect edges.

Count on surprises, too. My guy had originally planned on a weekend to sand 2 rooms & a short hall but after making the first pass, it was discovered that there was some cupping that had been leveled & hidden by the paint & heavier sanding would be necessary. He wound up by putting about 40 hours in it instead of 2 days. The wood was sanded to the point that oil/stain/finish would penetrate & the floor would be smooth - but not oversanded.

The small nails that I referred to are the thousands of almost invisible headless ones that attached carpets or linoleum over the years & invariably leave the outline. Removing them is virtually impossible (without leaving a trail of destruction far more damaging than the 'outline') & countersinking them would leave a hole larger (& more obvious) than the nail; they don't shred the sandpaper of a commercial sander.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 1:58PM
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Has anyone tried using a cabinet scraper on a floor? I guess the nails would make short work of the sharp edge, but if you don't have too many protruding nails it might work.

If the paint is thick, stripping with a heat gun or infrared (Silent Paint Remover) might work. A picture might enable more detailed advice.

Karin L

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 11:04PM
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A cabinet scraper's no good for stripping paint; you would spend too much time resharpening the delicate edge.
But a 1 1/2" wide paint scraper's just the thing, if you slightly round off the blade so there are no corners to dig in. I have scraped many floors in my time, and it's an intense upper-body workout. Keep the scraper sharp with the file, maybe every 8 pulls when scraping paint; varnish you'll get 12 pulls before dull.
Take all prudent lead paint precautions when scraping.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 6:49PM
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A pint scraper is like a cabinet scraper on steroids.

It does not use the delicate burr of a cabinet scraper, but brute force (weight pushing the edge down and muscle pulling it across the surface.

The old models had a ball on top to push down on (and clamp the angle of the handle to the blade) and a handle to pull with.

As soon as electric drum sanders cam into use the scraper was reserved for the corners that the drum sander and rotary edging sander could not reach.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 7:41PM
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I'm not sure how much of a difference it makes in approach, but I don't see multiple layers of paint; it looks more like it had soaked in to unfinished wood.
This may take a while, but I'll post my results when I have some. I really appreciate all the suggestions!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 11:22PM
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