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refinishing softwood floor

David_Bakker's picture

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I am renovating a 135 year old home and have found beautiful original wood flooring in several of the rooms. Unfortunately it is softwood. I am looking for information on how to properly refinish the flooring. I have heard of sanding the floor saving the dust and mixing it with a compound and spreading it over the floor to fill the cracks. Also I need information about what kind of sealant to put on it to protect the floor. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

(post #169555, reply #1 of 16)

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Just did a 100 year old home. It had Douglas Fir floors. Sand, and save the sawdust if you care to. I would put a very light stain on it, as softwoods tend to absorbe more stain. I would use 3 coats of oil based polyurethane. Most floor finishing subs will only charge you about $2.50 per foot to refinish, and if you can move the furniture, that makes more sense to me, but hey, its your money.

Oil vs. Water based poly will probably be a hot topic here. I think the oil base is stronger and is more predictable to install. But I'm not a tree hugger.

Good Luck!!

(post #169555, reply #4 of 16)

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George, We would like to try and keep some of the old character to the wood so I agree about not sanding the floor to flat. However as you no doubt aware there are some cracks and nail holes from the sub floor that was placed over it years ago. Thats the part about saving the sawdust and mixing it with a glue or something and then spreading it over the floor and lightly sand to fill in some of the cracks and holes. Have you heard of this proceedure and if so any suggestions of what to use for this process. Thanks David.

(post #169555, reply #5 of 16)

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I have fir flooring in our second level and with only some sanding with a RO sander to 220 grit and two coats of alkyd poly, they look wonderful. Be aware that although fir is not white oak, it isn't as soft as something one would buy today, either. The luster and depth the alkyd stuff gives to the wood is unbelievable. No stain required, in my opinion.

(post #169555, reply #6 of 16)

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I have a T&G 1 3/4" Old growth fir floor made of old decking. therefore a lot of varriance in the gaps -- up to a 1/4" in some spots. I've started to sand the floor and it looks great but I'm looking for recommendations on how to fill these gaps....

(post #169555, reply #10 of 16)

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Right on George. We do lots of old work and reproduction with newer (softer) material and we have had good luck with Deftoil. Won't hold up like poly but easy to repair and keep up. Murphys Oil Soap and an occasional wax do the trick. We also use it on furniture and if you go 5 coats or better you approach poly wearibility. The sheen is very mellow, impossible to duplicate with a hard finish. Good luck ( careful with the rags )

(post #169555, reply #12 of 16)

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Okay, so the question has been asked, but I don't see any answers. What would anyone recommend to fill in cracks in a 100 yr+ old softwood floor.
Mine's hemlock, has aged to a lovely golden oak color, but has shrunk back along the edges to about 1/4" gaps, fine if you are in a barn, as this building once was, but for a converted office, there's too much cleaning involved with the wide gaps.
I was considering an epoxy/wood flour slurry, syrupy thick, poured in like boat-deck seal, but am concerned about the lack of elasticity of bulk epoxy pours, either the wood re-shrinking after a summer pour, or swell-binding when moisture increases after winter has passed.

Whaddya think?

(post #169555, reply #13 of 16)

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o.k. YOU GUYS, iVE BEEN TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO FILL THOSE CRACKS FOR THREE YEARS,HAVEN'T COME UP WITH ANYTHING ACCEPTABLE YET, I'M DEALING WITH 1200 SQ. FT. OLD GROWTH D.F. 1-3/4 X 6 T&G, 3/8" GAPS, SOFT FLOOR. hELP, THANX

(post #169555, reply #15 of 16)

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THANKS FOR THE RESPONSE GEORGE, BECAUSE OF THE UNEVEN WIDTH OF THIS DECKING,(SALVAGED FROM A DOCK WAREHOUSE ROOF) THE GAPS ARE RANDOM WIDTH. THE SLURRY TYPE FILLER IS WHAT I KEEP GOING BACK TO, HAVEN'T MIXED UP ANYTHING YET. THE FLOOR SANDING DUST,WATERED DOWNWITH SOME SORT OF OIL, GLUE?? STILL HOPING FOR AN EXPERIANCED, SOLUTION.. I'M TIRED OF DOING THINGS OVER.. ALL SUGGESTIONS ARE WELCOME, EVEN EXPERIMENTAL, THANKS AGAIN.

(post #169555, reply #16 of 16)

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I am renovating a 135 year old home and have found beautiful original wood flooring in several of the rooms. Unfortunately it is softwood. I am looking for information on how to properly refinish the flooring. I have heard of sanding the floor saving the dust and mixing it with a compound and spreading it over the floor to fill the cracks. Also I need information about what kind of sealant to put on it to protect the floor. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

(post #169555, reply #2 of 16)

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David, I second Henry's post re: Oil Based Finishes. Polyurethane, Satin/Oil; Watco Danish Oil Finish; or even Linseed Oil carefully used (possible fire hazard-read the can.)
Do you need to fill the cracks? Are you looking for a new house, or a Century-old well maintained
effect? Consider sanding without looking to flatten the daylites out of everything, keeping some dents and dings. Test a spot with some oil based product, often a 150 year old board will varnish up beautifully without staining first.
Have at it.

(post #169555, reply #3 of 16)

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I finished a new pine floor with polyurethane and after six years it looks horrible. Dings, dents and scratches do not create a nice patina. They darken, unlike the unaffected areas. It always looks dirty. Next time I'll use shellac and paste wax as recommended by others on this forum.

(post #169555, reply #7 of 16)

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Gents: There have been a few threads on these new pages regarding floor finishes. Softwood needs a oilbased product. Real soft softwood, new growth pine, needs a oil or stain, and probably not varnish. As Mr. Giuliani noted, new/softwood is just that, too soft. Most of you however are dealing with older oldgrowth softwood, which has dried, dinged and dented already. A waterborne finish dries too hard, and will chip off when new dents are introducted. As to filling gaps, this may be the wrong time of year to do so, with low temps and humidity. See what's there in July/August first, otherwise you'll create more problems for yourself.

(post #169555, reply #8 of 16)

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Oil or Stain? George, like a tung oil with hardeners (Minwax Tung Oil, Deft. etc.)? Interesting, I wouldn't think it would put up with much foot traffic. It sure would be easier to apply.

Thanks for the post.

(post #169555, reply #9 of 16)

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George - do you include shellac in the "oil" group? Its quite flexible I've found. (I've read that dewaxed shellac is not so flexible.)

(post #169555, reply #11 of 16)

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Exactly guys. Oil based or a wax-shellac, or plain wax. Oils alone, not as a varnish, need multiple (3+) coats, can be touched up, and will accept wax. Just as Steve Jackson noted. I haven't shellaced any floors, yet Bill Connor makes a very good point. Waterstaining is my only concern Bill, and not everyone has the talent when it comes to an alcohol float or french polish shellac touch-up.

(post #169555, reply #14 of 16)

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Richard and Mike, as I understand it, you have uniform gaps between all boards averaging 1/4 to 3/8 inch. Forget rigid fillers. Annual shrink/swell will either crack-out the filler or compress the wood cells resulting in more gappage.
We've solved this by lifting and re-setting the original floor, piecing in a new board from either
an obscure area of the house or from a salvage lumber yard. My only other idea, is to use a softer linseed type putty, much like Richard's boat-deck analogy... untried, but mused over.