THE DAY we closed on this house, we pulled into the driveway all smiling and giggling. We go the front door and we immediately parted way opening up all the windows in the whole house and then quickly finding a corner of the carpet that we could lift. We wanted it OUT. Let me seeeee those beautiful floors!! Let me at ’em!!
We found beautiful red oak floors from 1949. We had a lot of work ahead of us. The carpet left behind a terrible residue all over the floors. Some kind of tar-based glue. It’s black, it’s sticky, and it WOULD NOT come off!
Hours and hours were comitted to removing this stuff because it couldn’t be sanded off. It gunked up any grit sand paper we tried. Paint thinner, vinegar, Murphy’s oil soap and so many other solutions were tried out to see if it would cut this substance. In the end, white vinegar was the most effective. The technique was so tedious. We would spread a layer of vinegar over an area of about 2 square feet and let it sit for about a minute to help it soak into the black tar. Then we’d go in with metal scrapers and plane it off and wipe it away. Move onto the next area.
Every night after work, and any vacation time I had, was spent scraping these floors. We bonded with the floors, we cursed at the floors. We had two bedrooms, a hallway, and the living room to work on. After a week we were finally done! The house smelled like a salad but it was time to start sanding!
Family and friends came to our rescue and it was all hands on deck! Running (and blowing circuits) were a stand up sander that we rented for the day. My stepdad (and home renovation hero) was in charge of using this one, as he had refinished hardwood floors before. There was also a medium sized corner sander, which was also super heavy duty, and 3 or 4 hand sanders.
The chaos out on our deck during this process…
The biggest takeaway I had from this… adventure… was to BE PATIENT. This is not something you want to rush or cut corners on. Refinishing hardwood floors is a slow and tedious process. You have to strip them in multiple phases, heaviest grit sand paper, medium, fine and super fine. And that is with every single tool we had!
Here’s a look at some of the used sand paper–as you can see from those dark streaks, not all of the black gunk had been completely removed. The vinegar didn’t work on every single spot, so we had to grind it off with a metal-bristle wheel and then sand it. It was painful to watch!
Couples who sand together, stay together 😉
After two days of sanding and vacuuming (including the stairs–but that will be another post) we were ready to stain. We made a stain sample board to choose our color. (A sample board is just a scrap piece of red oak stripped down and then small swatches painted on next to each other so we could see how the color would truly look)
I thought we were going to go for a medium/dark toned stain but when we got to the see our floors raw and naked, we saw how great of shape they were in! There were no stains and the grain of the wood was so beautiful!
By the way, be super careful during this time–when the raw wood is exposed everywhere.
We all wore booties on our shoes and no one was allowed to eat or drink on them because they would absorb and stain so easily.
We decided to go with a Natural Stain from Minwax.
One coat of that and 2 coats of Minwax Satin Poly later, we had beautiful glowing red oak floors!
Here’s how our hardwoods look today, they’re holding up wonderfully and I am so in love with the warmth they bring to our house.
This was a huge project and I am so proud that we did it! The floors are not perfect, but they’re beautiful and they’re ours. My family and friends’ help was invaluable. I don’t know if I can ever repay them for all their hard work, sweat and back aches that they put in to this!
Have you any tips to add about refinishing old wood floors? I’d love to hear them 🙂 And if you know anyone looking to take on this project, share this!
Thanks so much for spending time here today.
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