Endsleigh specialise in Home Contents Insurance for people in the UK

Preparing our hardwood floors – advice?

First-Floor Basics

I’m dreaming of the day our (thoroughly cleaned) hardwood floors do not look like they’re caked with four layers of mud and grit and grime. Right now, they ain’t pretty. Even my father, who’s more frugal than me, thought maybe we should just throw down carpet and hide them for a bit. But I’ve held fast to the belief that they WILL be refinished, and WILL look good. Or at least, much better.

Here’s the before:


You can’t see it in this photo, but we also have a “speed bump”, two boards that are so warped and raised they’re hard not to trip over. We screwed them down for safety’s sake, but they’ll be cut out and replaced. As will anything rotted – we’ve got some bad rot areas near the radiators.

My job is to track down replacement wood. We’re pretty sure it’s red oak, but if you think we’re wrong, please share! I’m planning to call Significant Elements and Historic Houseparts, our two favorite salvage shops. Hopefully they’ll have something close to a match.

We’ll be working on the basement jacking (better to finish that first, as it affects the way the floorboards squish together) and generally getting things in shape for sanding. We won’t actually sand until the weather is nicer, since it will need to air out.

Any tips on what we can do to prep them while the weather’s still nasty?

Comments, Thoughts, and Feedback

homeimprovementninja had this to say on 02.23.06:

Well, there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is that since that wood is old, even if you get the same kind of wood (looks like oak to me), it will not match exactly and your speedbump is in the middle of the floor.

The good news is that you can probably take the wood out from an area that people won’t notice (like the closet) and it will match exactly. Then, you can put the replacement wood in the closet, where discrepancies won’t be as noticeable (because of different lighting in the closet).

Derek Canavan had this to say on 02.23.06:

My Douglas Fir floors were just as nasty and we didn’t have refinishing them in our initial budget. Problem is they were just not liveable. So, two weeks after moving in, we called for estimates and were shocked at how inexpensive it was to get them done. They came right back and look gorgeous. And yes, that is Red Oak. Definetly. Good Luck

Kristin had this to say on 02.23.06:

No suggestions, but I’ll be the cheering section. Rah, rah! You can do it!

stuccohouse had this to say on 02.23.06:

Don’t give up on replacing those boards. Red oak is amazingly easy to match old to new wood. I moved into a house with ugly stains on a good portion of the floors….and was able to replace sections of board with new stock…stain it to match and then finish. You can’t tell where the replacement took place. They will look amazing when they are done :-)

Jenne had this to say on 02.23.06:

I don’t know if it’s proper…but when we get around to re-doing ours [again] I’m going to go around and fill the BIG gaps in with woodputty. There are big areas on the corners of some boards that are missing. Stuff gets into those spots [like drywall dust] and make it very obvious that the floor is not perfect.
Other than that, sand sand sand!

amanda had this to say on 02.23.06:

I have two small comments-
1. When we moved in, our floors were terrifying. We couldn’t afford refinishing either, but Murphy’s Oil Soap and a little bit of elbow grease made them liveable for about the first year.
2. When we finally got someone over to give us a quote for the floors, it was really much, much cheaper than we had ever expected. $2500 for our entire first floor and the staircase. So, as Derek said, you may be pleasantly surprised at the price. We had some bad boards (old water damage), but considered them “character” and just refinished them as is. Our floor guy had a few boards that he used to patch some holes from the old radiators) and they matched perfectly (but it was heart pine, and not oak, so that may be a different story). Hopefully your floor guy has as much character as ours- he smelled of illegal substances and looked like Kid Rock, but had an awesome appreciation for old houses and did a great job.
Good luck!

Danielle had this to say on 02.24.06:

We just had our bedroom floors redone by a local guy (Canastota). You can stop and check them out if you’d like — turned out beautiful. I can forward you his contact info if you’re interested. I believe our floors are a southern pine (downstairs they are oak — he’ll be redoing them this spring). If you’re wanting to redo the floors yourselves and can’t find spare pieces and parts (in closets, etc.), maybe this guy would be willing to sell you the pieces you need (apparently he has a barn full of wood)? Could be worth a shot. Just let me know if you want more info… good luck! -Danielle

mindy had this to say on 02.24.06:

Thanks, everyone – great advice all around (and a cheerleader to boot!)

It does sound like hiring someone would be more affordable than we thought – we’ll have to look into that. We’re on such a streak though – no contractors (other than Teague) have yet graced our doorway – that it might be a shame to break it. Hmmmmm.

Danielle, I’d love the local guy’s info – I’ll drop you an email!

Pam Ager had this to say on 02.25.06:

Hi Mindy~
We had our yellow pine floors refinished by a local guy-Gary Whipple. He did a wonderful job! We had to “harvest” some boards from a floor upstairs.

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