5 Worst Mistakes of Historic Homeowners (Part 2 Floors)

By Scott Sidler December 13, 2011

5 worst mistakes historic homeowners floorsLiving here in the Sunshine State, it seems that folks have an unusual penchant for $0.69 sq. ft. 20″ tiles. The most popular colors are blah, boring, and blech. People love to toss these tiles down over red oak, irreplaceable heart pine, and any number of historic floors. And these tiles are spreading like a wildfire across the floors of historic homes. Something must be done! Which brings us to our number 2 worst mistake of historic homeowners…

Flooring

Historic houses are having their floors covered up, ripped out, or trashed in any number of ways to make room for newer, inferior products. Only in America would we be ignorant enough to cover what would be a $15 or $20 per sq. ft. floor with a $.50 per sq. ft. floor. Are we really that shallow? Historic homes have some of the finest flooring available. Have you ever seen a 70 year old vinyl floor? I didn’t think so. How about laminate flooring that has made it even 30 years? Me neither. Todays floors, even the top quality ones, come with 25 and even 40 year warranties which isn’t too bad, but why would you replace a floor that will last centuries with one that lasts only a third that long?

And in today’s real estate market, most of us are being ever mindful of home values. The typical buyer of an old or historic home is expecting hardwood floors. “Maintenance-free” tile is not a selling point for these kind of houses. And while a click-lock engineered wood or laminate floor may be considered an upgrade on a new home, it is a definite cold shower to your historic home’s market price.

Wood Floor Restoration

Wood floors are prime candidates for refinishing and restoration. If you have pet stains, loose/missing boards, rot, termite damage, or other issues, these are simple repairs for a flooring professional. And if you get someone who says your floors aren’t repairable, they are most likely either too lazy to do the work or trying to sell you new floors. Either way, RUN! I have yet to come across a solid wood floor that couldn’t be repaired. The same is almost never true for tile, laminate, vinyl or even engineered wood floors.

Before repairs

Probably one of my favorite jobs restoring a floor was this 1920s heart pine I came across. The home had been used as a business for a time and apparently there had been some damage to the original floors that was patched…well, let’s just say poorly, and then carpeted over. When the new homeowner found the damage she intended to tile over the entire house with the afore mentioned tile. I was referred to her when her tiling was about halfway done and convinced her (read: begged) her to save the remaining floors because they were not beyond repair. A week later after replacement boards were installed and the floors were refinished, she had what looked like new floors! You can visit our website for more pictures of wood floors we’ve brought back from near extinction. www.austinhistorical.com

Repaired and Restored Heart Pine Floors

Solid wood flooring, like this, found in most historic homes is extremely resilient. It can handle multiple refinishings (done properly) over its life and is easy to repair in a way that is almost certainly unnoticeable. And what’s best is that it can last hundreds of years with minimal care! So before you jump to “upgrade” the flooring in your historic home, take a minute and think it over. Do you want a different color? Stain it. A different glossiness? Refinish it. You can even paint your wood floor to look like almost anything. The only boundaries are your own imagination. And if you are wondering if your floor can be repaired, the answer is almost always “Yes!” Search around for a hardwood refinishing specialist or restoration company and you will find someone up to the task of rejuvenating your floors. And trust me, it will be worth it!

Tired of the same old wood floors? You can make quite a statement with some stain or paint. I’ve included some fun ideas of what others have done with their hardwood floors. Get creative!

You can also learn more about the history of hardwood floors in our post A History of Wood Floors

Read the rest of the 5 Worst Mistakes of Historic Homeowners:

Part 1 Windows

Part 3 Siding

Part 4 Plaster

Part 5 The Details

Share Away!

168 thoughts on “5 Worst Mistakes of Historic Homeowners (Part 2 Floors)”

  1. Scott,
    Enjoying the site. I am a restorer as well. Currently re-restoring our 100 year old farm house in VA after a lightening strike and fire. Salvaged most of the 6/6 windows and found more across Virginia salvage yards. Rebuilding them is going well. It’s the floors I am stumped on.

    Salvaged the heart pine floors mostly. Demo contractor broke a lot of the tongues. They had been sanded and poly’d the first go round so they are now 5/8. I have a ton of 3/4, 1, 1 1/8, 1 1/4 100+ yr old T&G in various widths (2 1/4″-20″) and lengths. Some have a cup, some a bow. In order to have them line up with the old flooring I would have to plane them all down to 5/8″, a lot of material coming off and a lot of work. Also thinking of ripping them to 3 different widths then T&G on the router table for ease of installation, alternating the different widths in the layout. Wondering what you think of this approach. Alternate approach would be to straighten and rip as above and face nail boards with reproduced cut nails saving time on T&G.

    Finally, given that the old sanded and poly’d floors are so thin now, we were thinking of just cleaning them up and waxing the entire house, old re-installed and planed reclaimed wood. Really appreciate your response. Procrastinating because of this indecision of what to do with the flooring.

    Cheers

    Jim

  2. Hello Scott. We have a house in Nokomis Illinois that was built in 1920. It is the original plantation house for the 16+ blocks surrounding it. It has all of the original interior woodwork including 2 sets of very functional pocket doors with original tracks and frames. Almost every window frame. Interior doors and frames. Some door frames have the opening transom windows up top. The house is even complete with all of the original hardwood floors. I know people will absolutely hate me for this. But we want to renovate to my sons liking as he is buying the house from us after boot camp My husband and I know that when people are trying to restore an old home, the hard wood trim and interior pieces and the stained glass windows are the hardest parts to come across. We also know that if we try to take it out ourselves, or even if some crews with the younger workers take it out, it will inevitably be destroyed. Do you know of anyone that will but the stuff out of our house for a reduction in price and put in new door frame and such? can email some pictures

    1. Hi Pamela,
      Thanks so much for reaching out and reading our blog! We have a directory on our site ( //thecraftsmanblog.com/directory/ ) with a network of people all over the country who do work similar to what we do. Hopefully you can find someone in your area who is better able to answer your questions upon seeing it in person than we can online. Best of luck to you!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  3. Hi scott! I’m the proud owner of a 1920s huge SpAnish multi unit in LA, who bought from a guy who always did the cheapest modifications possible. Judging from the weird lip that has been created at my stairs, my living room appears to have four layers of hardwood stacked one on top of the other (the most recent looks very 80s). Is it worth trying to peel away the layers or should I just refinish the 80s business? I don’t know much about laying floors… would they have been glued together? I’d gain a few inches of height back, but…

  4. I bought my first house! 1955 brick ranch. Looks like they carpeted the entire life of the house and from the corners I’ve pulled back the floors look to be in excellent condition. Is there any chance I won’t need to refinish them? I cannot afford that cost but need the gross carpet gone!

  5. Hi there,
    I just bought a 1950’s ‘cabin’/ranch in the mountains of Northeren CA. It’s a mojor fixer and tiny, but it’s home now! In tearing out the carpet at the back porch, I noticed that the porch flooring is the same as (and continues into) the inside flooring. The porch is painted but it looks to be 2X6 T&G fir. The inside is covered with 3/8″ plywood and I don’t want to pull that up until I know that it’s ok to refinish the fir and use it as my primary floor. Is that possible? A good idea? I’m a 43yo single mom who likes to do my own projects but I often get ahead of myself… ; )

    Thanks in advance!

    1. We have a fir painted porch and fir living room floors which we had sanded and refinished. Came out nice. New fir bought at a lumberyard was used for patching and has aged already (2 years) to blend in with the new floor. Floors were finished with semigloss polyurethane. Do it, you won’t regret it.

  6. Hi,
    I am remodeling and selling a 1938 brick colonial. The entire 1st floor and staircase to 2nd floor has original hardwood, which we will refinish and clear coat (natural finish). The entire 2nd floor is all pine flooring. Should we also refinish 2nd floor, even tho it’s a different wood, and won’t ‘match’ the 1st floor? Hate to carpet over wood, but not sure this will look good. Thoughts or suggestions?

  7. Hi! Thank you for the helpful blog. We have an old farmhouse in northern IL. We recently pulled up the laminate flooring in the living room and dining room. Under the plywood boards, there are about 3 different kinds of hardwood floors (due to the house being added on to). In the dining room, there is beautiful hardwood flooring BUT in the back 1/4 of the room, there is plywood only. There’s also a different set of hardwood in the adjoining living room. Is there any way we could have the 2 other areas match up with the beautiful hardwood of our dining room? The boards also don’t match up perfectly to a clean edge, so we’re wondering if it would be possible to somehow create a clean cut between the original floor we love and the new floor we want to match it to. Would love and appreciate your advice!

  8. Scott,

    We are renovating a 1920 craftsman and the kitchen floor has extensive rot where the sink was (we found a huge hole when removing the cabinets that goes into the crawl space). There is the original floor, then a layer of 1950’s era vinyl, then thick terra cotta tiles over it. One idea is to have the floors refinished and repaired but if that isn’t possible, what floor options would you suggest in a kitchen that also works all the way to the entryway and staircase? I’ve had it in my head to install small black and white hexagon tile and I’ve had a few contractors balk at the idea. I know it was more of a bathroom look then but I’m looking classic white cabinets with black and white floors. I love your ideas so I thought I would ask and see what you have to say! Thank you!

  9. Scott, I have a seller of a historical home that really wants to rip out the floors to install radiant heat. He wants to put in laminate or bamboo! I have advised him against this but wanted to know your thoughts on removing the existing floor, installing radiant heat then putting the original floor back down. It’s seems risky as you are likey to damage at least a few boards. Do you have any other suggestions?

      1. Hi Scott,
        Our home was built in 1930 in northern California where they used a lot of 5/16″ red oak 2 inch wide planks over a tongue and groove subfloor. We are remodeling the kitchen and I am getting conflicting advice. Contractor and floor installer both say that the 3/4″ floor is better quality but the floor installer also says he generally recommends matching the floor with same, so 5/16″. They told me that the new 5/16″ flooring will show the nail heads more than our 80 year old floors because of “patina”. (We have a counter height issue that is also made easier by going with the 3/4″ so that might be influencing their recommendation).
        Should we keep the whole house consistent or just go with the thicker floor in what will be a higher traffic area?
        Thank you Corine

    1. We have an 1830s federal style urban townhouse in a small town in Indiana. We had hoped we could restore the wide plank original floor in the living room/dining room(formerly a double parkour, we think). But, about 1/3 of it has been patched with plywood, and probably 1/4 of what is left has chunks of linoleum that are completely stuck. Several of the boards left have considerable cupping as well. I fear there is no choice but to replace it. What do you recommend in terms of flooring when what is there is just too far gone?

  10. This is a great article! As a refinish pro I always say why cover up a wood floor with garbage plastic that will be ruined in 5 years. Solid unfinished is the only way or refinish old.

  11. Our house was built in 1930 and has the original hardwood floors throughout, with the exception of the kitchen and the bathroom. We are about to do a major addition where we add on to the back of the house and as part of that project we are moving the kitchen and enlarging our dining room into where the kitchen used to be, meaning that we will pull up the tile where our kitchen used to be and then try to fill it in by matching the hardwood currently in the living room. On the second floor one of the bedrooms which has great hardwood floors is becoming a bathroom. My question is: is it possible to take the hardwood floor from the second floor bedroom that is becoming a bathroom and use it to fill in the area that is being vacated by the kitchen? While I’m sure the floors may be faded differently, they are the same wood.

  12. We just purchased a 1878 farmhouse with original wood flooring (heart pine maybe??) underneath carpeting throughout. It’s in mostly good condition that I can tell. Our problem is that the wood flooring appears to also be the sub flooring and there is no insulation as the crawl space is extremely small (about 6 inches, for real!!). Any ideas on how to insulate the floors? Would removing some of the flooring to work in the areas around it be safe to try or blowing insulation through the crawl space vents be an option? Really want to see these babies shine one day without losing our shirt on the heating bill!!
    Thanks so much!!!

  13. We tore up the ugly carpet in the living room of our newly purchased century-old farmhouse. Underneath was plywood covering the wide-plank Douglas fir subfloor. In it, there were uneven spots, huge patches, giant old nails everywhere, and some curious knot holes. Instead of covering it with a generic and too-perfect engineered floor, we took the plunge and refinished it. It took about a month of scraping up very old glue from rugs past, filling in spots, repairing patches, replacing planks, and sanding (drum and hand). We didn’t stain it, but put three layers of high traffic poly and let it cure for a week. It looks amazing. I call it “violently rustic.” the poly turned it beautiful, rich colors that are mahogany in some parts and walnut in others. You can still see the spots where a rug existed decades ago and the sun lightened the wood around it, creating a perfect chocolate square. The nails were pounded back in but are still visible, creating character and paying homage to the people who tirelessly built this place when power tools did not yet exist. It is amazing and everyone gasps when they walk in the door. I highly recommend always choosing to refinish. And if it doesn’t look perfect, embrace it. Make the odd spots look on purpose. We love our imperfectly perfect hardwood floors and wouldn’t have it any other way.

    1. Sorry for the late to the game response but quick question – we’re in a similar boat, after removing 4 layers of linoleum we found the original fir below in decent shape. What are your thoughts on fir in a kitchen (one with two massive dogs, three messy kids, and two less than perfect cooks running through)? Is it worth saving or should we find something hardier for this space? Thanks!

      1. I think fir can work great in kitchens! The biggest issue is spills that sit for a while if you spill water make sure it is cleaned up promptly and the fir floors might get some dents along the way but they will do nicely in the kitchen.

    2. I know everyone seems to love Poly, but it tends to last about 25 years. In the lifespan of many modern homes, that’s a long time, but historic homes are a little different. When poly needs to be removed, your only good option is sanding. Every time you sand, you remove some wood, weakening the floor. Poly also contains toxic chemicals that we know relatively little about, which are re-released into the air as dust when sanded. As someone who has already paid for asbestos abatement, I’m not excited about adding any more strange, potentially hazardous chemicals in the process of doing home “improvements” if it can be avoided.

      Fundamentally, poly is not historically correct, either. If you have this great old wood in your home, stain it with old-style oil stains (or don’t), then seal it with multiple coats of shellac, then wax it with paste wax to help protect the finish & use some rugs in high-traffic areas. If you ever need to remove the wax, it can be done easily with turpentine, which won’t remove the shellac. If you need to remove that underlying shellac, it can be done with alcohol. No sanding. Turpentine & alcohol have been around a long time — long enough for us to have understood their (minimal) health risks & to also have been historically correct for most homes. And, it looks very nice — it’s one of the original semi-rustic looks that a lot of people are trying to replicate with newer, less desirable materials.

      Just my two cents’ worth.

  14. I just had five layers of flooring removed from my kitchen and found hardwood underneath in my 1920’s home. During the entire process I got a lot of “there might not be a decent floor under here” and “it will have probably gone to crap” and “are you sure you want to do this?” From the contractor, the flooring company etc. What I got was gorgeous Douglas Fir floors with hardly any damage or stains! Now everyone has changed their tune. If you think you may have some diamonds in that rough, go for it. I guess hardwood must have gone out of style or something because my floors were perfectly good! ??

  15. I am in the process of restoring my Great-Grandparents 1930s bungalow farmhouse in rural Kentucky. After ripping up the carpets in the upstairs I have found what I believe to be pretty decent pine flooring. In the dormer room and one small bedroom, the carpet had been glued down so the remaining residue is still there. In the other rooms it had been tacked down. However, none of these floors had ever been finished. They were just raw boards. The perimeters of the rooms had been painted and area rugs had apparently been used. What would you recommend doing to these floors? Should a stripper be used to remove the glue and the paint, or should it be sanded down? What kind of finish should be applied? I am in the beginning stages of this whole project so I am open to any suggests. I just want to do it right, even if it takes me longer. This house, although a rather modest home, is quite unique in that it is largely original. It has all of the original paneled doors, windows, door knobs, backplates, locks and latches, literally everything. There are many similar homes in this area but all of the original parts have long been thrown out for updating.

  16. Hi Scott,
    Quick question on my wood floors. I have a house built in 1849. The floors upstairs are wide pine. We bought the house in 1976 and the floors upstairs were a very dark almost black color. We painted over them all except one room. Now I am redoing the house and want to do the floors to be natural. the paint and black stuff comes up really easy with 7 paint stripper. The black stuff is very gooey when i lift it up with a putty knife. Also, i had it tested at a lab and it does have lead in it. The stripping is a lot of work, but is coming out well. Do you have any idea what the finish might be?

    Thanks,
    Gale

  17. Hi! We have a 1903-06 James Burns Craftsman Four Square in Rogers Park, on Chicago’s north side. We believe the wood floors are original (if not, they are still quite old). I think they are gorgeous but they have been dubbed “attack floors” because of the splintering, we are now experts at fast splinter removal. Prior owners had tried to repair with putty and refinish, but the “putty” or fill always seems to wriggle out, and our experience living with their repairs is the same. I do not know if they attempted to have them “restored,” however, we have not been able to find anyone who is willing or able to restore them. We are trying to come up with some DIY solutions that we can do (we are both crafty DIY people with varying amounts of project success.) What would the downside be of using resin to fill in those large gaps, sanding it down and then just using a clear poly finish over it to make it match in sheen? I know that the gap would still be visible, but then it would be less likely to stab us or our dogs or shoeless guests. Thoughts?

  18. Hi,

    I just bought a 1946 craftsman house in southern California. There are red oak floors throughout. Very solid from what we can see. The previous owners tiled over the hardwood in the kitchen and dinning room. They nailed and screwed in cement board to tile the two rooms. Are the hardwood floors underneath a lost cause? Do you have any recommendations for removing the cement board with minimal damage to the oak underneath? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Kayla

    1. We had much the same situation in our 1906 house. Cement board secured to the yellow pine floor and tiled over. They must have been paid by the nail. It looked as though it was covered over in the 70s or 80s to cover a water stain cause by a leaky water heater. We had a great floor refinisher, Roy, of Kingdom Floors. We took out the tile and cement board with small ply bars and then Roy took over. He sanded the floors three times, VERY, VERY lightly. On the third sanding he mixed the fine sawdust with the poly that he later applied to the floors, and smoothed it out with a large rubber smoothing tool. The large nail holes were barely visible, and once sanded lightly over with the rest of the floor and covered with poly finish they were beautiful. We really don’t notice the holes any longer and if they do come up in conversation it makes a good story. We even left the dark brown stain from the water heater and call it our beauty mark. We are proud of our 100+ year old floors. We think of the many feet that have walked upon them, the stories they have heard, and hopefully how much longer they will live in this house. Good luck. ps. the amount of wood sanded down from the rest of the floors was barely perceptible. there is still a huge thickness of yellow pine.

  19. question i just bought a ten year old basement house it is 100 % tile floor throughout but it is not sealed should i seal the floor they look dull

  20. Hi. I have a old 1904 farm house with what I think is Douglas Fir sub floor. I am refininishing it board by board. We added the old front poarch into the house and I need to match the floors. I would apprciate your ideas of where to locate the same fir
    l. Thank you

  21. My husband and I bought out first home. It’s a1967 split level that was a foreclosure. It’s needed a lot of TLC. When we took up the old carpeting we found beautiful hardwood floors. I don’t know what kind of wood it is. We decided to make the kitchen/living room level an open floor plan so the whole level is open. From the front door to the back of the house there was a hallway with stick tile. We scrapped it all up and are now left with the sub flooring. I would like to take the hardwood flooring from the dinning room use the wood to extend the living room floor clear to the other wall. With the open floor plan we don’t need the hallway and it was never hardwood floor. If that isn’t something that can be done guess we’ll have to carpet the whole thing but I’d love to keep the floors. My grandfather in law said shorter pieces would have to be taken out to weave in the ones from the dining room to make it look right and the old square nails would ruin saw blades fast. Also he was worried it would end up looking like teeth gaps where you run the saw down the crack as the blade would be taking off 1/16″ or so, I think it would be a lot of work so he’s hesitant but in all fairness he is 84. How could we do this using the hardwood from the dining room and get up the shorter boards without busting up saw blades or having the gaping problem?

  22. Hi,
    I just had my 1920’s bungalow floor refinished. It’s Douglas fir and it’s also the subfloor. Any ideas about insulating from underneath? We don’t want pests making a home in the insulation. But I don’t want to freeze in the winter. What do you recommend? Our crawl space is about 3 ft high.
    Thanks,
    Cristina

  23. Hi Scott – thank you for running this blog!
    I have a 1930 bungalow in St. Louis, MO, which I bought about a year and a half ago. Overall, it has been kept in great shape and there’s very little I’ve had to do in terms of repair work. Unfortunately, the kitchen was “updated” at least a couple times throughout the years, to include an awful ceramic tile floor in the kitchen. In addition to not “going” with the home, it’s cold in the winter, standing on it aggravates my arthritis, and it always looks dirty no matter what (it’s dark brown and dark gray checkerboard). I removed the HVAC register and I can see that there’s linoleum under the tile. Beneath that, there appears to be a thin layer of hardwood and beneath that, the subfloor. I assume the linoleum was left in place because of asbestos concerns. My question is this: if, no, WHEN I remove the tile, is it possible to salvage the linoleum? Or will the mortar/grout/whatever have damaged it too much?
    Thank you!
    P.S. I love your “i restore” t-shirts. Please make one in a women’s semi-fitted v-neck in kelly green. 🙂

    1. Lisa, ha ha, that’s a pretty specific t-shirt you’re wanting! As for the linoleum it may have asbestos in the adhesive but linoleum does not contain asbestos (only vinyl tiles). The best way to tell is to take up the tile and see if it survives then send a small 1″ sample for testing to see if it does have asbestos.

  24. We purchased a 1960 ranch style home. It had original red oak floors 2″ x 1/2 ” throughout (except kitchen and family room). I emphasized HAD. We chose to have them refinished a rich dark stain (not black). We had a not so good experience with refinishing our floors. Our contractor made several attempts to get the stain and sheen consistent through out but never got it exactly how we wanted it. Or the finished bubbled on one try or we saw swirl marks in the floor. We then hired another contractor (we saw his results of doing a dark floor). After sanding and staining again, we noticed that the floor was paper thin. This stopped the project. And with much tears, the floor was ripped out. Now we are in a huge quandry. Do we lay new hardwood and go through the process again or go the engineered wood route? To make matters worse, in between all the refinishing, we went ahead and laid more of the same wood in the family room and kitchen because we never dreamed the other floor would have to be ripped out. This floor is still unfinished. So if we go engineered wood, this would have to be ripped out as well. I am feeling that an engineered floor will not give us the look and feel and definitely wont last. But the hardwood, we will have to go through the refinishing process. Any thought or suggestions?

  25. We are working on 1929 Craftsman home. Floors are t&g but appear in god shape under OLD carpet. What should we do about holes from wiring and cracks between boards? Love all information on older homes

      1. Thank you for the help. Cracks in floor are really just small (1/16th inch or less) where boards have separated a little. No real cracks in wood.

  26. Hey Scott… We’ve just purchased a home built 1920 or so. Underneath the cheap tile and linoleum is the 6″ original t&g pine ( I believe). Now the basement is 7′ with concrete flooring but my real question is that without a subfloor underneath the 3/4″ pine , will ripping the linoleum, plywood etc and leaving the pine resting on the joists be sufficient for carrying the weight of the house??

    1. 3/4″ pine flooring is used as a subfloor/finish floor in a lot of houses and if that was the original construction then there is no reason why it shouldn’t be sufficient.

  27. We recently bought a 1916 home with fir floors. The flooring seems to be in decent condition, but there are gaps between almost every plank. The biggest gap is about half an inch, but most are about a quarter inch wide. We are worried filling in between every plank may not look great. Is it harmful to the floors if we leave the gaps as they are, and refinish the floors with a durable water-based poly? Thank you!

    1. I don’t think that finishing the floors and leaving the gaps would cause any issues. To fill all the gaps will likely create problems as the floors expand and contract seasonally.

  28. Oh dear. Just bought a 960 square foot bungalow built in 1900 with 3 additions…but the original homestead has wood flooring. It’s beautiful but so very much in need of repair. Here’s the trick….I have very little time and basically 0 access to anyone who knows how to handle this kind of restoration. The 1 person I asked said thats ince my daughter and her newborn will be living there that I should just cover it up until she decides if she wants to stay there for good and the baby is older (not crawling on it).
    I just spend $2500 on flooring today. 🙁
    It has the original 12″ solid wood molding too.
    I wish I could share pictures. Your plaster and laith repair video will come in handy too….
    Any thoughs on Zonolite insulation? Ya…hello mesothelioma….I called the state…they offer funds for clean up by a cettified tech. (sigh)
    The things we do for our kids. Thanks for the helpful guidance.

  29. I appreciate what you are saying about the quality of flooring in homes of this vintage. We purchased an 1880s Italianate Victorian home a couple months ago and much of the original character has been preserved by the home owners over the years. The flooring in our kitchen and living room is white ash and mahogany striped parquet. In the kitchen it is in terrible condition (I am not being dramatic), it is very BADLY warped and large gaps between many of the floor boards. The hallway between the two rooms is a pine that has deteriorated significantly (I suspect that it was both carpeted at one point, and later painted). Regardless of what path we travel down, we do not know what to do about the baseboard! The baseboard in the home is very nice original 12″ and in excellent condition, and we are quite afraid to try and remove it from the plaster walls in order to begin addressing the flooring situation. We don’t want to damage it, or the walls. However we don’t know how to refinish, repair, or replace the damaged flooring without removing the baseboard. Do you have some advice? I have seen in old homes where people laid new floor over the old without removing the baseboard, and then used quarter round to “cover” the gap between the new floorboards and the trim. We do NOT want to do this. I am loathe to apply cheap quarter round to my beautiful baseboard.

    Can you help me????

  30. I live in Eastern Canada and have recently purchased an older 1930’s home. I have refinished my beautiful hardwood floors and my question is what to put in my kitchen that will compliment the light varnished Douglas fir and birch flooring? I doubt highly that I have hardwood under the linoleum but could encounter asbestos tiles. I want to use a product that will enhance the value of the home and also compliment the refinished wood. Any suggestions?

  31. Hi Scott. I am the proud new owner of a single story 1925 bungalow massive renovation project in St. Petersburg, FL. I was happy to see you comment that you live here in the Sunshine State & I’m hoping that your advice is more relevant than most of the bloggers that hail from northern, cold climate states. I have more renovation dilemmas than I can even begin to articulate here, but suffice it to say that I wish I had run into your blog before I started ripping out plaster walls.

    My question here is about the floors as they are one of the issues I am most torn over. The entire home is floored with 2 1/4″ t&g (what I think is heart pine) nailed directly to the flooring trussed with no sub-floor or insulation. The house is over a 2ft. deep dirt crawl space. Unfortunately, the entire house, including the flooring, has extensive termite damage and numerous holes for floor registers have been incorrectly cut into every room in the house. I would guess that 5-10% of the boards are beyond repair. The bathroom is completely beyond repair and is being replaced with historic hex mosaic tiles. I fear that the only way to effectively repair the floors is to pull up the existing flooring one room at a time, dispose of the termite destroyed pieces, repair the rest and reinstall the original boards.

    I have a few questions:

    First, if I’m pulling up the floors anyways, should I go ahead and install a subfloor in the process or will this negatively effect the houses ability to breathe out moisture? This would be easy enough to do at the same time since I’ll already have the floors up and the base moulding removed.

    Second, what are your thoughts on moisture barrier & insulation under the house? As you know, with Florida climate I need to worry more about the heat than the cold & I prefer not to run the AC unless absolutely necessary. The house was surprisingly comfortable in October, but I don’t expect I’ll be so lucky in July. Based on yours and other posts I am reconsidering adding insulation to my exterior walls.

    Lastly, can you recommend a good source in Florida for reclaimed flooring? I will have to replace the destroyed flooring pieces & I’d rather not supplement with new inferior product. I will have a few salvageable pieces from the bathroom floor but not nearly enough for all of the repairs. We have considered also replacing the kitchen with period correct tiles in order to salvage the boards for the rest of the house, but I’d rather avoid that if possible.

    1. Hello. I saw your post looking into floors as well. I bought a 1925 bungalow in Kenwood (st Pete) in November 2016. I was wondering if you learnt any good information. I have heart pine flooring throughout (less the kitchen and bathroom). There is one patch (5ft x 5ft) that needs attention and likely needs to be replaced, and I don’t know where to turn. The rest of the floor in in great condition.

  32. We are building a new cabin in the Pacific Northwest near Mt Hood. We pulled the fir flooring out of the original cabin built in 1940’s that was neglected and the foundation was destroyed by a flood 4 years ago. The fir was not finished so it is bare. We found heaps of fine dust under some of the boards. We didn’t keep those because we are quite sure it is Powder beetle. Should we treat with Borax product or just starts over with new flooring?

  33. Our floors are original hardwood from the 1920s. It just has a polyurethane stain on it so it is the woods natural color. We are trying to stain new heart of pine to match the old. Any suggestions on how to match the new stain with the old stain?

  34. Our home was built in 1894 and still has the original wood floors…some covered and some exposed. It needs completly refinished. We can do the work ourselves, just wondering what the cost would be like to restore a 1600 square foot home (floors) the wood kinda has spaces between the slats…can that be filled in?

      1. Scott, great site! I just purchased a house that was built in 1880. I pulled back the grubby carpet today to find pine floors on the second floor. They look pretty filthy and tired. I cannot wait to have them refinished! I’m sure they will clean up nicely. Thanks for all the encouragement to keep these old gems alive with pride.

  35. Hi, we had century old knotty heart pine floors installed on our first floor. We wanted the natural look and decided not to stain but just used 1 coat of minwax with a light brown tone to seal. However we are noticing, especially in kitchen, lots of spots and stains. What should we do?
    Thanks.

  36. We’ve been re-finishing the red-oak floors room by room since we moved into our ’30s home several years ago, and finally got to the kitchen. The kitchen had a couple of rough patches, and the previous owner had painted it. As part of our kitchen renovation, I stripped it down to bare wood and discovered that this one room is actually done with heart pine. Aside from the water stains which I’m hoping to address with oxalic acid – it’s in pretty good shape and the wood is beautiful. What I’m struggling with now is what to do next. I expect the pine will take stain differently than the adjacent oak has, so trying to carry the same cherry stain into the kitchen seems like a bad idea. I think I’d prefer to the kitchen to be unique anyway. Any thoughts or tips on using different woods with different stain selections in adjacent rooms?

  37. I am bumfuzzled. I love my old farmhouse built in 1929 and want to do some remodeling which of course will have priorities. The floor is wood and I think it is pine or fir. My problem is there is NO insulation or anything underneath but the 3-4 feet between the pin/fir and the dirt on this old pier and beam. I also have four dogs. I found some pet friendly flooring that has cork and filler then vinyl that looks pretty good but I love the real wood. I tried putting some linseed oil on after a good pinesol cleaning but it just sucked it up and made it a little bit darker there is no kind of finish just a funky patina fo many paint overs. Any suggestions would be helpful 🙁

  38. I have a 1915 craftsman cottage style home and the floors are unsealed wormy chestnut. What is the best way to rejuvenate them without putting “poly” on them. I damp mop them, but they seem to be drying out. What is the best product to clean them and make them shine? Thanks!

  39. I have a home built in 1825, but the kids’ bathroom is probably from 1910 or so. It has fir floors. We are renovating the bath and the contractor is encouraging me to tile the floors. Should I do it to prevent water damage? I am hesitant to cover these beautiful floors.

    1. If the floors are still beautiful after 105 years and you love them that much I would venture to say that you would be a responsible enough homeowner to protect them from standing water. I say if you like the floors and they’re in good shape then there is no reason you should tile over it.

  40. I’m not sure how old my house is , only that it is an old farm house that was ripped apart numerous times by numerous previous owners -so sad- but the beautiful wide pine floors have withstood the attack.
    they are really fabulous – but have needed some help
    Wondering what to do about door sills between the rooms
    i would be great full for any suggestion
    Thanks Charlene

  41. This series has been very helpful. Just one question. We have an old 1901 house and are installing new red oak flooring and replacing the depression wood. Should pocket door jams be cut to allow the new boards to slide under or should contractor cut boards to form around door jam. Contracter doesn’t want to cut jams because they are old and might be brittle. Problem is there is a small space between the boards and jam that will need to be puttied. Will this look ok?

    1. Bob, the jambs should definitely be cut to allow the flooring to slide underneath. I do it often and haven’t found anything too brittle or old that it can’t be cut with a proper saw. Honestly sounds like laziness on the contractor’s part.

  42. I recently replaced repair my 1.5″ red oak floor after removing a few cast iron radiators. After sanding a few of the old boards down to bare wood they are noticeably darker than the new planks I installed. My plan is to polyurethane the entire floor. Should I stain the floor or do you have another suggestion? I would like to get as close to the natural finish as possible.

  43. Hi! My husband and I have a bungalow/cape cod hybrid home built in 1941 with original EVERYTHING…wood floors, gorgeous vitrolite tile in the bathrooms and kitchen, light fixtures, appliances…all original. The previous owners had pets that left horrible large black stains on our wood flooring. I want to refinish/restore them, but my husband says it’s no use and wants to put carpet down. Can the black stains be removed or lightened, and if not, would a dark espresso-type stain color camouflage them? I don’t want to lose the character of the wood floors to bland carpet.
    Thanks!

    1. Coley, I would try refinishing the floors first. Once they are sanded you can try using oxalic acid on pets stains and that usually significantly lightens them or sometime completely removes them. Also, you’re right that a dark stain will help hide the stains. I say keep them!

  44. We just bought a 1930 Bungalow and got down to the wood floors. In the bedroom they are really raw, but still good tong and groove. The second bedroom has some missing pieces and a lot of liquid damage of some sort, smells like cats were there. Is there anything that can take out that odor, as we really want to keep the floors. Tile is in the rest and will come up next year sometime.

  45. I recently purchased house built in late 60’s, early 70’s that appeared to have hardwood flooring thru out (which I am almost positive because everything else in house is original pink baths, harvest gold appliances, etc). I started to make a repair at sliding door and behold it appears that this is some type of old veneer wood, maybe 5/15-3/8 thick. Decent shape overall, but lot of finish worn off. didn’t know they used anything but 3/4 t&g back then. Any ideas on what this was, can it be refinished, and how to fix rotted pcs. Approx 1500sf of this, hate to tear it all out, and certainly wreck my restoration budget. Thanks for any insight.

    1. Ted, veneer and engineered wood floors were coming into use in that period. It’s not really my forte, but you will likely have a decent challenge trying to find an exact match. If the wear layer on top is thick enough you may be able to refinish them though.

  46. Hello, I just bought a craftsman style house with dark trim throughout. The previous owners have put down qs white oak flooring that I am refinishing. Any suggestions about stain colours that would compliment the stained red oak trim? I want to go as light as possible. What’s there now doesn’t look quite right.
    Thanks and I love your blog.
    Peter

  47. Hello
    I’m in the middle of a kitchen renovation of our 1933 house. Under several layers of plywood and linoleum there is the original white oak floor. Same floor that is elsewhere in the house, only it’s dark and has gaps. Turns out the plywood was nailed down in a pattern of a nail every 6 inches one way and every 3 inches the other way. Some water damage too. A flooring specialist already came to see it and said you would see the nail holes after restoration, but he could do refinish if I was ok with that. i’m wondering, after checking some reclaimed floor websites, if the nail holes might add character? On the other hand, the regularity of the nail pattern bothers me a little. What if some boards get replaced, where there is water damage or other damage and that way the regularity is disrupted? Another question is how do deal with the nail holes? Checking out reclaimed flooring sites, it appears in the reclaimed floors they never mask imperfections, they might even accentuate them. If not wood putty or another filler how would you deal with the nail holes?
    Many thanks, this is a great site.
    Angela

  48. We recently purchased a 1913 Craftsman Bungalow. At some point the hallway floor access to the crawl space had been nailed shut. This is a high crime area, in a historic district that is still in its way up (hence the good buy!)
    Having already had one break-in, Police alerted us to interior crawlspace access is also an access point IN for criminals.
    I would love to have this access ability restored so I can access the furnace pilot and plumbing at some point.
    Of course, my husband wants to keep it sealed and nailed shut.
    How do I restore the accessibility but ensure our family’s safety?
    I can provide photos if you email me.

  49. Thank you for this blog. We are debating replacing our fir floors in a 1911 heritage home. A reputable flooring contractor has told us the boards are too thin–and the gouging so widespread (it’s very bad)–that refinishing is not an option. Replacement is the way to go.

    How do you really know if floors are too far gone?

    And one other question if I may: if we want to paint the floors, is there a good material to fill in the broad and shallow gouges, like those made for example by people sliding the fridge in and out and in and out over the past 100 years? We’re talking wide, sometimes board-width gouges.

    Thank yoU!

    1. I have the exact same problem: 1910-1915 fir floors that have been sanded to much in the past–the tongue/groove part was flaking/splintering up in several place. We ended up lightly sanding (not with drum) and gluing down cracking edges and filled in the gaps that were occurring. We did all this DIY. Then we decided to get it stained and coated more quickly than we could due given family/work circumstances; however, the reputable contractor told us not to waste the time or money because the edges even if coated proper would start to splinter up again. He wanted us just to cover up the floor with engineered flooring. What should I do? What did you all end up doing?

  50. I have unearthed original 91 year old fir floors. They have been sanded and stained, but wondering how many coats of poly to put on?

  51. We own a 2 story Queen Ann style home built in 1912.
    The main floor has 3 different types of wood flooring and 2 large patched areas–kitchen/dining/office.

    I absolutely hate the idea of ripping out these old floors and had planned on having them refinished but my hardwood floor refinisher guy suggested I just run new hardwood thru the main floor so it flows better.

    Will this ruin my home value if I remove the original floors?

    1. Renae, I don’t think it would ruin your home value, but I almost always prefer to keep the original if possible. A new floor may flow better through the house and in the end look better but it’s hard to tell without seeing it. It can almost always be repaired if you have the desire.

  52. Hi, I have a home built in 1923 with original stained oak trim, coffered ceilings etc.
    I have to replace my oak flooring and was wondering – I was going to replace it with 3 1/4 inch planks. Should I use red oak again, or can I use white (or red) quarter sawn oak.
    I’m having a hard time trying to figure out what would look best (I know 3 1/4 planks of red oak will look much more grainy then the 2 1/4 strips that were originally there, so maybe go quarter sawn instead?).
    Many thanks

    1. Connie, if you can afford it quartersawn wood is always a better choice. It’s more stable and will wear better on floors. Is there a reason you don’t want to go with the standard 2 1/4″ boards?

    2. Hi, I wanted to have a slightly “updated” home. We’re keeping all the original trim, but installing a modern kitchen and I thought that slightly wider floor (3 1/4) would be a nice update.
      I just wasn’t sure if the white quartersawn would look good with all the red oak trim – does it need to match??
      thanks

  53. Nice write up. I for one think that way to many people just don’t realize the long term value of a hard wood floor.

    When I go out and a carpeted floor is in to bad of shape to clean I always look under it. So often homeowners are surprised to find a high quality hardwood floor that’s been buried under carpet for the last 50 years.

    I have a deal with a local flooring guy. After showing the home owner some of his brochures and getting them interested. If he gets the refinishing job, I get a small kickback, he gets another refinishing job to add to his portfolio, and the both of us get a customer and friend for life.

    Everybody wins, and another antique wood floor is brought back where it can be enjoyed again.

  54. I need to install whole new floor in a old wooden house. the prior owner removed all floor the current area has no floor at all. How should mach up the remaining floors/

  55. Thanks for great sharing. I’m your fan. I read and learn a lot useful information in your website and apply it for my home improvement.

  56. Hi we just bought a house built in 1890. I ripped up the 70s shaggy carpet in the entry way and staircase and hallway the plank flooring underneath appears to be in decent condition but is very dry feeling. What should we use to restore it?

  57. I’m glad to have found this article as I met with a contractor yesterday about my kitchen floor. I have a 1910 colonial and have been trying to slowly getting the floors back.I was told that because there is a sub floor under the linoleum with another layer of linoleum under that before getting to the wood, there would be too much damage to save the floor.I am disappointed -Has anyone experienced this? What should I do?

    1. You can’t tell if there is too much damage until you really get into the floor. Most contractors don’t won’t to bother with the work to restore the wood floors. It is likely restorable it just depends on the cost of the work you’re willing to pay.

      1. 12 yrs ago we renovated kitchen in our 1911 home; our flooring sub burned up several sanding belts working through about 4 generations of varying linoleum, but FINALLY uncovered the original subfloor, gorgeous red heart pine. Sanded, stained and polyurethaned — it is gorgeous and was WELL WORTH the effort!

  58. I have a 10-14 year old house. this has a ground floor is with regular termite treatment. I am planning to build 2 new floors on this. how safe it would be? what test should I get done before building new floors, so to ensure that the ground floor will hold it proper and safe?

  59. I have a Craftsman home built in 1919 I am renovating. I removed the vinyl tile from the kitchen and went back to the wood flooring underneath. The bath has vinyl on top and looks like wood underneath too. What kind of flooring did they have back then in the bath? I know you’re not really supposed to have wood floors in the bath but wondered what your thoughts are on it.

  60. I have a 100 yrs craftsman -ish home with what looks like original flooring. There is no floor boards and some gaps in which you can see through the floor. What is the best way to restore or repair the floor?

    1. Also wanted to add, there are gaps in the floor & dings in some spots, also squeaks & can see thru some gaps to the basement.

  61. We have a house built in 1950. Our hardwood floors are 2 1/2 inch wide planks but are only 15 to 18 inches long and are in groups of 5. Between each group is a gap. There are no gaps between the individual planks in each group. It almost appears that the floors were picked up and moved here from another location in pieces. These are oak floors. Any explanation would be appreciated.

  62. I recently discovered that my house has hexagon tiles in the bathroom underneath new tiles and the tile adhesive. Is there a way for me to remove the tile adhesive so I can get to those hexagon tiles? I would love to have the original floor in the bathroom.

    1. I have done that a couple times with good results. You’ll need a floor scraper and a lot of adhesive remover. Keep the area well ventilated because the remover can create harsh fumes. Use some rough scouring pads to get the small residue at the end and it can come out quite nice. It’s a lot of work though!

  63. I’m restoring lizzy borden’s kitchen and sitting room with the same floors. can you tell me if they were wood or some kind of lanoiliam I have them stripped to the floor boards. looks like they were wood. and I’m about to refinish them but I need to know. want it a historic as possible with the owner. thanks Richard.

  64. We just purchased a 1910 craftsman with douglas fir flooring throughout. The problem is a previous owner hammered flat head nails all over ~ presumably to stop squeaking. Our flooring contractor said we need to stain almost black to cover the nail holes. Do you think there’s any way to have a more natural color on the floors. I would love to see the grain of the wood more than an almost black floor.

    1. Your contractor is right that a darker color will hide the nail holes best. That being said, if you don’t mind the sight of the nail holes you could go with a slightly lighter color and have visible nail holes. Which is less attractive to you?

      1. Cindy, another idea would be to take all these nail holes and fill them with real wood spools of the same variety of wood (or darker) and then sand them off. This will give the floor a hand pegged look, much more rustic, but would have a lot of character and allow you to enjoy the lighter stain and grain of the wood

  65. Our wood floors have boards that are 2″ wide, cupped, worn with spaces in between that collects dirt. Is there any way to save them?

    1. Finding this blog has renewed my hope in restoring the cherry wood floors in the bathroom of my 1846 Greek Revival Farmhouse in NW PA. Due to poor plumbing, the floor has suffered damage and the contractor cut a perfect square out around the toilet with the hopes I would just go with tile, and eventually tear all the wood flooring out. I would love to have the floor patched, in this area, with the same flooring to maintain the historic integrity of our home. Is it possible to patch within this area? Will boards need to be taken up and staggered to look right?

      1. The floor can be repaired by weaving in new boards. Hopefully you can find replacement boards that look similar to the originals. If necessary you can pull boards from the backs of closets and use those to replace the damaged section.

        1. I am so happy to have run across your blog.
          Despite the well meaning advice of the contractor tempting me to sway away from restoration of the wood floor in my bathroom, it is now done and beautiful. I feel that we are conscientious of the water issues in a bathroom and will care for them accordingly. Thank you

  66. Hey guys thanks for posting all of this information. I have a home built in 1871 and finally had enough with the carpet. I ripped it up in the first floor stairwell area and found wide plank oak floors. Stain looks original, but i cannot tell. There is paint slashes and scuffs everywhere. I am pretty handy and want to refinish them. The boards are at least 3/4 inch thick. I am wondering how you can tell if there is enough board left to sand and refinish. Any help I’d appreciated.

    1. Hey Brian welcome! If you see nail heads poking through at the joints then you have T&G flooring which has been sanded too much to be refinished again. If the boards were face nailed then you just have to sink the nails below the surface before sanding.

  67. It was this article on Home Owners Worst Mistakes that made me cling to the idea of saving our wood floors. We are renovating a 1930 Plantation Camp house on the Big Island of Hawaii, and our floors were covered with carpet and in the kitchen, 5 layers of sub floor and 4 layers of lino tiles. We talked to several wood workers in the area and it seemed like no one wanted to do the job, there was quite a bit of termite damage. We had to replace an outside wall (single plank) so we saved the planks from that and an interior wall we removed. Our new floor guy is using the wood we saved to patch our floor, I nearly gave in because it was turning into a huge hassle.
    We are nearly there, I will post photos when it is finished, but a huge Thank You for your information…we think the floor is redwood, but not sure. Any way wood is good…right?
    Mahalo from Papakiou, Hawaii.

      1. Darcy would love to know the steps you’ve taken. Trying to do the same project on original redwood floors, they do have some worn paint/stain trying to figure out best way to proceed.

        Aloha,
        Karen

  68. Hi, Thanks for putting this great blog together! In my 1920s bungalow I have an old wood kitchen floor, possibly fir, which isn’t super hard. I had it refinished about 12 years ago after removing hideous textured sheet vinyl and adhesive. The putty has since come out from between the wood planks and the floor is impossible to keep clean of crud landing in the putty-less grooves. I just had a quote for a Marmoleum floor to cover this floor. However, if there’s any way to refinish the kitchen floor and keep the putty in place, I’d prefer to do that. Any ideas or suggestions? Thanks!

    1. Tina, I can’t tell you if the floors can be refinished again without seeing them, but you can use an upgraded filler instead of standard wood putty which usually fails in a few years due to movement of the wood. You can spend some extra money and fill the gaps with an epoxy filler like Abatron WoodEpox prior to sanding and staining. The work is more labor intensive but the filler will last much, much longer.

  69. I have a 1920’s home. I have oak hard wood floors in one room – the stairs & the up stairs hall & foyer The Living room has Oak around the out side of the room and in the center Pine. There are places on most of the floors that need replaced where the furnace grates were and an area that is pet stained and had primer spilled on it We just kinda spread it on the floor as we cleaned it up because we were getting ready to carpet. I don’t believe that the floors have ever been refinished but I would love to refinish them. I would love to get an idea of what it would look like to leave the pine or perhaps Replace a center piece with oak and leave the pine as an outside boarder in the middle is there any place I could look to get an idea as to what to do? and I’m sure that the wood that is there right now is thicker than anything you could buy out of stock. will I have to get custom milled flooring if I need to replace the middle?

    1. Lynda, I would check with local architectural salvage yards for reclaimed flooring or try Goodwin Heat Pine which sells reclaimed and custom milled flooring from old-growth wood. Chances are that for the 1920s the flooring is 3/4″ thick and you can still find that around. Good luck!

  70. Hi Scott,
    I have an old farmhouse that was built in the 1880’s. The previous owner painted the wood flooring red. I’ve been told it can’t be sanded completely because it would have a candy cane appearance. Is this true?

    1. We’ve sanded painted floor before with success, but it really depends on how the painted was applied and whether the floor was varnished prior to painting. I’d probably try sanding a small portion and if it doesn’t work you can always paint again.

  71. Recently purchased a 1924 bungalow in Portland, OR. We have started our restoration and in the kitchen found hardwoods under 5 or 6 other layers of flooring. We plan to restore these. They also run under the tile in the hall and bathroom. Can they be salvaged once they have been tiled over, should I even try?

  72. Hi, my house is 100 years old, with lovely wood floors and trim around doors and windows (all unpainted!). I’ve just started to remodel my bathroom. The contractor ripped out the tile, and then removed the tongue-and groove wooden floor boards that were under the tiles. I want to re-install these wooden floor boards. The contractor wants to put down “duro”. What can I tell him to convince him to put back the tongue and groove boards? Thanks for any advice.

    1. Lesley, you shouldn’t have to convince him of anything. You are the homeowner which means you are the boss and have the final say. Just let him know it’s important to you and if he is a good contractor (and if the the tongue and groove boards meet code in your area) he will comply with your wishes. He likely wants to put down dura-rock which is a cement board base that gives a sturdy base for tile installation. Cement board is indeed better for a tile base and maybe you could have the best of both worlds by putting the T&G sub-floor down and then dura-rock over that. That’s why we usually do.

      1. Hi Scott, many thanks for your response. I had a long talk with the contractor about keeping the boards. In the end, it was a compromise – he was installing extra beams along each of the “studs” (are they called studs if on the floor?) to strengthen the floor. This meant that the wood I wanted to re-use didn’t fit in any more. Where they fitted, he used them. Otherwise, as you say, he used dura-rock, which he said he had to do to level the floor. Looking inside the old floor was a bit like an archeological dig, as we found old plumbing pipes, and even old tile! Thanks again for your advice.

  73. Hi Scott, we recently bought a house built in the 60’s and it has the original hardwood floors in pretty good shape. The problem is that they are very noisy (squeaking and cracking) and in places it feels like the sub floor has softened. Is there any way of fixing these problems without tearing out the floor? Thank you!

    1. Mary Lou, if you have access below the floors either in a basement or crawl space you can investigate the cause of the issues and hopefully
      make some repairs beneath without removing the flooring.

  74. Hello. I have a 1915 craftsman bungalow in san diego. The front living and dining rooms have maple. which could be refinished, but the rest of the house has douglas fir which has been sanded down the nails. Some refinishers say it is too thin and a couple have said they could do it one more time. Can you give me some advice on this project? Also this house will be a rental.

    1. Cheri, it depends how you feel about it. If you want to save the Doug fir and you have a refinisher that feels they can take another sanding I say go for it. Just take good care of them moving forward so this last refinishing will last as long as possible.

  75. Contractors working underneath our 100 year old craftsman, earthquake proofing, drilled all the way up through the lovely old quarter sawn oak floors in the living room. there are only two long boards that are effected. year ago, in another old farmhouse we owned, i was told the floors had become too thin from too much sanding and couldn’t be refinished anymore, you could see the nails, etc. you can see the nails in our present home too and i’m wondering how best to work with this contractor, who i have questionable trust in, to repair and refinish. it’s on their dime, of course. just not sure what’s best way to preserve. thanks so much!

    1. Pamela, I would have several wood flooring specialists (at least 3) come out and give you their opinion and ask the contractor to pay for the one you feel most comfortable working with. Hopefully, you’ll find someone who can come up with a good solution that can keep your original floors but patch the holes appropriately. It’s all about finding the right person!

  76. I didn’t explain my problem clearly. I have solid oak plank flooring in my living and dining rooms and a hallway that leads to three bedrooms. Would it look ok to do the bedrooms in laminate that would be in a different wood and color. Would it transistion well?

  77. I have solid oak plankt afford to put flooring in m y dining and living rooms as well as my hall leading to three bedrooms.I can’t afford to put solid plan flooring in the bedrooms. would it look tacky to lsaminated flooring in the bedrooms that would be a different type of wood and a dfferent color.?

  78. I have an 1890’s brownstone in Brooklyn, NY and I’m in the process of ripping up a cheap oak floor that was installed over the original quarter-sawn oak parquet. The parquet seems to be in decent condition. Most of the damage to it is from the staples used to install the new floor over it. I have three questions: 1: Can you recommend a tinted wood filler to patch minor holes from the staples and a few larger holes about an inch wide? 2: The original parquet is made from small 1.25″ wide by 12″ long and 1/4″ thick boards which are face nailed to the sub-floor. Do you think the 1/4″ thickness is too small to sand and refinish the floors? 3: I need to replace a few boards that are missing. Do you know of a source where I can obtain replacement boards of this size, or will I need to have them custom made?

  79. Hello my name is Shaunna. I just bought an old farm house built in 1989. I live in Texas and the winter’s here can be very cold. I’ve noticed in the kitchen, there is no subflooring or insulation underneath. The floor is cold and in many areas throughout the kitchen, air is coming through the floor. What is the best solution to fix this? Also at one end of the kitchen the floor is unlevel and it drops down. I need help with this please. I’ve had two ladies come out and look but they want to replace the floor and put new flooring over it. Please help me and tell me what I need to do! Thank you 🙂

    1. Shaunna, it’s hard to say what is causing the sloped floor but I would take care of that issue first. Then you can insulate under the floors with either fiberglass batts which are DIY friendly or maybe spray foam down in the crawlspace.

  80. I have a late 18th century Georgian colonial in New England. The floors are wide plank (about 10″), but due to age-damage have wide seams. Some are real bad (i.e. you can see the basement through the floor). Is there a method or product designed for filling these? I was thinking of using custom cut wood for the large gaps, and stuffing the small ones with jute or hemp, before refinishing with a good oil-based poly. Any hints?

    1. Brendan, that is just what I would do. Dutchman the larger patches using a high quality wood glue like Titebond 2 or 3 and then fill in the smaller pieces with hemp or rope so that there is at least a backing. Then you can fill those spots with stainable wood filler before refinishing the area.

      1. Hi please help as I am about to pull my hair out. I live in New Zealand have a wonderful home the living room is 20 meters by 10 meters (big room) wonderful timber floors however there are gaps between the timber where the T&G has pulled apart. I have talked to every tradesman who does floors, every manufacturer who produces flooring products or marine products and cannot find an answer to my issue, which is ….. New Zealand is an earth quake zone, any polyurethane product cracks and looks awful after not too long, marine products need to be removed from the gaps and redone regularly – and the cost of products and labour is very expensive. I need either a product which will not crack, OR a solution which I can re-do myself which is not too expensive. I am beginning to consider no wooden floor as this appear in the too hard basket – is anyone able to advise please ? Many Thanks Maxine

  81. Hi! We’re in Sydney, Australia, and have just begun renos on an old farmhouse from about 1915. We’ve pulled up the putrid 80s carpet, to find beautiful old hardwood floors in the original part of the house, but concrete slab under the newer section. SO, the big question…yes, the timber can be repaired and polished. But what to put on the floors in the other rooms that won’t clash? Plush carpets will look out of place, and there’s no way the timber can be matched…it’s VERY rough, which is what we like. I can’t stand shiny shiny white square tiles either. Would polished concrete look too modern? heeeeeelp! Dani

    1. I’d highly suggest slate if you didnt do something else–slate and wood looks very good next to each other, and slate is very easy to have–no slipping, no dirt shows…is my fav flooring.

  82. Hi, we are about to commence a large scale remodel on my 1921 house in Austin, Tx and stumbled upon your site researching whether I should save my windows. Not sure if they even work since they have been sealed shut. Question – I have heart-pine flooring (which was covered up), there is no sub-floor. Have you used spray foam insulation under the house? Does it deteriorate the floor?
    Thank you for all of the information.

    1. Sara, I love Austin, TX! There are lots of different types of spray foam insulation, but in my experience and studies I haven’t heard of any that cause deterioration of the wood they are applied too. It is an excellent way to insulate that crawlspace.
      And I would definitely encourage you to save those original windows. You’ll be glad you did. Keep Austin weird!

  83. Hi,
    Great site and what a valuable wealth of information. Our new-to-us 1904 home is being renovated and nearly complete. But there will be tasks to do for years to come that will benefit from information you have provided here.

    We have heart pine throughout the house and next week we see the “sample stains” that our flooring guy puts down as we strive to achieve a dark brown look. My GC has faith in the flooring guy.

    Whin I talked to the flooring guy his planned process is to just sand, stain, apply finish. I know we have mixtures of heart pine throughout the house but it is all over 100 years old.

    If the flooring guy is unfamiliar w heart pine,are we better off just going w it’s natural look and skipping the staining process? I understand that staining heart pine can be difficult and his work process description worries me that his skills may be limited.

    The GC has already signed a contract w him so I am stuck in that sense. Any thoughts are much appreciated, and a late Happy Birthday to you.

    1. Thanks Tom! Even though your GC has signed a contract with him you can still request that he not do the work if you aren’t comfortable and the GC will have to abide. If you have any doubts ask to see some samples of his work in person. It’s hard to tell in pictures the quality of a hardwood floor refinisher unless they are really bad so you’ll have to go to former jobs of his.
      In our area the price per SF to finish and stain wood floors is between $2.25 and $3. If he is significantly lower than that be careful because you are likely going to get what you pay for. Before doing anything else I would need to see his previous work.

  84. I own an unusual bungalow in Iowa. It doesn’t have the blocky trim, but delicate scrollwork and scalloped pillars, all in white oak. I just tore the carpet out of the reception hall type foyer and dining room. Both have white oak floors, but a big square section of yellow pine in the centers of the rooms like they ran out of money when installing the floor and left the middles to be covered by rugs or something? BUT they afforded to put crown trim over the doors on the INSIDE of the tiny closets? Anyway, how should I deal with these funny floors in respect to the house? Has anyone ever seen this done?

  85. I have a 1929 cabin with hardwood floors that appear to have never been stained, glossed or had anything done to them in the middle – probably covered by a rug. At the edges is some type of dark resin. The floor is not flat – there is an arch close to the walls. The room is 12×20 and I want to finish this floor myself. Please give me ideas.

    1. I have those weird floors, too! Have you come to a resolution? I have been looking everywhere for someone who has dealt with this!

  86. I have a craftsman home built around 1917 and would love to refinish the original hardwood floors. However, in our hallway, the last owner put pergo over them (but they are still there) because the owner before them stained a carpet purple on top of the wood flooring dying the wood as well. Is there a way to pull the purple stain out of the original floor and refinish and stain them to a normal golden brown. They are white oak (I think). Thanks!

    1. Karen, The floors can likely be salvaged if they are sanded down and refinished. It really just depends on what kind of dye was used on the carpets and how deeply it soaked into the floors. But I think you have an excellent chance of getting the color out and saving your floors.

  87. After Tropical Storm Alicia Houston flooded very badly. Many old floore were waterlogged and had to be pulled up. It broke my heart to drive by mound after mound of removed flooring. We salvaged as much as we could, but so much prime floring went to the andfill it made me weep.

  88. I’m really enjoying this series and your blog. I’ll be doing a post on renovation dos and don’ts soon, and I hope you don’t mind me referencing this (don’t hesitate to let me know if you do mind).

    Thanks!

    1. Thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed the series. It’s been a lot of fun writing. I thought it would be a single article but after I started writing it turned out to be a bit more. 😉 And I would be honored to be mentioned or linked to by your blog!

  89. I am in the process of completely renovating a 100+ y/o farmhouse and the demo has been slow-go due to shoddy additions & cover-ups over the years, but the worst has been the nasty tiles someone along the way stuck down in the kitchen. I’m still working to get those things up. They covered up what was beautiful heart-pine flooring.

    Thank you for a well-written article (and series).

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