I have a circa 1895 wing and gable home with yellow pine floors. The floors in all the rooms are bare where the original owners had a rug then the rest of the hardwood floors were painted brown around the rug. I would like to have all the paint removed so that the whole wood floor can be seen and then have the whole floor finished. There are remnants of a reddish stain under the brown paint so I know that part of the floors where stained. I have heard not to sand yellow pine floors. Stripping the paint sounds like a big project. What about the part of the floor that is bare? It needs to be cleaned before staining. Looking for advice and options. Pictures have been posted.

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Comment by Lair Tienter on May 9, 2011 at 11:22pm
You can't beat a experienced floor finisher.  Look one up in the phone book, ask a friend, ask a neighbor.  Running a floor sander is not something you want to do yourself.  I have seen many floors ruined by weekend floor finishers.  I know from my own experience, call and get a few professional opinions.  Good luck with your project, Lair
Comment by Phil on May 10, 2011 at 7:37am
I have some floors that a diy owner sanded out.  The swirls and waves will get your goat for years to come. Follow Lair's advice, esp. since they are a softwood.  I would think that what looks like stain is actually a clear finish that darkened or maybe a primer.  I don't think that people stained floors back in the day.  Stains make it very diffficult to refinish or touch up damage without a full sand out.  In the 1895 days of manual sanding, that was a serious job.  Lair -is that correct?
Comment by Lair Tienter on May 10, 2011 at 9:50am
There is nothing I have heard or read about yellow pine not being sanded.  It is pine and must be sanded to get it smooth.  The traces of what you think is stain could just be the wood ageing.  It will darken and change hue over time without any help.  Phil is correct that back in the 1890"s (I wasn't there but I have been told) most floors were just pine and were covered with rugs.  The rugs covered the rough sanded pine and helped the house warmer. Only the well to do could afford hardwood floors that were sanded and finished like we se today.  My home was built by a wealthy man and the floors were pine covered with rugs. The hardwood floors I have today were added in the 1910's when the were sanded by primative sanding machines.  Under these hardwood floors I have found painted pine floors with the center of the rooms unpainted.  I think they painted the edges showing to make it easier to sweep when cleaning.  Paint was very expensive back then and no need to paint the center if you did not see it would be my guess.  I'll look through my history of paint book later and see what I can find that I have forgotten.  Lair
Comment by KARAN ANDREA on May 12, 2011 at 9:33am

I definitely agree with Phil and Lair. Get estimates from a pro. I've sanded floors myself, and while I did a pretty good job, those sanders can be beasts to handle and if they 'hog' the wood, you will never get the marks out. Best to get someone with lots of experience and good references from people he/she has done work for.

Something else to keep in mind when you are talking to potential contractors is this: what can you expect the floor to look like when it is done. If the floor has damage, or stains, or has never been finished, it may not be reasonable to expect that they look perfect, perfect. Get an idea up front of what you can expect so that you are not disappointed on the back end. Two examples: When I did the floors in my house, there was so much animal damage that many of the stains had darkened the wood. There was no way to 'fix' it except to replace large sections of floor that I will cover with area rugs anyway. So I talked to my floor guy, we came up with a strategy - sand them, see how the wood looks, and decide how dark to stain them to blend as much of the dark areas as possible. We also used a satin finish instead of a gloss, which minimizes a lot of sins as well.

Second example: I had an attic with pine plank flooring in my previous house. I wanted to turn the attic into a bedroom and use the pine plank floors. The same floor guy who did my present house agreed to sand and finish the pine planks. We talked about how it would never look like a 'finished' floor - the planks had gaps and rough spots, places broken out, etc. But when he was done, it had the charm and quirkiness that I was going for.

One quick way to tell what color range your floor is going to end giving you if you just put a clear finish on it, is to hit a spot with a hand sander - clean off the dirt until you get to bare wood, but don't go gonzo! Then just take a rag dampened with water, or just spit on it, and rub the dampness into the wood. Whatever color the wood becomes is essentially what your floor is going to look like when it's finished with a clear coat. If the wood varies widely in color from board to board, you might want to try this little experiment in a few places to see what you are going to get.

I don't have experience with other floor guys b/c I found the one I will always go to (lucky me!!), but I highly recommend having this type of conversation with whomever is going to do the job. If you are realistic about what your end result is going to be, you will be really happy with your floors. Good luck! I'm sure they will turn out beautifully. Wood is extremely forgiving in many ways, so even if you have some funky, quirky spots, a wood floor is one of the prettiest floors you can have, IMO, and pine often gives you so much gorgeous color when it is sanded and finished, that it will inspire the rest of the color choices you are making in your house. Post pics of the process!!

Comment by MARILYN MOSS on June 4, 2011 at 3:54pm

I just hate the way past owners of these beautiful old homes paint around the rugs.  They probably felt that as old as the home was in the 30's and 40's, it didn't make any difference what they did to the integrity of the house, "It would fall down evenetually anyway.


When refinishing the floors in our home, we tried to stay with the orginal shellac finish.  We found that acohol removes the old shellac.  In one room, linoleum was glued to the origninal wood flooring.  We tried everything to get it up.  We finally used a had held steamer with a scraper.  It took a lot of elbow grease, but it paid off with a lovely floor underneath. 

Comment by Tim Phalen on June 7, 2011 at 7:19pm

In historic houses, it isn't uncommon to hand sand the floor with a large random orbit sander.

We do this for floors that are original hard pine.....a species of pine not found in the northeast

anymore. The wide planks wear irregularly and will wear around knots. There is no way a commercial

floor sanding machine could be used....it would take off too much material.

And old floors are not meant to be anything near perfect. Random orbits are labor intensive and can be

used by a homeowner.

However, my house has floors dating to 1920. They are tongue and groove fir(or old growth pine). fir is what

most folks call it and doug fir is a reasonable  repair wood.

I used a commercial random orbit floor sander. This is a machine with the weight of a commercial drum

sander but uses a single large (18"x24") sanding pad and sanding sheets. There is very little way of making a mistake because the sander isn't removing the material of a drum sander.

The question is: are the floors reasonable flat and in good shape? if so, a commercial random orbit

isn't out of the question. If there are large joints between boards, the flooring is uneven....and of a soft wood,

then hand sanding seems like the best option.

I always add extra penetrol to my oil polyurethane...to give it a little extra color


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