100-year-old pine floors w/ no subfloor


Old 04-30-10, 02:28 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Philadelphia suburbs
Posts: 71
100-year-old pine floors w/ no subfloor


We're finally redoing the floors in our 100-year-old house. The floors are 3/4" planks of what looks like heart pine and Douglas fir, 2 1/4" wide, nailed directly to the joists. They're in pretty bad shape since they had multiple layers of vinyl/carpet on top of them. The vinyl was glued directly to the floors with that horrible black glue that I spent night after night steaming off (I'd rather not think about what I was breathing in all those nights).

Anyway, I got a couple of quotes to get them sanded and redone. Looks like it'll be around $2000 total. So, my questions...

1) Is there an "art" to sanding floors? If I attempt this myself to save money, are they likely to end up uneven, or is this a fairly simple DIY job? We've done almost the entire home renovation ourselves so far, but friends have told us to hire a pro for the floors.

2) Is there cause for concern that there's no subfloor? After sanding, the planks will be less than their current 3/4" thickness.

3) My wife, who hangs out on the old house forums, wants to try Waterlox as a finish instead of the standard three layers of polyurethane. Is this a good idea? It doesn't seem to be very commonly used, so I assume there's a reason for that...

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Old 04-30-10, 03:13 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Calumet Township, Indiana
Posts: 616
Fact part;
Renovating an old floor and refinishing it isn't an art really but a procedure. If that's followed you get your results.

Opinion part;
Oil based polyurethane is the best most straightforward finish you can put on a floor. But I know Nada about the Waterlox product other than is sounds like it may be waterbased.
Old 04-30-10, 03:49 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: USA
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A drum sander can be kind of tricky to use and used wrong can result in dips/waves in the floor An orbital sander [a floor buffer w/sanding screen] is a lot more diy friendly. It might not be as fast but your also less likely to take off as much wood

I prefer oil base poly because it brings out and deepens the color naturally in the wood. IMO it also wears better. While I'm not familiar with Waterlox, waterbased polys go on fairly clear and don't change the look of the wood any, other than sheen. They won't amber with age and it does dry a lot faster than oil base.
Old 05-01-10, 05:26 AM
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: new york
Posts: 509
From what you describe you will need a drum sander and as marksr said they can be tricky as well as expensive. You have to rent the machine actually two because you'll need an edger. and one sheet of paper can cost $5 dollars. Get a price to sand only then refinish them your self with an oil based poly.
Old 05-02-10, 10:56 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Philadelphia suburbs
Posts: 71
Thanks mgmine. I've been thinking about this the last couple of days and I'd pretty much decided to do exactly what you said. The floors are in relatively bad shape, the boards were face nailed in various places before they glued that awful vinyl to it, there's no subfloor, and I've never used a drum sander. Sounds like my life will be easier if I pay a pro to sand, and do the polyurethane myself. I'll let y'all know how it goes!
Old 05-03-10, 01:06 AM
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: USA
Posts: 8
Hi there. I do flooring for a living and have a few words of advice for you.
1: I would definately hire this out. For a few reasons--as it's been said, drumming can be disasterous for a newbie and especially on soft pine floors!! These can be easily gouged and can take stains unevenly.
2: Using an orbital sander can be frustrating, they just don't have that "bite" to them, especially trying to cleanup an old floor.
3: You may not save much by applying finish yourself and if not, why not let the finisher endure the responsibility? Especially given time, materials to do it
4: Waterlox is a tung oil--not too hard to put on and one reason this is used is you can touch up a bad spot without worrying with the rest of the floor.
Hope this gives you some insight and good luck! Greg

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