Can Old Hardwood Floors Be Made Beautiful

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  #1  
Old 08-26-13, 03:38 PM
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Can Old Hardwood Floors Be Made Beautiful

Just took up the carpet in one of my rooms. I am considering making the move to hardwood floors. My house is old, and the style of the hardwood floors (with all the nails driven in it) shows it. Can these floors (see video at Hardwood Floor Question? - YouTube ) be made to look good with wood filler, sanding, and staining? I don't even know what type of wood it is but it's quite solid.
 
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  #2  
Old 08-26-13, 04:15 PM
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That looks like the top nailed flooring that I have. Is it smooth? The video doesn't have great detail and doesn't show the whole floor.

From what I saw in that video I would totally try to refinish that floor. You'd have to make sure its thick enough to sand. Are the nail holes all filled in or can you see the nail heads? Do you have any heater/air conditioner vents you can remove to see how thick the floor is?

When was your house built? Some of the north east states and California saw a lot of 5/16" top nailed floors back in the day which I think is what you have.

Edit - BTW its probably red oak if its the kind of floor I am thinking it is. If you can take a few high resolution photos and upload them we can try to identify it for you.
 
  #3  
Old 08-26-13, 05:09 PM
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Thanks for your response ipman. To answer your first question, yes it is smooth. The house was originally built in 1900. It was owned by one family, passed down through the generations, until my family bought it in the 70's. I do not know when these floors were put in. It could be the original wood, or the prior owners could have done some reno work in one the decades passed.

The only camera I have access to at the moment is on my cell phone, which does not offer very high resolution. I know it's poor quality, but that's as good as I can manage. Thanks for hazarding a guess though on what type of wood it could be.

Would wood filler work to mask most or all of the nails head? The nails in the floor are tiny and banged very well into the boards, but they are very noticeable.
 
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Old 08-26-13, 08:39 PM
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Yes wood filler would cover the holes. Just remember that wood fillers never match the wood perfectly, even if you make your own wood filler. Wood has grains that don't appear in the wood filler so you have a nice filler hole with wood filler that has no grain and then the rest of the wood looks normal with a grain. You can make it look very good with wood filler but I want you to keep in mind you'll still see where all the nails are.

You can buy red oak wood filler (made from ground up red oak wood) or you can save the sanding dust from your floor and make your own wood filler with some white wood glue. If you plan to purchase the filler just make sure its a matching red oak wood filler (or whatever species you determine your wood to be) and also make sure it is advertised as stainable. There are some precolored wood fillers/putties in home improvement stores that are not stainable. You don't want them.

If you plan to make your own wood filler I'd personally do a first sanding and throw that dust away. Then I would save your subsequent higher grit sandings because the top cruddy layer has already been removed and you are now getting clean wood dust. The pros can chime in on this.

Before you sand the floor you'll need to make sure all of the nails are recessed so the sanding pads don't get caught on them causing them to get torn. Further you don't want to sand off the protective coating these nails might have. To apply the wood filler you simply put a dab on the nail hole and take a nice metal putty knife (like a 2" wide one) and scrape off the excess. If the holes are large/deep it may take multiple coats or you could try putting a little more and sand it off.

Do you know if you plan to use an oil or water based stain/polyurethane? One additional thing to consider is that if you don't make sure every nail is covered a water based stain/polyurethane can cause the nail heads to rust. This doesn't mean you can't use a water based polyurethane. It just means that you have to make sure all of the nail heads are nice and filled in with wood filler.
 
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Old 08-27-13, 03:56 AM
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Good advice! The main thing is to make sure the floor is thick enough to sand and to countersink all the nails so they don't come in contact with the sandpaper. Do you intend to diy? or hire it out?
 
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Old 08-27-13, 06:51 AM
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Thank you so much for your advice. It's great. I do plan to do the work myself using a water based polyurethane. You've given me some good direction in formulating a plan of action. It will be a long day's work that will hopefully yield good results and be valuable learning experience. Wish me luck.
 
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Old 08-27-13, 09:20 AM
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You can even leave the holes un-filled for a more rustic look. Often I'll only do a light sanding to remove old finish but leave the dents & scratches for character. For durability in my rental properties I've found oil based spar varnish to hold up the best but water based polyurethane is easier to work with and does not have the solvent fumes.
 
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Old 08-27-13, 09:28 AM
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You will also want to have some help when you are staining/poly with water based. It dries so fast that it is harder to maintain a wet edge. If the edges dry before you continue onto the next area you will see the edges when you are done.

For staining one person could apply the stain and another could wipe it off. You could also tape off areas using blue tape if you think you cannot maintain a wet edge or if you want to practice on a section to see how to do before doing the rest of the floor. The tape would be applied along the joint of the hardwood so when you remove the tape the stain/poly dried at the edge (you wouldn't be able to tell it wasn't all done in one shot). Of course this will take longer because you'd have to wait for the stain/poly to dry before you can tape over it to continue the next section or rest of the room.

I always like to do practice boards to get the hang of it. They sell 2x2 feet thin red oak boards at Lowes which cost me less than $10. You can try different colors on it and practice staining/poly without even touching your floor. I'd highly suggest you try test boards before working on the floor. Of course you'll want to make sure your test board matches the species of your floor. You'll also want to keep in mind the floor may look different in the end as it is older.
 
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