4 Tips for Refinishing Pine Flooring

A small section of pinewood flooring.

Refinishing pine floors is a big project. It is not complicated or difficult, although generally hard on the knees and time-consuming, and it is a job that most people can do themselves. However, there are a few key things to keep in mind about pine floors when you’re trying to refinish them.

Hardwood vs. Soft Wood

Pine is a common material that was used in flooring in the early 1900s. It was cheap and readily available, so, safe to say, it's everywhere. Pine floor planking is in the category of a soft wood, whereas most wood floors are commonly referred to as hardwood. There is a significant difference in hard and soft wood, as the grain of soft wood is not as densely packed as it is in hardwood materials. Generally, hardwood is much more durable and resistant to the wear, tear, scratches, and gouges, whereas pine is particularly soft. A high-heeled shoe is capable of wreaking havoc on this kind of surface.

1. Patience

Refinishing a pine floor is an act of patience. That is not to say that is not worth it, or that it cannot be done without a professional, but it is advised that you take your time every step of the way in this process. Because of its soft nature, pine wood is easily damaged by reckless sanding, and if you don't take time to apply multiple coats of your polyurethane, the floor will not be as strong and will have to be refinished again that much sooner. You should also consider doing some research on refinishing this particular type of floor for the best products and techniques to ensure that you don’t do any unnecessary damage.

2. Sand with the Utmost Care

The initial step, and the most critical, in refinishing any floor is sanding. This is very much a process in and of itself as opposed to a step or task in a process. One of the most important things to remember when sanding a pine floor is to keep the sander moving. It is very easy to create a divot or low spot on the floor if you are not paying attention. The sander will easily chew through a good amount of the wood before you realize it, particularly if you have a low grit sandpaper on the device.

You will want to start with a low grit sand paper, but this will go through any existing varnish and into the wood quickly, so be very careful when using it. As you work through to higher grits, the finest of grit sandpaper will give the wood a polished finish that will really enhance it, perhaps even more so than the stain or varnish will. Different types of pine wood also vary in how hard they are and will differ in the sandpaper grits you can use on them safely. The softer your wood, the higher the grit you should start with.

Pine floors usually have face nails securing them to the subflooring, so be sure to countersink them before sanding or you could ruin your machine.

If you have never refinished a floor before at all, this step may be one you need a professional to help with, or you could cause irreparable damage to your floor.

3. Use Oil-based Polyurethane Finish

There are a number of products on the market that can help lend some durability to pine wood while maintaining and enhancing the beauty of its unique grain. If you intend to use polyurethane for your top coat, choose an oil-based substance, as opposed to one that is water-based. Oil-based finish will last much longer in comparison.

4. Use Hardening Varnish

If you choose varnish instead of polyurethane to finish your floor, you will want to make sure that you select a varnish or finish that has hardening agents added to it to give additional durability to the pine wood. This will not only augment the beauty of the wood, but will minimize the frequency with which the floor will need to be refinished.