Before we went on vacation a few weeks ago, we decided to have our wood floors refinished so they would have time to cure while we were away. It was also good timing because we hadn’t reinstalled any of the dipped trim, which simplified the sanding process.
We went back and forth trying to decide if we should try to refinish them ourselves or to hire it out. Since we overspent on the project early on, we’re trying to keep costs low on the final phases. The easiest way to do that is through a lot of DIY elbow grease and late nights.
Luckily, the bids we received were very reasonable, two were $1900 and one was $2800 for the dining room, living room, hall and 2 bedrooms. By pricing out a couple weekend’s worth of sander/edger rentals, sandpaper and other materials, not to mention our time, and we don’t think our DIY savings were substantial enough to do it ourselves. Not to mention we are floor refinishing novices and would’ve probably screwed it up.
So we went with the guy we felt most comfortable with, who also had a great price. David York from Boardwalk Hardwood Floors in Portland was available to fit our timeline and he did a fantastic job! He was recommended through a co-worker, which has been a more trustworthy way of finding contractors vs. Angie’s List, which I don’t entirely trust due to the fact that contractors have sued people that left bad reviews, but I digress.
Early on, David realized that at some point in the house’s history, a commercial cleaner was used on the rugs in place over the oak in the living room and dining room. The cleaner saturated into the worn areas and stained the wood so deeply that it couldn’t be sanded out. Supposedly newer carpet cleaners won’t do this to the floor. He said he’s only seen it a few times over the years. We were one of the “lucky” ones. Still, I would recommend not cleaning your rugs in place over hardwood.
Because he caught it early, he was able to test the finishes on the damaged areas to make sure that it would take. Potentially it could’ve reacted with the cleaner residue and may not have dried properly. If we had done this ourselves, we would’ve been clueless on what to do.
Because of the nasty blotchiness that the cleaner left, we decided to stain the oak in an attempt minimize it. We wanted to give the floor a subtle reddish tone to match the fir woodwork, but we wanted it to keep the oak light.
We tested out two shades: “Sedona Red” and “Gunstock.” "Gunstock was perfect. “Sedona Red” made the grain black.
We also needed to patch an area where the old air return vent was prior to our basement remodel. David searched all the local salvage yards and distributors for some matching oak, but couldn’t find any, so we had to use new.
In the hallway and two bedrooms, the flooring is douglas fir instead of oak. Usually this is explained because oak was much more expensive, so they only used it in the public areas of the house. David speculated that the oak of this age was usually salvaged from shipping containers to cut costs. Another reason 100 year old salvaged oak is hard to come by.
I’m not a huge fan of fir flooring as it dents and scratches far too easily for my taste, although it is very beautiful. This article on fir floor refinishing (pdf) has some interesting facts about fir floors.
Our kitchen fir is an embarrassment and the refinishing in there is only a couple years old. I just dropped a cup earlier today and it made another huge gouge. A jenky plumber left a deep gouge from moving the full refrigerator without our permission as well that I live with everyday.
I would’ve went with tile if I had to do it over (for a kitchen at least)! This problem is due in part to the glossy swedish finish done on the other floors in the house, which was another big mistake. The last flooring company used that as their signature finish so we didn’t realize we had a choice in the matter. The glossiness shows every imperfection and the smell of swedish finish during application is so toxic you can’t be in the house and all those VOCs lingering=yuck!
Based on these factors, we decided on a matte water-based finish for this phase on both the oak and the fir. Longer cure time, but almost no odor. Its not recommended for those with large dogs, but we only have a (monster) cat, so we decided to take our chances.
Unlike the swedish finish, the stain color of the fir flooring looks great in the rest of the house, so we decided to try to match that part. The closest we came was to mix about 1/8 “Red Mahogany” with 7/8 “Mesquite” give or take. Its not a perfect match, but it looks good and most people wouldn’t know.
“Red Mahogany” on the left and “Mesquite” on the right. “Red Mahogany” is too brown and “Mesquite” had too much of a purple tone straight out of the can (but you can’t really tell in the photo), so we added a dash of “Red Mahogany” to neutralize that.
Now on to some progress shots!
I don’t have really great “befores” of just the floors, but suffice it to say, they had never been refinished, so here are some during and after shots!
Fir can bruise from traffic over the years as seen here.
We were really happy with David’s work and now we’re just trying to install all the trim without messing up the new finish. We’ve put down plastic and several moving blankets to keep it protected as much as we can from any tool dropping while we finish up the rest of the project. So far so good!